The Need for Compassion in the World

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Archive #1441)

Lama Zopa Rinpoche discusses compassion, the good heart, in this teaching given at the 36th Kopan Course held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in 2003. Lightly edited by Gordon McDougall.

This excerpt from Lecture One of the course.Click here to read more.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Chokyi Gyaltsen Centre, Penang, Malyasia, March 2016. Photo: Bill Kane.

If there is more education about compassion in the world, in the country, if there is more education, educating people in compassion and how to practice it—the more that happens then the more real peace happens. It comes from within their own heart, from compassion, from the good heart. By having compassion, a good heart, we don’t harm others, and on top of that, we only benefit others. We become the cause of happiness for others and we also don’t harm ourselves. Peace comes from each individual being with the freedom.

Just by saying there is a need for compassion, just by lecturing there is a need for compassion, that alone doesn’t generate compassion in the mind. Just by lecturing that we need compassion, that alone cannot generate compassion in the hearts of the people in this world. We need to learn how to develop compassion. Compassion, like rain falling, doesn’t just happen. Even if the rain comes from the fogginess due to the vapor from the ocean or whatever it is, it’s all dependent arising. It’s not just happening instantly, it’s not happening without causes and conditions. Even that. Compassion doesn’t just drop into the brain or into the heart like that.

The mind has to be trained in compassion. There is a graduated method to develop compassion. There are preliminary stages to have the realization of compassion. There is a whole graduated path; there are whole stages the mind has to develop through—then we can have the realization of compassion.

How much peace and happiness within our individual life, how much fulfillment and high esteem, having a happy life, a meaningful life, then our life is meaningful, worthwhile, beneficial—it is not meaningless, not depressing—there is peace and happiness within our individual life. Then peace and happiness in the family, in society, in the neighborhood, in the people around us, peace and happiness in the country, in the world, global peace and happiness—all this depends on compassion. When there is less compassion in the world, in the hearts of the people, there are more problems, more wars. It is similar in the family, even in a small group like a family. Even in one person’s life there are more problems, so many more problems and disasters. Body disasters, mind disasters—there are two kinds of disasters: body and mind. The whole world peace depends on how much a good heart is educated and practiced.

As I often say, if one person has compassion, then that attitude doesn’t produce a harmful action; it doesn’t produce an action that harms others. Starting from the family, from an animal or human being, whoever is nearest to us in everyday life, starting from there, to all the rest of the sentient beings, they don’t receive harm from us, and that absence of harm is the peace and happiness they receive from us. Then, on top of that, with compassion, with stopping giving harm, the more we develop compassion, the more we benefit others. So, numberless other sentient beings receive peace and happiness. From our compassion, the numberless other sentient beings not only receive the happiness of this life, but more importantly, they receive peace and happiness in all future lives. For numberless others, their long-term happiness in all the coming future lives is received from us. By having compassion, it can cause this.

And not only that, an even more important happiness, we cause other sentient beings to receive ultimate happiness, the everlasting happiness having pacified completely the whole oceans of samsaric sufferings. By pacifying the cause which is within them, delusion and karma, or the mistaken thoughts, wrong concepts, the emotional, afflicted thoughts, and then the actions, karma, by pacifying them completely, including the seeds of the delusions, which are within their mental continuum. By ceasing all that, including the seeds of delusion, which is the nature of the imprint, by ceasing all that completely and making it impossible for those negative emotional thoughts, the wrong concepts, those disturbing emotional thoughts to arise again. Due to that, it is impossible to create karma again and impossible then to experience the result, suffering. That is ultimate happiness, everlasting happiness. They are free from suffering forever. Numberless sentient beings can achieve that happiness from our compassion.

If we have compassion, then we also develop wisdom. If we have compassion then we look for wisdom, we put effort into learning Dharma wisdom, to know what is right, what is beneficial for others and ourselves, and what is wrong, what harms others and ourselves. Wisdom knows this. Wisdom knows karma, what is the cause of suffering. Without knowing, without wisdom, how can we achieve happiness? How can we prevent suffering without knowing the cause of suffering?

If we have compassion we continuously put effort into developing wisdom so that we can benefit others more deeply, we can be of better service to others. And with that compassion, we are able to bring the numberless sentient beings to great liberation, to full enlightenment, which is the cessation of even the subtle mistakes of the mind, the subtle defilements, the subtle negative imprints, which project the hallucinated appearance, the truly existent appearance. By ceasing that, then the realizations are completed, all the qualities are achieved. Then, there is nothing more to develop, that’s the end, it’s completed; there is bliss, peace. The spiritual work, the attainment is finished, is completed. Our compassion causes numberless sentient beings to achieve peerless happiness, full enlightenment. That which is the highest success, the most important happiness—that should be achieved. That is what sentient beings need to achieve.

Therefore, all this happiness that numberless other sentient beings receive from us, all this up to enlightenment is in our hands. All this happiness is caused by us. Our compassion is the cause of all this; it is in our own hands. It is up to our own mind, what we do with our mind. It all depends on what we do with our mind. If we develop compassion for other sentient beings, then that compassion becomes the cause for all those numberless sentient beings to achieve happiness up to enlightenment. All that comes from us. If we don’t generate compassion, then all these benefits, all those skies of benefit, the numberless sentient beings cannot receive from us.