How do you feel when you open to the suffering of others?

Since others are always going to suffer is it possible ever to experience complete joy and freedom from suffering? The Buddha, the Awakened One, said it was, but this is a difficult point that we cover in the Core Theme book, Sensitivity.

The Buddha is described as being radiant with joy, while at the same time being sensitive and responsive to the sufferings of others.  This means all others, throughout all space and throughout all time.  This is called the Endless Compassionate Vision of the Indestructible Heart Essence.  The endlessness is its complete openness, the compassion is its complete sensitivity and responsiveness, and the vision is the complete clarity and awareness of awakening which is called Buddhahood.

Awakening means that the openness and spaciousness become completely boundless, the clarity becomes totally vivid and unclouded and the sensitivity becomes completely exposed and operational, compassionately responding to the needs of others everywhere.

Our heart’s wish [read more about what the Heart Wish is here] actually arises from the innate quality of sensitivity.  The important point to notice here is that our sensitivity produces a response to the sufferings of others, which comes from our Heart Wish.

We have a choice at that point to align with our Heart Wish and let ourselves feel and respond in an open and clear way or we can try to avoid that experience.  Avoidance is what happens when we try to close off and dampen down some of our sensitivity and responsiveness.  This dims our clarity and awareness, which makes it difficult to re-connect to our Heart Wish; this is the sort of thing that leaves us striving for goals that can never satisfy our hearts.  In a sense this is already a form of suffering.  Even if one does not recognise it as suffering straight away, at some point you will definitely recognise it.  Disconnection from your Heart Wish means that your Heart Wish is not fulfilled.


Reflect on how you feel when you open yourself to the sufferings of others.  Does it leave you with a hopeless feeling? Do you find yourself closing off very quickly?  Try to use such reactions in your daily life as triggers of awareness reminding you to link into your Heart Wish.

Reflect on what you really want, even for the most negative person.  Reflect on whether what you want is that they cease to suffer and be negative.  Is what you really want is for them to be open, clear and sensitive? Is there is a part of yourself that wants actively to cut through their confusion and negativity and release the joy and warmth of their true nature?  If the answer to these questions is yes, then make a deliberate effort to relax into that wish and feel it expanding out to all beings.  With this as your underlying wish it is much easier to handle negative emotions in yourself and others.

Endless Compassionate Vision – The Heart’s Deepest Wish

Maybe you are beginning now to appreciate that the happiness of others is integral to our own happiness? It is a paradox that our greatest happiness comes from being open, clear and sensitive and yet the more open, clear and sensitive we are the more we feel the sufferings of others.  Can one be open and sensitive to the sufferings of others without losing one’s own sense of joy and delight, or could the intensity of compassion itself be a kind of bliss? We discuss the connection between bliss and compassion in greater detail in the Core Theme, Sensitivity.

However, on the level of our ordinary experience, it is difficult to feel happy in the company of others who are not happy.  It is in the interests of our own Heart Wish for others to be happy too.   You may doubt this thinking that you do not really wish others to be happy.  You may think that you only really care about your own happiness and the happiness of those closest to you.  But isn’t this because you feel it is impossible and unrealistic to wish for more than this? If you could realise your heart’s deepest wish wouldn’t it be happiness for everyone?   If you do not believe that it is worth coming back to this question again and again, asking yourself why you do not wish others to be happy.


Feel as deeply as you can in your actual physical heart that Heart Wish for yourself and for others to be happy and free from suffering.  Do not worry about the fact that you and others are not happy or that you can only feel the Heart Wish in a dim or remote way.  Try to imagine that happy state, just for a moment, with the lightest possible touch. Then gently link that Heart Wish or longing to your volition, intention and resolve.

– Acknowledge that deep down, in your heart of hearts, you long for yourself and others to be happy.

– Align yourself with this your heart’s deepest wish.

– Honour the natural nobility of your Heart Wish.

– Celebrate and feel joyful that it is there deep within you.

Reflect on what all that feels like.  It is possible to feel a sense of wonder, joy, relief, recognition, understanding.

Lama Shenpen Hookham

This is an excerpt from the Heart Wish book, one of the core themes of the Discovering the Heart of Buddhism (DHB) course, the foundational course of the Living the Awakened Heart Training.  The training is a structured, comprehensive, supported, distance learning programme that’s open to all and brings the profound Dzogchen and Mahamudra teachings to a western audience in an experiential, accessible way, through spiral learning. Find out more and how to join at