Home » Excerpts » Voluntary Cultivation of Involuntary Compassion

When compassion becomes not just your second nature,
but your first and only nature,
you become a full-fledged Bodhisattva.

– Stonepeace

Dalai Lama: (translated) When you have an intense emotion of compassion, an intense state of compassion for someone, there is disequilibrium. There is a sense of affliction. But the difference here is that in the case of afflictive mental states, there is an element of loss of self-control, loss of freedom. Whereas in the case of compassion, there is no such loss of freedom. We deliberately train in order to be concerned with the other’s suffering. So strong emotion or feeling comes out through effort, voluntarily.The affliction that is experienced by the person who is having compassion is in some sense not out of control, because he or she chooses that state. Voluntarily. Because of this, although on the surface there might be a sense of anxiety in that compassionate person’s mind, deep down there is a strength.

Ekman: What is voluntary is cultivating the compassion. But once compassion has been acquired, when you see someone wounded or suffering, you do not have the choice to ignore it. Your compassionate response is an involuntary desire to help relieve suffering.

Dalai Lama: (translated) That is true, Paul. This is very true, because once you have experienced it, once you’re in the height of compassion, then you have no choice – not in the sense of, I’m going to show compassion to this and not to that. It is more at the causal stage that is voluntary. (In the development.)

Emotional Awareness: A Conversation Between the Dalai Lama & Paul Ekman, Ph.D.
Edited by Paul Ekman
Get it at Awareness Place shops or Amazon

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