The great compassion taught in Buddhism is not merely an emotional response tinged with sadness or fear that comes and goes in response to a temporary situation. It is not superficial in this way but deep and, therefore, stable as well. This profound stability is due to our compassion being based on wisdom and reasoning. This compassion is not mere empathy or sympathy, not some kind of concern or affection. It is not saying, ‘I know what you’re going through.’ Or ‘I get your situation.’ It is also not coming from someone high up to someone low down. Actually, it is not the case that the person feeling compassion is in a good place and the other is down on their luck, so the one better off is bestowing their compassionate action on the unfortunate person down there.
Actually, true compassion makes little distinction between self and other. We naturally feel that we are a part of others and they are a part of us. We can feel their suffering one hundred percent or at least, really know a good deal of what it is like, and so we are able to take on all or most of their burden. This is the capacity we need to develop. It means that we feel little or no gap between ourselves and others; apprehending a self and an other is weak or nonexistent, for the sense of separation into two has faded away.
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