Cultivating Compassion at Chenrezig Buddhist Institute
Chenrezig Institute is the largest Tibetan Buddhist centre in Australia.
Nestled in the lush, green hills of the Sunshine Coast hinterland, it is a fertile environment for cultivating mind awareness, compassion, and loving kindness. Qualities that once taken root within, can be carried with you wherever you go, benefiting all you come in contact with, and creating a beautiful sense of peace and equanimity within.
As with all of my experiences at Chenrezig, today’s teachings have left me feeling more inspired, loving, open, and respectful of others’ rights and desires for happiness as being equally as important and strong as my own. Something we often forget in this individualistic, self-focused Western culture that we have become conditioned to.
This morning’s teachings were on bodhicitta, which translates from Tibetan as ‘awakened mind’. Those who have achieved bodhicitta are known as bodhisattvas. The main aspiration of a bodhisattva is to achieve an enlightened mind for the purpose of being able to benefit all living beings and help alleviate their suffering.
Buddhism can often be viewed negatively because of the strong focus placed on suffering. But as explained in today’s class, it is not until we fully understand the true nature of suffering that we are able to do something about it. As with any problem, we must understand it to know how to fix it.
The root of bodhicitta is developing true compassion, which is defined in Buddhism as “the wish for all sentient beings to be free of suffering”.
We are taught that it is essential that we understand our own suffering and develop compassion for ourselves FIRST. Otherwise, how are we able to help others if we don’t have these qualities within us to give?
Practicing loving kindness (having feelings of cherishing and caring for others), is the first step towards compassion. When you care about another you obviously don’t want them to suffer.
Tibetan Buddhism provides detailed steps/paths for developing compassion and bodhicitta which I won’t go into detail with here. However, if you wish to know more about these teachings there is an abundance of printed and electronic material available, as well as low cost or free classes on Buddhist practices. Specific meditation practices on loving kindness and compassion are also available.
So the purpose of all this focus on suffering is not to make us feel depressed, despondent, or hopeless, but just the opposite. The purpose is to remove suffering (which is mostly a product of our mind and the thoughts we choose to believe) and restore our natural state of happiness.
The concept of equanimity is the foundation of compassion and the awakened mind. Knowing that other beings are exactly the same as you in their wish to avoid suffering and experience happiness.
Whilst all being the same, we are still of course individuals, who choose different paths and have different values and goals. But at the core I believe that we ALL commonly desire happiness and freedom from suffering.
Tibetan Buddhism teaches that each and every one of us has a ‘Buddha nature’, which means the potential to attain a pure, enlightened mind. In this state we will not only be completely free from our own personal suffering, but also able to help other beings overcome their suffering. What an uplifting, inspiring and hopeful thought! 🙂
Chenrezig Institute, for me, continues to be a place of great beauty, both internally and externally.
A place filled with love, compassion and kindness. A place that emanates serenity and a sense of well-being. It provides inspiration to become a better person, to help others be the best that they can be, and to create a better, kinder world.
Oh, and they do an outstanding chai!
For more information on Chenrezig Institute visit their website: http://www.chenrezig.com.au/
Or Google Buddhism for more general information or resources in your local area.
My personal view is that we don’t need religious beliefs, nor an enlightened mind, to make a difference. We are all capable of increasing our compassion for ourselves and for others to the best of our ability at this time. And thus helping to create a kinder, more loving world.
May all living beings be free from suffering. 🙂