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I believe I have read within the Dalai Lama's works that there exists (at least) two kinds of compassion meditation:

  • Generating the four abodes within oneself, in a more concentrative and affective way (metta bhavana).
  • Analyzing compassion through logical discernment, having compassion as meditative object.

I noticed my capacity to be compassionate with analysis seems very limited. The Dalai Lama suggests to focus on feeling after using reasons to generate compassion.

Is it possible that my mind functions more with feeling, and that analysis doesn't generate as much compassion in myself? What is the best course of action to generate compassion?

  • Sharing what you have is the best course of action to generate compassion. – user14568 Jan 8 at 17:52
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The more you contemplate on the Noble Truth of Suffering (dukka) and understand the suffering in each plane, the better you will be able to spread loving kindness. Because when you say "May all beings in the Eastern direction be free from Suffering" and so on, if you have seen and contemplated on suffering in each of those worlds (hell, animal, peta, asura, human, all deva worlds & all brahma worlds) you truly feel compassion towards all living beings. The more you practice, it is as if you could replace each of those beings or worlds with the word "dukka" and you start to see without differentiating that everyone who is born is suffering. (And your mind will be fixed on Nibbana as well).

Also, when you spread loving kindness, do NOT spread it to yourself. No where in any discourse does the Buddha says to spread loving kindness to your self. All the places when Buddha talks about metta, he says to spread loving kindness to all beings in each directions. (metta sutta, vattupama sutta, mettakatha in patisambhidamagga, etc).

A good discourse to learn that will help practice loving kindness is the metta-sutta (in Suttanipata). Try this Metta Sutta Meditation You will learn in great detail how to practice loving kindness, all the way up to Nibbana.

With Metta

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I wouldn't like to comment on exactly what the Buddha had in mind by this idea of generating compassion by analysis but it makes sense that if his view is philosophically sound then analysis will lead us towards it.

I believe this is the case, such that if we analyse the doctrine philosophically we will start to see genuine reasons and motives for compassion in the unity and shared identity of sentient beings. On a simpler level it is easy to contemplate the similar situation in which all sentient beings find themselves and thus be led to a compassionate view. Thus analysis would lead to feelings would lead to compassion.

But analysis may be a rather weak method in the end, just as you suspect, in the absence of feelings and the pursuit of insight. It seems best to use all the methods at our disposal. Perhaps the difference is that analysis and contemplation produces an object of compassion, whereas other approaches may be better at developing compassion as a phenomenon in itself. The former may see compassion as a relationship, the latter as a stand-alone feature of reality. (Rather as love can be seen in these two ways).

This is rather speculative and hasty answer and may meet some objections. In marketing speak I'll run it up the flagpole and see if it flutters.

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there is a whole sutta on metta https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn46/sn46.054.than.html

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    Yes there's the sutta, but how does the sutta answer the question? – ruben2020 Jan 8 at 10:57
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The sad truth is that far too few of the Buddhists in the present day know of the Compassion Meditation (metta bhavana) in its more archaic form. But the truth of the matter is that, that is how it was practiced at the time of the Buddha. If it can be understood in the true sense of its intended meaning, you will find that it stands up to sound and accurate philosophical analysis. Here I will refer to this as the Ariya metta bhavana, as it differs from the standard metta bhavana (loving kindness meditation) that we are more accustomed to. The guided meditation that we frequently use at our meditation classes goes something like… “May myself and all beings be free of anger, ill will, jealousy, mental suffering, physical suffering… May myself and all beings live in peace. May myself and all beings live happily. However, the Ariya metta bhavana has a much more deeper meaning.

In order to cultivate true compassion and loving kindness one needs to feel the possible suffering of existence. In the four lower realms, the suffering is higher than at the human realm. In our realm greed, hate, and ignorance prevail. In the realms of the devas there is no hatred. In beings in the rūpa and arūpa lōkas that have very fine bodies - even less dense than devas - they do not have either greed or hate; but they still have ignorance. The fact is that no living being, in any of these realms is free of future suffering unless the Sotapanna (stream entrant) stage of Nibbana is attained. When one attains the Sotapanna stage, one becomes free from the four lower realms for good.

In the Ariya metta bhavana, when we say be free of anger, ill will, jealousy, mental suffering, physical suffering etc. etc… it is meant to be free of these ailments forever. Thus this is how the Ariya metta bhavana is formulated:

“May myself and all living beings (in all realms) be free from suffering in the apayas (the four lower realms) forever, and attain the Sotapanna stage via the inability of the mind to generate certain cittas with “apayagami” kammic power”

“May myself and all living beings (in all realms) be free from all mental states that cloud the mind and manifest in unwholesome actions like kāma rāga (reduced) patigha (reduced), and attain the Sakadagami stage and be healthy forever”.

“May myself and all living beings (in all realms) be free from being bound to sense pleasures (āmisa sukha) that lasts only while one is satisfying the particular sense faculty, and experience nibbanic (nirāmisa) sukha that is of more permanent nature, attain the Anagami stage and be content (attain peaceful happiness) forever”.

“May myself and all living beings (in all realms) be free from even a trace of defilements, and attain the Arahant stage and be free from all suffering and attain the full Nibbanic bliss”.

What matters is not the particular set of word used in the above explanation, but what is felt in one’s heart. In order to do that one needs to truly comprehend that there is real suffering that all living beings face in their present and future lives. It is a simple concept, what was explained above, but the main difficulty is with the “Ariya” part; one needs to comprehend anicca, dukkha, anatta for the bhavana to be fully effective. All four Brahma vihara (metta, karuna, mudita, upekkha) are cultivated with this bhavana if done right.

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It might be useful to read Head & Heart Together: Bringing Wisdom to the Brahma-viharas, best the whole collection.

All too often, meditators believe that if they can simply add a little more heart juice, a little more emotional oomph, to their brahmavihāra practice, their attitudes can become limitless. But if something inside you keeps churning up reasons for liking this person or hating that one, your practice starts feeling hypocritical. You wonder who you’re trying to fool.

Neither can there be compassion without wisdom nor wisdom without compassion. Actually compassion act out of wisdom and wisdom acts out of compassion. One who has no compassion with himself will nothing but hurt himself by acting not withing right view, right resolve and right virtue till right livelihood.

That is why in Asia, where people respect virtue and compassion, monks are called "Lord of Compassion", having given up trade and taking what is not given.

As all progress starts with gratitude, it is the case for developing compassion as well. One who does not see the sacrifices of others, not knowing them by one self, how could such a person, although receiving compassion since having searched for another birth, ever develop compassion. So the point to start to get wisdom into compassion begins at: Without gratidute no success

[Since a matter of compasssion only: This gift is not for trade, exchange, stacks or what ever binds to the world but liberation, given.]

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