Compassion can loosely be defined as the response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help. More involved than simple empathy, compassion commonly gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another's suffering.
There are three key specific definitions that I care a lot about, as compassion is the driving force in my life. I will cover two of them in this article. I will cover “self-compassion” at a later date.
"Specialised Compassion" is having compassion for people within a certain condition or circumstance. "General Compassion" is compassion towards ALL people, without condition.
Since we are human, we generally require shared experience to be able to relate to a person or another being compassionately. Our shared humanity can be the basis of compassion.
Specialised compassion occurs when we have a shared experience with the sufferer that is currently causing them to suffer.
Generalised compassion occurs when the shared experience we have is the experience of suffering itself.
The beauty of generalised compassion is that there are no conditions required for its use, it is available to everyone regardless of the good or harm they have done to the world, regardless of their circumstances. This is important because it is those that do the worst things that often need the most love.
How to foster specialised compassion
Specialised compassion is fantastic motivator for helping others, and it is simple. Think of a time you’ve been put into some state of suffering and how you made it through. Now go and help those in a similar situation.
How to foster general compassion
I only encountered the existence of generalised compassion after my encounter with ego death / egolessness. This was the first time in my life that I was free from all attachment and left without any suffering, only peace. It was from here that everything started to unfold, from there I was able to see that everyone suffers, and everyone can be helped.
Generalised compassion requires an internal evolution, a leap. It requires us to understand the nature of suffering, Dukkha, as it is stated in Buddhism. Being aware of this is the practice of Vipassana-Meditation.
Attachment is the root of suffering ~ Buddha
The ability to apply compassion to everyone equally may or may not be possible for everyone, even those who regularly meditate. But to know that we all suffer is enough to start treating others with a more universal compassion.
Everyone suffers, but we as compassionate people can help. Even if it is something as small as a smile.
Thank you for reading. I love reading your ideas and beliefs on these matters, if you wish to share your thoughts please comment.
Image credit top: http://cdooginz.deviantart.com/art/humanity-plain-255444471