Cultivating Compassion

This talk reviews the second of the four Divine Abidings, Karuna, which emerges from the cultivation of lovingkindness.  Compassion involves developing mindful awareness of empathy regarding the experience of dukkha, distress and confusion, in one’s subjective experience.  The characteristics of the “far enemy” and “near enemy” of compassion are reviewed, as well as how contemporary psychological research supports the personal and social benefits of cultivating effective actions to bring relief from dukkha for oneself and others.  The Tibetan Buddhist practice of Tonglen is reviewed as a way to integrate mindfulness of breathing, investigation of mental phenomena and Right Effort with the expression compassion.

This talk is intended to be supplemented by the recording entitled “Guided Compassion Contemplation”, which can be found in the archives of this site.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  Cultivating Compassion

The topic for next week’s talk will be on cultivating Sympathetic Joy, another of the four Divine Abidings.


Mindful Compassion In Trying Times November 4, 2020

This talk reviews the Wholesome Mind Conditioning function of karuna (kah-roo-nah), compassion, which is a manifestation of Right Intention from the Noble Eightfold Path.  Peter reviews the universal human capacity for empathy, “hard-wired” into our nervous system, perhaps expressed through the function of the vagal nerve process, which connects the brain with the heart, lungs and intestines, suggesting the the experience of compassion is a process involving the entire torso as well as the brain.  This innate empathy creates the group cohesion necessary for civilization to function effectively, which is greatly challenged during these trying times that involve the pandemic, political conflict and the disruptive societal impact of global warming.  Different approaches to cultivating compassion are described involving the Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana views.  The review is followed by discussion among those participating regarding the cultivation of compassion.  This talk is accompanied by a separately recorded “Guided Mindful Compassion Meditation” from the same night.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  Mindful Compassion In Trying Times

The focus for next week’s talk will be the cultivating of Sympathetic Joy, another of the Wholesome Cetasikas.



The Value Of Compassion November 13 2019

This talk focuses on karuna, the Pali and Sanskrit term for compassion.  Peter described compassion as a “subset” of metta, lovingkindness, with a focus on empathizing with the dukkha one is aware of in oneself and others.  Contemporary research on mirror neurons (neural pathways we all have that allow us to “read” each other through mimicry and empathic attunement) and attachment theory (psychological research that strongly suggests the innate interpersonal dynamics of us that extends from infancy throughout life) are easily associated with Buddhist compassion meditation practices.  The Tibetan Buddhist tonglen, a compassion meditation practice, was described as an effective way to practice compassion, both formally while meditating and informally during daily life routines.  This description was followed by general discussion about how karuna can be integrated into one’s life.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk; they include some suggestions regarding various contemplations in the practice: THE VALUE OF COMPASSION

Next week’s topic will be mudita, sympathetic joy.