How to get the right touch when practising sending love & compassion to others?

A Student writes:

When practising sending love and compassion to people I find difficult, it can feel a bit aggressive in the sense that I am not really loving their current manifestation. I am loving what they could be if they only shaped up and got more Enlightened, like me! I think I am missing some nuance or intermediate steps here.

Lama Shenpen Replies:

Yes, I recognise this danger.  In fact sometimes even the word compassion suggests a kind of superiority – looking down on others who are less fortunate than I am as if from some moral high ground.  It leads to people saying things like ‘I don’t want your compassion or your pity!!!’

So how do we make sure we are not basing our love and compassion on some kind of judgement? ‘I judge you are in need of my love and compassion because you are such a nasty or pathetic person.’ That doesn’t feel quite right does it?!

How about linking first and foremost with why we want to love them.  Isn’t it because we recognise that fundamentally they are just like we are?  Their nature is Openness, Clarity and Sensitivity and because they don’t recognise that they are heading in the direction of suffering for themselves sooner or later – just like me!

If you are aggressive towards yourself for not shaping up it is going to be that much harder not to be aggressive to others in the same situation – so it all has to start with non-aggression towards our self doesn’t it?


Could you say more about how to ensure we are practising the Apramanas in a way that is leading to Liberation and is not simply leading to a temporary god realm from which we fall back into the lower realms of samsara?

You mentioned in your recent teaching that it depends on having the Right View, however we don’t necessarily start out with this. For a long time on the path we may not have much access to that right view and yet we need to practice in order to have glimpses. Is it enough to rely on a hint or a glimpse of the right view, or even to rely on trust in teachers who can link us to the lineage of right view (even if we don’t realise that view ourselves)?

Lama Shenpen:

That is right – it is our connection (samaya) with the lineage of Awakened Ones – the Mandala of Awakening – the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha that protects us from straying from the path to liberation.

Love and compassion link us into our Buddha Nature naturally – but our habits to misperceive the nature of reality mean we can go slightly astray and end up in the god realms – that in itself is not a problem. The problem is that that state ends and the question is where then do we fall – if we always are taking Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha we simply stay within the teaching mandala – and as you say, glimpse by glimpse we find our way to Awakening.  No need to worry!!!

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