Compassion the Answer to Suffering

Recently I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s, The Art of Communication. It was nothing groundbreaking and it discussed the importance of using mindfulness and compassion in our communications with loved ones, colleagues, and others.

What stood out for me was a phrase that solidified the teachings I’ve been reading about in some of the Dalai Lama’s writings.

Compassion is seeking to ease other’s suffering.

This was a revelation. I had been confused about how to formulate compassion as a concept. Thich Nhat Hanh’s simple phrase did it for me. In order to truly be compassionate, which is the goal of Buddhism, one must seek to ease other’s suffering. This is a paraphrase, but the principal remains. If we seek to be compassionate, above all else, we seek to help others suffering.

In this book, Hanh goes on to explain how mindful communications can help us ease other’s suffering by showing others that we are truly present for their communications. He also makes the point that communications, like media, are like food that we can either control and monitor and thus remain healthy, or let profane our bodies and spirits.

But the takeaway bar none is about compassion. With this formulation it’s possible to understand the supreme goal of Buddhism, and many other religions. This is Buddhism’s way of saying it, and I like it. As I have previously written I am struck by the importance of compassion in Buddhism, something that I did not understand before, and to see compassion thus defined helps tremendously.

And if, as the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu proclaimed in The Book of Joy, joy is the experience of compassion for others, joy is, in turn, the effort to ease other’s suffering. Thus my search for joy has become a search for easing the suffering of others.


Posted in Joy

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