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.

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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.

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Lojong Review

During this final review of the lojong mind training aphorisms, Peter described how the lojong tradition is a revisiting of the Four Noble Truths from a Mahayana perspective, with emphasis on tonglen, the practice of compassion.  The last stage of the lojong listing is a reminder of the important things to integrate into meditation practice and daily lifestyle routines in order to further the process of awakening.

Here are the aphorisms referred to in the talk:  GUIDELINES FOR APPLYING THE COMMITMENTS

Next week’s discussion will focus on the value of regular meditation practice and occasional retreat participation to maximize the benefits received from the Buddhist process of awakening.

Avoiding Mental Rigidity

During this talk, Peter reviewed 3 lojong mind training commitments:  “Don’t revert to magic”, “Don’t reduce a god to a demon”, and “Don’t seek pain as a component of happiness”.  The common theme of these three commitments is to be mindful of mental rigidity, which produces “magical thinking” (Misperceiving one’s beliefs to be “things”, that is, accurate personality defining characteristics).  This consequence of craving and clinging can create a rigid, doctrinaire, “holier than thou” approach to life, comparing and judging others harshly for their beliefs.  This rigidity can manifest as a punitive approach to life, that is, relishing the suffering of others.

The review was followed by discussion by various persons attending regarding how this rigidity is experienced and what aspects of the Four Noble Truth can bring resolution to the rigidity and harshness.

This review is the last focused on the commitments of lojong mind training.  Peter will be on a two-week self retreat over the holidays.  The first meeting in January will review the retreat process he experienced.  The following meeting will summarize the lojong mind training  with a review of the remaining aphorisms, which emphasize the importance of various elements of the lojong mind training system.

Here are the notes prepared for this discussion:   AVOIDING MENTAL RIGIDITY AND HARSHNESS

Releasing Unrealistic Expectations

During this talk, the lojong commitment “Don’t Put A Horse’s Load On A Donkey” was reviewed.  The emphasis of the commitment is to avoid idealizing expectations of self or others, that is, to avoid perfectionism.  One of the benefits of being relieved of the stress and confusion of the five hindrances is the release of energy into the process of awareness.  This can manifest as overreaching one’s capabilities, or displacing responsibility on others, thereby expecting too much of their capabilities.  This leads to contempt and a feeling of disconnection from self and others.  A goal of this practice is to become clearly aware of how self-organization either leads to clarity or to confusion, and eventually understanding how to release the “hardened” expectations that result from craving and clinging.

Here are the notes for the discussion:  MANAGING THE BURDEN OF RESPONSIBILITY

Here is the worksheet provided for those attending the meeting:  Relationship Responsibility Worksheet