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According to Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, "true love" has four elements:

  1. Loving kindness: this produces a lot of joy and happiness.

  2. Compassion: it makes us and the other people suffer less.

  3. Joy: "If love does not generate joy, it is not [true] love."

  4. Inclusiveness: "In true love there is no frontier between the one who loves and the one who is loved."

I'd like to focus on "compassion" here. Don't people who are more compassionate suffer more because they experience the suffering of other people in some sense? So aren't the elements 2 and 3 as mentioned above contrary to each other?

I think this question is related but not identical to another question asked before: love and caring is suffering.

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Don't people who are more compassionate suffer more because they experience the suffering of other people?

The above appears to be the Western/Christian meaning of compassion, namely, "to suffer with".

In Buddhism, the term "karuṇā" (often translated as "compassion") is the wish to ending suffering. It does not mean "to suffer with".

karuṇā - “ahita-dukkh-âpanaya-kāmatā,” the desire of removing bane and sorrow (from one’s fellowmen)

  • Thank you. But is such kind of "compassion" possible in practice? It seems to me that the compassionate person is not happy because of being aware of the suffering of his/her friend or millions of people in the world, and that motivates her/him to offer help. – apadana Nov 13 at 10:24
  • @apadana in theory, the removal of others suffering could stem from unhappiness or benevolence. To my understanding buddhist compassion (karuna) emphasizes the latter as a mean to liberate yourself and others from the pain, instead of dwelling in it. – Erik Nov 13 at 10:49
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Being compassionate towards another means to see the roots of their suffering — the cravings and discontentments that drive it — not to embrace it or enter into it. When we do not see the roots of other people's suffering, we become involved in their suffering: we grow attached, which can lead us to be angry, resentful, pitying, snobbish, distant, cruel... That does nothing except compound the suffering of others, and lead us to suffer ourselves.

When we do see the roots of their suffering we can relate to them: we too have suffered under misperception. Then we are filled with kindness and tenderness. Our kindness and tenderness does more to ease their suffering than any action we could take.

Compassion is not about entering into their a person's suffering to fix what's wrong. Compassion is about seeing the person who suffers in their true (non-suffering) light, so that they can find themselves in our eyes.

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I'd like to focus on "compassion" here. Don't people who are more compassionate suffer more because they experience the suffering of other people in some sense? So aren't the elements 2 and 3 as mentioned above contrary to each other?

That's why when studying the Brahmavihara/the Four Sublime Attitudes, one should be careful not to confuse these sublime states with what's called their "near and far enemies". Afterall the practice is really a selfless practice. If one's clinging to the self is not there, if there's no "I", "mine", or "myself", there's no anchor for suffering to take shape.

  1. Loving kindness(metta): wish for welfare/happiness of others; near enemy: attachment; far enemy: ill will;
  2. Compassion(karuna): empathy with others suffering; near enemy: worldly grief; far enemy: cruelty(vihesa);
  3. Altruistic joy(mudita): joy from seeing others' success/good fortune; near enemy: worldly joy; far enemy: aversion, discontent(arati);
  4. Equanimity(upekkha): impartiality towards others; near enemy: dull indifference of apathy; far enemy: attachment and aversion(patigha); For a fuller treatment, see Vism IX page 312-313;

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