Am I correct in asserting that an increasing level of insight into the true nature of things leads to compassion. Or to put it another way insight is a condition for compassion. From my reading it seems that that is true and the more one practices the more one experiences compassion for other beings.

Assuming that is true, how does that occur? It has never been obvious to me how insight and compassion are connected. Or am I wrong and they are not connected at all and they are different aspects to the Buddhist path that are developed separately.

  • "com-passion" = "suffering with" - to put yourself in the place of another. Quote by Victor Weisskopf: "Human existence is based upon two pillars: Compassion and knowledge. Compassion without knowledge is ineffective; knowledge without compassion is inhuman." So the real question is, prove you are not a robot. Or evil.
    – user2341
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 21:42
  • 1
    I think compassion can exist without insight if the consciousness has cultivated it in past lifetimes.
    – Parag
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 5:58
  • 2
    I don't speak from a state of insight, so this is more of a guess. From what I have read, Insight is really a state of experiencing non-duality. So perhaps when we realize that the boundaries between us and others are illusory, then compassion for others (just like have compassion for ourselves) could develop naturally.
    – Parag
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 6:00
  • I think that Parag's comment about boundaries between self and other being illusory should be the answer. Can I be unconcerned if my hand is in a fire because it is not my brain? "I" must come to represent all and everyone.
    – user2341
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 12:36

7 Answers 7


When one gains insight into how reality functions, i.e. the 3 signs of existence and one experiences how mental and physical phenomena are unsatisfactory and suffering then one gains a great deal of compassion for other beings.

One realizes that all other beings in conditioned existence is "suffering" from the same illness and that the Buddhas medicine can be applied for everyone to gain emancipation.

When one experiences that reality is oppressive and concealed Dukkha and one sees other beings who has not gotten these insights, then great and deep compassion arises because one understands that everyone is in the same boat. Especially when seeing other beings trying to achieve happiness by clinging to phenomena that will slip away and become dukkha a profound level of compassion arises.


Through the practice of insight hate is reduced, craving is reduced and the 4 Brahma Viharas develops as a result of those reduction, i.e Metta(loving kindness), Karuna (compassion), Mudita (joy in the joy of others) and Upekkha ( Equnamity).

Now the far enemies of the 4 Brahma Viharas are:

  • Metta - ill-will
  • Karuna - cruelty
  • Mudita - Envy
  • Upekkha - Craving/Aversion

And through the insight practice of reducing hate and craving, ill-will is reduced, good-will increases; cruelty is reduced, harmlessness increases, envy is reduced, sympathetic joy increases, craving/aversion is reduced equanimity increases.

Compassion was more highly praised by the Buddha:

because it is the root of so many other virtues. The Jàtakamàlà says, ‘Compassion gives birth to all the other virtues just as cooling rain makes the crops grow. When a person is compassionate he has no desire to harm his neighbour, his body, speech and mind are purified, concern for one’s neighbour’s welfare increases and states like kindness, patience, happiness and good reputation grow. Being calm, the compassionate person does not arouse fear in the minds’ of others, he is trusted like a kinsman, he is not agitated by the passions, and quenched by the waters of compassion, the fire of hatred does not blaze in his heart…Remembering this strive to develop compassion towards others, as if they were yourself or your offspring.’

  • Great answer +1. I especially like that you mentioned the 4 Brahma Viharas and the far enemies of them and the compassion-reference of the Buddha.
    – user2424
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 10:46
  • Thanks for the answer - obviously a number of people found it useful but i still don't see it. You say - 'practice of insight hate is reduced, craving is reduced' - but how and why? I could have an insight that says that all beings are not-self/impermenant etc... (to give a crude example) and that could lead me to conclude that I shouldn't care about myself or anyone? Why do seeing the three marks of existence (for instance) make one compassionate? Sorry to nag away at this point but it is non-obvious to me. Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 15:13
  • @crab bucket - Please post "Why do seeing the three marks of existence.. as another question so that others and I have room to answer. Thanks
    – Samadhi
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 16:00
  • Very fair point - I'll post a refined question when i get a moment Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 16:40

1 When our ignorance is removed, our suffering ends.

2 When our suffering ends, the true nature of things is known.

3 When the true nature of things is known, the true nature of beings is known.

4 When the true nature of beings is known, the cause of suffering in beings is known.

5 When the cause of suffering in beings is known, the strive of beings to end suffering is clearly seen.

6 When the strive of beings to end suffering is clearly seen, our compassion for all beings arises.


When you begin to see the interdependence and interconnectedness of all beings through meditation you will also begin to see that we all suffer. Naturally you do not want to suffer yourself, and see that others are suffering too, this begins to arise some compassion for 'their' sufferings... that's all.

  • Hi Sean and welcome to Buddhism.SE. We've put together some information to help you get started here.
    – Robin111
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 20:20

Isn't compassion just a byproduct of the selflessness or egolessness that is a byproduct of a lot of insight?

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    "A candle was made to become entirely flame." (Rumi) Rather than talking about byproducts, I would say that wherever one begins in practice, it will eventually become all-consuming. Light any corner of a house on fire and the whole thing will burn down.
    – user2341
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 12:30

"insight" typically is a short-hand way of saying "insight into the true nature of Reality" or "insight into the true nature of our situation"

So if insight (by meditating on selflessness, for example) leads one to see definitively, directly, and intuitively that there is no separate self, then the aims of the many and the aims of the nominal "individual" are seen as overlapping to say the least.

So what's the real condition? In a sentence, all sentient beings want happiness / freedom from suffering. They don't wish to suffer, they wish to be happy.

Insight can lead to an experiential understanding of this, which is where insight into selflessness of all dharmas yields its fruit so-to-speak.

Selflessness can be demonstrated by various shapes of reasoning. The computer monitor you see is not really "a computer monitor" because it's made of many separate parts. Each part is itself not a computer monitor, you have the shell, the screen, the stand, the cable. The shell is not a monitor, the stand is not a monitor, etc. So where is the monitor?

Similarly, we can apply this clear and logical reasoning to a separate, independent, lasting self and see that truly no phenomenon has self-ity. Some might jump to the conclusion and say "well then everything is one!" but that is also excess talk. One is a word that comes up in dependence on the concept of Many and, therefore as dependent upon each other, neither one exists nor not-exists in the middle free of extremes.

The logical part must always be supported by and footed in the understanding that we don't want to suffer. From the largest man to the smallest insect, from the whales to the birds, all beings are day-and-night avoiding pain (or perceived pain) and working toward happiness (or the skewed cultural reinforcement of what happiness should look like).

Insight into the situation gives us compassion, which is a fundamental aspect of clarity. Much like a person watching the inner workings of a clock, when we see the cyclic functioning of samsara, we feel for the beings who are trapped in unwholesome cycles. Furthermore, the only separation between us and other beings is really just our karmic histories/trajectories. Had we accomplished the same deeds and thoughts as other beings we would be on their exact paths, and thus knowing that we could just as easily be in switched places with others is another key element in understanding selflessness, which in turn gives the incipient awareness of true compassion.

Compassion (yearning for and acting for the end of all beings' sufferings) and Wisdom (that realizes emptiness) are what makes a Buddha.

  • Animals only try to escape pain when it arises, I don't think they go around fearing it as humans do. Neither do they plot their happiness. Those qualities are uniquely ours.
    – user2341
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 21:44
  • If they do not plot happiness and fear pain, then how can they be trained?
    – Sam Reeve
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 16:13

Process of insight up roots Loba, Dosa, Moha 1st and hence as you practice you are left with more Aloba, Adosa, Amoha and Ahetuka states of mind. In addition 5 hindrances also fall away of which ill will is diminishments cases more competition.

When liberated you are left Ahetuka but still evil roots are no more hence relatively compassionate with someone who has ill will and the evil roots.

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