How to Practice Random Kindness and Genuine Compassion

kindness flower ~ From a talk given by Rinpoche given at California Institute of Integral Studies on Nov. 16th , 2005 ~

We have to think about integrating the compassion with activities, in other words compassion in action.

You have to go out and reach other people in the world and practice cultivating loving kindness in action. There are many ways that you can practice action. It doesn’t always have to be a big deal like joining the peace corps or going to some remote area in Asia or Africa.

Of course it would be amazing if you have the opportunity to go to foreign countries and really help people and to be a bodhisattva. There are also many opportunities in our every day lives to practice compassion.

For example I told my story about getting angry at the dogs. That was a perfect opportunity for me to practice compassion in my relationship with the dogs. There is always a perfect opportunity to practice loving kindness, forgiveness, gentleness in our relationships with other people.

For example when you wake up in the morning you can try to practice loving kindness with the first person you run into. It could be your wife or husband or it could be your dogs or it could be your neighbors or it could be a stranger on the street.

The moment you wake up look around. Who is going to be the first person you meet, the first person of the day? You can vow in your mind, “I shall intend positive energy. I shall practice loving kindness to that person.

Then when we wake up to our husband or wife we might suddenly practice loving kindness. Instead of saying “Last night I couldn’t sleep because you were snoring” or “you didn’t flush the toilet last night and I’m utterly offended” or “who is going to cook breakfast today” and instead of having anger as a reaction to their behavior, you might start to practice absolute forgiveness, loving kindness, acceptance.

Or you may get into your car and start driving and notice a stranger in another car. You don’t know them and are never going to meet that person again in your entire lifetime. But at least you can practice loving kindness. You can imagine that you are sending loving kindness to that person.

I heard that sometimes the person in front of you pays the bridge toll for you. Imagine that you were going over the Bay Bridge expecting to pay money and you reach to get the money and then hear that the person in front of you paid for you.

You might want to do that for somebody else. That would make somebody’s day, right. It is very easy. It just requires three dollars. It would be quite nice to do that now and then. Not every day but how about Christmas or Thanksgiving or one of those holidays.

You can turn one of the holidays into a holy day by practicing random kindness, random compassion. It is very easy. It does not require lots of wealth or prosperity to make somebody happy and somebody joyous because they feel that they have received compassion. They are loved and they are cared for.

Try to remember a time when you showed genuine compassion to somebody and that changed you own life as well as the life of the other person. Recall a time, a place where you practiced genuine compassion toward another human being.

How about if we close our eyes and we try to go through the memories of our past and try to come up with a story. Not a fiction but a true story where we practiced genuine compassion without any other motive. Try to think of one event.

Perhaps you remember a time a moment in your life where you practiced genuine compassion. When you really think about that you may notice that at the very moment when you helped someone, when you showed genuine, true compassion it was actually effortless.

It was not coming from this small self, the I that is always filled with ulterior motives, looking for a reward, a payback, recognition. But rather it was coming from a very infinite source. You see that there is an infinite source in you, one that is way bigger than you can comprehend. It’s like you have the Buddha mind living in your consciousness.

And when you are able to awaken to that source you realize that there is this amazing rich source of wisdom and loving kindness, equanimity and joy within you. And most of the time you are disconnected from that infinite source.

But in your meditation when you look and you try to remember the time when you practiced genuine compassion for another person you see how marvelous, how miraculous it is to be connected to that part of yourself, this infinite source. How effortless it is. And when you experience that infinite source within you then you are no longer ordinary, you are awakened.

You are completely a bodhisattva. You don’t have to force yourself into practice. You are already a bodhisattva.

All you have to do is remember that you have this infinite source. In other words Avalokiteshvara resides in you. Your pure essence is Avalokiteshvara. In Buddhism they talk about realizing one’s true nature. The way you bring about absolute awakening is realizing your true nature, your Buddha nature.

That is none other than that infinite source that you have glimpsed at times in your life. You may have glimpsed it on a number of occasions. When you experience genuine loving kindness toward another without any ulterior motive, at that very moment you are glimpsing your true nature, your Buddha nature, your infinite nature, source; source of love, source of wisdom.

So now the question is if you want to know the truth, you must know your true nature. But if you want to know your true nature, you must allow yourself to experience genuine compassion. Through experiencing this genuine compassion then you are able to experience that inner, infinite source. And in that state of awakening you realize your true nature.

You realize the truth, you realize the emptiness, whatever you are looking for. Some of you might be looking for the realization of emptiness. Some of you might be looking for the realization of luminous awareness, or godhead, or Buddha mind. Whatever you are looking for you find the firsthand realization of in that state of infinite source.

So now I’m going to ask a question.

Do you want to be liberated?

Do you want to experience spiritual ecstasy?

Do you want to be awakened?

Do you want to be awakened right now?

There is this shortcut to the great awakening or spiritual awakening, or liberation, or realization of truth. That is that at this very moment you invite yourself to embrace and to experience that inner infinite source of wisdom, love and compassion, at this very moment.

An extraordinary thing is that you don’t have to know anything. You don’t have to know anything.

You don’t have to have any introductions, any concepts, any systems.

Sometimes you might like to use certain techniques as a catalyst to open that door to awakening into that infinite source within you.

Therefore I recommend that each of you visualize a specific person, a group of people, an animal you love or a situation as a catalyst to remove all of the blocks, all of the defense mechanisms in order to experience directly that infinite source which is bodhicitta, the awakened heart. In that you will realize every principle. You will realize the ultimate truth.

I have often been asked if this type of meditation has an effect on the other person and in response to that I will give you some examples to show that meditation of loving kindness has a direct impact on other people. Imagine that somebody is suffering, experiencing internal confusion, either self-hatred, or loneliness or being mistreated.

If you actually meditate on loving kindness in front of that person and send the energy of loving kindness into that person’s consciousness directly, you will see that the person will begin to transform. That person will begin to experience loving kindness too.

In Tonglen meditation, we ask two people to face each other and practice loving kindness toward each other. It is one of my favorite meditations. When two people sit and face each other and meditate on loving kindness, people start experiencing Buddha mind, awakened mind, loving kindness whatever you like to call it.

Sometimes people start to cry and experience a breakdown as well as a breakthrough. So I believe that there has been a transfer.

Also when you meet an animal, say a dog and experience mistrust, fear or another negative force you can see that the dog senses that. But if you experience loving kindness, projecting that image to the dog or animal then you can see that the animal is actually touched by that.

Also, I have been in the presence of quite a few people who have dedicated their lives to loving kindness. The Dalai Lama for example is someone who I believe practices loving kindness. At his teachings there may be 20,000 to 40,000 or more people attending.

It does not mean that most people understand what he is talking about. But there is a common experience that everybody in his presence feels his love and compassion. And that is because his consciousness is absorbed in an ocean of loving kindness and that is affecting the mind of the group and the mind of the collective society too.

Therefore if you start practicing loving kindness at your home every day then you affect everybody around you. First you affect your family members. Then you affect your neighbors. Then they will affect their neighbors and eventually your practice of loving kindness has a great effect on even the collective mind too.

Similarly if you are meditating on evil, negative thoughts then you can have an effect on the mind of other people as well as the mind of collective society. If we have evil thoughts, hatred towards a group of people of a different race or religion, the negative thoughts are like a virus. They go around and start infecting the body of other peoples’ consciousness too.

Therefore we have to be quite mindful about what we are going to register in our minds. Every time we create negative thoughts like hatred, unexamined hatred, that has a tremendous impact on our own consciousness.

We call that karma in Buddhism. Karma is not simply action. Karma is more of a mind habit. If I allow myself to experience unexamined hatred based on evil and lack of loving kindness, then I created a very powerful imprint in my consciousness. And that is how I develop tendencies or habits of experiencing hatred in the future.

This also may lead me to commit negative karma by punishing somebody else.

Whatever I have resisted in my consciousness has a direct impact on people around me and also on collective mind. Therefore every time you practice loving kindness imagine that you are directing that loving kindness toward other people and then they feel that loving kindness too.

Sometimes when I talk with my mother who lives in Tibet she has lots of melodrama for some reason and experiences difficulty. When that happens I start to practice loving kindness right there while I am talking to her. And I notice that her voice starts getting softer and she starts experiencing peace.

In the beginning she will be talking about how difficult her life is and how people are dishonest with her. And then at the end of the conversation all of her problems are gone. I feel the same way when people practice loving kindness toward me. I believe that this practice has a direct, immediate impact on both people—the person generating loving kindness and the person receiving loving kindness.

I would like to sit for two minutes. The shortest meditation I have ever done, and to just generate love, compassion and then to send that to each of us. And imagine that we are sending that force of loving kindness and compassion toward everyone and all beings everywhere.

Thank you everybody.

Resources for Further Reading

Mind in Indian Buddhist Philosophy Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Avalokiteśvara (Sanskrit: अवलोकितेश्वर, “Lord who looks down“)

Bodhichitta is the compassionate wish to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings: www

The Dalai Lama: www

What is Luminous awareness: Rupert Spira’s blog

Photo by Reginaldo Andrade

About Tulku Thubten Rinpoche

Tulku Thubten Rinpoche was born in Tibet and took up spiritual training in the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism at an early age. He was recognized as the incarnation of Anam Lama by several masters, including Gompa Tulku Rinpoche. Rinpoche came to the West in 1992, and teaches in fluent English.

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