I am trying generally to follow the Mahayana path, with a union of emptiness and compassion. However, I experience clear problems with compassion. These manifest as : 1) general detachment from people 2) spontaneous and stubborn judgments towards others 3) lack of altruistic motivation.

I'm wondering how to tackle all these problems. I'm similarly wondering how best to develop compassion, or rather what prerequisites might allow greater feeling and furthering of compassion.

Thank you.

  • Is it reasonable to excpet that you can escape your karma and walk such a path? Your reactions sound like karmic reactions.
    – theDoctor
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 3:41

5 Answers 5


Compassion is the willingness or wish to help others therefore I suppose compassion can only be practised when others need help when it is obviously they want help.

  • I like that answer, I think that unless people want help compassion will be very very limited.
    – user7302
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 2:52
  • 1
    I think the practise of emptiness & compassion is to not neglect compassion when emptiness is realised, i.e., to not allow emptiness to generate indifference. Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 3:28

These six properties (dhātus/elements) are means of escape. Which six?

"Furthermore, there is the case where a monk might say, 'Although compassion has been developed, pursued, handed the reins and taken as a basis, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, and well-undertaken by me as my awareness-release, still viciousness keeps overpowering my mind.' He should be told, 'Don't say that. You shouldn't speak in that way. Don't misrepresent the Blessed One, for it's not right to misrepresent the Blessed One, and the Blessed One wouldn't say that. It's impossible, there is no way that — when compassion has been developed, pursued, handed the reins and taken as a basis, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, and well-undertaken as an awareness-release — viciousness would still keep overpowering the mind. That possibility doesn't exist, for this is the escape from viciousness: compassion as an awareness-release.' (AN 6.13)

Karuna (compassion). See also Brahmavihara. As a factor leading to liberation: AN 6.13 Systematic practice of ~: SN 42.8 Practicing ~ as a way to deal with annoying people: AN 5.161 Detachment and Compassion in Early Buddhism (Harris) "Educating Compassion"

It's not possible to develop compassion, understand it even, if one is after certain elements, follwer of certain dhatus, holding on wrong views and disregard the tripple gems. Such are no means. So fist real refuge is generally the only refuge.

Such answers like

Compassion is the willingness or wish to help others therefore I suppose compassion can only be practised when others need help when it is obviously they want help.

might give foundation for defilements to regard there ideas for right, but such does not cover what is called skillful or path contuctive.

The wish to help other beings has nothing to do if one is actually able or not, regardless of lack in oneself or by handicaps of others: boundless, meaning that all beings are to be included.

Of course such as to develope karuna requires such as compassion or pity toward one self first. This requires the understanding that one actually need to be helped, misses certain things for having no kind of suffering.

If one does not see dukkha, one does not see ground for help. Not knowing dukkha in one self, not spoken about the cause, how can one develop even desire to help other?

There is no being that is not subject to suffering, knowing it or not.

To be able to develope conductive compassion it is required to have right view, without right view, the following parts of the eightfold path, which are in fact deeds of compassion, starting with virtue outwardly, can not come into be.

Developing right compassion, even to expand it torward all beings is therefore not possible for a wordily mind, person, but might be so fare, "just" a training.

One who is a disciple of the noble ones — thus devoid of greed, devoid of ill will, undeluded, alert, & resolute — keeps pervading the first direction [the east] — as well as the second direction, the third, & the fourth — with an awareness imbued with compassion. Thus he keeps pervading above, below, & all around, everywhere & in every respect the all-encompassing cosmos with an awareness imbued with good will: abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.

Such is impossible for a person with giant ego, totally overestimating one self. Such a person will of course, guided by his defilements, prefer to dwell in his "emptiness" (e.g. in his ignorance).

At least, one IS able to help every being - to pull away the ground of such foolish ideas: even if one might not see certain lack, does not know certain mind, in keeping precepts, being without intention to harm, has threefold rght intention, one helps all beings.

"There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, abandoning the taking of life/taking what is not given/illicit sex/lying/use of intoxicants, abstains from taking life. In doing so, he gives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. In giving freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings, he gains a share in limitless freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, and freedom from oppression. This is the first gift, the first great gift — original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated, unadulterated from the beginning — that is not open to suspicion, will never be open to suspicion, and is unfaulted by knowledgeable contemplatives & brahmans... (AN 8.39)

Taken on such on high level, this is by the way the reason why monks and certain brahmans are often addressed as "lord of compassion", because of the gift of virtue and then the other trainings and for teaching possible the way to end suffering.

So compassion in action on the eightfold path helps actually every being, and ideas, like even favored by deluded minds here, giving cause to be corrected for those able to see through defilements, have no rightous ground at all.

Since this is actually a place that gives much reason to face the suffering of beings, caught in wrong views, here is planty place to spread compassion, pity for them, since that grave hopeless situation no one can directly posible help, is indeed a field that "cries" for compassion and may lead later to righous equanimity "beings are heirs of their kamma", that's then dwellingin emptiness, not possible to gain without having done the right deeds in body, speech and mind befor.

So the matter in short, incl. act-ually all being:

And how does one, when watching after oneself, watch after others? Through pursuing [the practice: e.g. stating with developing right view by practicing silas], through developing it, through devoting oneself to it. This is how one, when watching after oneself, watches after others.

"And how does one, when watching after others, watch after oneself? Through endurance, through harmlessness, and through a mind of kindness & sympathy (e.g. developing a mind, thoughs of compssion). This is how one, when watching after others, watches after oneself. (BaMboo-acrobats)

So, right here where this is, there is, at the point of a wordling, no better act of compassion as to strive for right view by practicing generosity, precepts and reflecting the Dhamma and let go of certain ego-trips:

Abandoning the wrong factors of the path

"One tries to abandon wrong view & to enter into right view: This is one's right effort...

"One tries to abandon wrong resolve & to enter into right resolve: This is one's right effort...

"One tries to abandon wrong speech & to enter into right speech: This is one's right effort...

"One tries to abandon wrong action & to enter into right action: This is one's right effort...

"One tries to abandon wrong livelihood & to enter into right livelihood: This is one's right effort."

MN 117

Cultivating skillful ways of thought

"And how is one made pure in three ways by mental action? There is the case where a certain person is not covetous. He does not covet the belongings of others, thinking, 'O, that what belongs to others would be mine!' He bears no ill will and is not corrupt in the resolves of his heart. [He thinks,] 'May these beings be free from animosity, free from oppression, free from trouble, and may they look after themselves with ease!' He has right view and is not warped in the way he sees things: 'There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed. There are fruits & results of good & bad actions. There is this world & the next world. There is mother & father. There are spontaneously reborn beings; there are brahmans & contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is how one is made pure in three ways by mental action."

AN 10.176

With much karuna! (and mudita) and as a "Bodhisatta" once explained: "How few understand what love (goodwill & compassion) really is,... : Wisdom and the work for it.

Sabbe sattā sabba-dukkhā pamuccantu.

May all living beings be freed from all stress & pain.

For those more interested in how to develop the Brahma Viharas: The Sublime Attitudes: A Study Guide on the Brahmaviharas

Beware of the manifold extrems of Mohayana-Compassion, leading to pain for many and oneself in wandering on, feeding on the "beloved"...

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commercial purpose or other low wordily gains by means of trade and exchange.]


They say, on hinayana path you overcome desire and on mahayana path you overcome aversion. Maybe that is your problem, aversion. Maybe you should sit down and try to take a very careful look at this aversion for a few hours? Aversion is often rooted in fear of (emotional) pain, or in some old stereotypes / prejudices based on painful experiences... or, generally speaking, in mental attachments to some conceptual ideals of some kind... Try and understand the source of your aversion.

Now, you have to realize, compassion is not really a pleasant feeling by any means. It is actually quite painful. After all, you empathize other people's subjective situations, including their confusion and dukkha - how can it not be painful? Therefore, in order to open oneself to compassion, one must open oneself to pain. This is the fundamental diff. between Mahayana and others, because in Mahayana we don't shy away from pain, don't try to trick it away - we live with it.

So once you have enough emotional strength to fathom the depth of Samsara and amount of dukkha in the universe... and you're up for the infinity of helping sentient beings... all of which want happiness, but none want your help - so you have to trick them to help them - and this too is painful - then we can call this real Mahayana compassion.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 18:49

Maybe try some loving-kindness guided meditation and compassion guided meditation. Ajahn Brahm, Pema Chodron and Joseph Goldstein among many other great teachers have free guided meditation mp3 downloads. Just Google the teacher and "guided meditation". I like guided meditations because it's a way to meditate with someone other than yourself:) Metta.

  • One google query consumes energy (=live) of about 15Wh. Food to consider, when after compassion vs. "dislike" seclusion. Not to speak about audio and even video sensual pleasure. Soon as much as cookng food for a whole family for one day.
    – user11235
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 16:04
  • I've been at an energy low so forgive me.
    – Lowbrow
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 22:22
  • Beings propaby forgive, law of cause and effect, Self, not. Compassion with such?
    – user11235
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 23:26

Your “general detachment from people” is probably due to a childhood that lacked a lot of love. Buddhism does not do a very good job of dealing with such family conditioning. Modern psychotherapy has a lot more insight into the causal relationships between family conditioning and adult suffering. Neither Theravadin Buddhism nor Mahayana Buddhism provide the kind of healing that a good psychotherapist can provide. The recent development of MBSR and MBCT centers that provide a community of therapists and clients are far more attuned to the needs of practitioners of mindfulness meditation who have suffered from dysfunctional families. In Buddhist cultures, becoming a monk or a nun is more of a calling than a pursuit of psychotherapy. A good way to develop compassion is to be part of a community of friends that are sensitive to your emotional needs.

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