Pema Chödrön, an ordained nun in the Shambhala lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, talks about the importance of meditation in order to develop self-compassion and consequently true compassion for other beings.
I think you just keep in mind, that if you want to, as your life goes on, be more and more able to help other people, then you better meditate. From this point of view of the boddhisattva’s way of life, we don’t meditate for our self alone. We meditate so that we could open our minds, open our hearts, see the dreamlike quality of our thoughts, be liberated more and more from the escalating of emotions. We need to really allow space in our solitude where we can see what’s happening with us, so we can catch when we start to shut down. Without meditation, most people aren’t able to catch the subtleties, when it’s just a little amber before it bursts into a full flame. In fact, we go on automatic pilot and throw kerosene on the fire.
So when you meditate, maybe start with an aspiration that may this period of meditation awaken me further so that I can benefit others. And that would mean not judging your meditation, because it’s just seeing whatever arises. And the more crazy it is what arises, like the craziness of your mind, and the kind of thoughts, the kind of preoccupations and all of this, just think that all of this which is painful to see, so embarrassing to see, how else would I know what other sentient beings are up against. So let this humble me, and be able to stand in the shoes of other people, and may it cause me not to be so critical and prejudiced against other people when they do crazy things. Because I can see how it happens with me. So always letting it awaken self-compassion.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama talks a lot about the importance of self-compassion as the basis of compassion for other people. He goes so far as to say that without self-compassion there is no real compassion for other people. It’s always based on some kind of ego gratification or something like that.
About Pema Chodron
Pema Chödrön is a notable American figure in Tibetan Buddhism. A disciple of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, she is an ordained nun, author, and teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage which Trungpa founded. A prolific author, she has conducted workshops, seminars, and meditation retreats in Europe, Australia, and throughout North America. She is resident and teacher of Gampo Abbey, a monastery on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada.
You can get copies of Pema Chodron video and audio recordings at pemachodrontapes.com