On Thursday, our last class, we discussed about the link between emptiness and compassion whether or not the understanding of emptiness creates a sense of compassion. I was particularly interested in this topic, so I did some research and found out that compassion could be divided into three types. The first is compassion that focuses on sentient beings; if we look closely at the painful situations that sentient beings experience, we feel compassion and want to change their miserable conditions. The second is compassion that focuses on ignorance as the root of all suffering; everything is impermanence and constantly changing, but due to ignorance, sentient beings grasp and cling to their lives as if they will last for aeons. Finally, the third compassion is compassion without any focus/ objectless compassion. It is the deepest level of compassion; it is the meditation on the absolute state of equanimity. This compassion arises from the realization of emptiness and is free from all desire and duality. According to the article, this level of meditation is achieved gradually, and it is not as easy to understand as the first two types of compassion. Thus, when you practice virtuous actions of love and compassion on the relative level, you spontaneously realize the profound nature of emptiness, which is the absolute level. On the other hand, if you focus your meditation practice on emptiness, then your loving-kindness and compassion will spontaneously grow.
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches stated “these two natures, the absolute and the relative, are not opposites; they always arise together. They have the same nature; they are inseparable like a fire and its heat or the sun and its light. Compassion and emptiness are not like two sides of a coin. Emptiness and compassion are not two separate elements joined together; they are always coexistent.”
According to the Buddha, everything is impermanent and so does the COVID-19 crisis. If we become mindful of our actions by paying attention to the present moment and accepting things as the way they are without judgment, our Dukkha could be alleviated.
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise across the globe, stress and anxiety around the virus have risen right alongside them. However, during times of uncertainty and high stress, it is helpful for us to remember that we are not alone in how we feel. Practicing self-compassion during this time is, therefore, very important. When we experience chronic stress, it can tax our immune system and cause more severe problems like anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance. Meditation, however, helps deactivate the emotional center of the brain which is responsible for emotional reactivity that keeps us hooked to news cycles and fuels chronic stress. When we help our brains stay grounded we are better able to engage the rational part of our brains. This can help us understand information and make decisions from a place of fact versus panic.
Below is a meditation guidance video posted on Emory’s YouTube page. I wanted to share this with you guys because I was stressed about my upcoming exams and the situation of coronavirus, but this simple meditation practice really helped me become more relaxed after listening to it. I hope you guys enjoy it too 🙂
Verse 20 (p. 26): “That is why the Fortunate One declared that the human state is so hard to attain: as likely as the turtle poking its neck through the hole of a yoke floating on the mighty ocean.”
This classic analogy of describes the blind sea turtle who surfaces once every hundred years for air where on the surface of the ocean floats a golden yoke, and it is rarer to gain a precious human rebirth than it is for that turtle to surface with its head coming out through the yoke. This illustrates how difficult it is to be born as a human. The Buddha has said that out of all forms of life, human life is the most advanced. Human birth is very rare compared to all the other life forms on earth. To be born as a human being, one should have cultivated a lot of merit in past lives. Compared to other life forms, the human being is a very sophisticated and complex entity. Thus, verse 20 in Chapter 4 is my favorite verse because it reminds me what a tremendous opportunity I have right this very minute and I can use this opportunity to cultivate myself and get out of this samsara.
In The Bodhicaryāvatāra’s chapter 1, “Praise of The Awakening Mind”, Śāntideva began the first four verses by explaining his motives for writing this. He then pointed out that there are two kinds of awakening mind: mind resolved on awakening and mind proceeding towards awakening (verse 15). This distinction is recognized between a person who desires to go and the one who is going. The awakening mind never dies, and it continues to produce. Verse 25 talks about the virtues of those beings in whom the Awakening Mind has arisen, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The Buddha discovered the truth and taught us the Dharma and ways to spread love, compassion, and kindness towards the others. The Dharma is the way things really are: impermanence, no-self, emptiness, and nothing to hold on to. The Sangha is the ones who determine to practice what the Buddha had taught with the goal to reach nirvana. Thus, the definitive act that people declare themselves to be Buddhists is the act of going for refuge to the Three Jewels, the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.