On being too realistic and practical

The use of meditating on compassion

14th Dalai Lama

One point I should make here is that some people, especially those who see themselves as very realistic and practical, are sometimes too realistic and obsessed with practicality. They may think, "The idea of wishing for the happiness of all beings, of wanting what is best for every single one, is unrealistic and too idealistic. Such an unrealistic idea cannot contribute in any way to transforming the mind or to attaining some kind of mental discipline, because it is completely unachievable."

...They feel there is simply no point in thinking about all beings since there is an infinite number of them. They may conceivably be able to feel some kind of connection with some fellow human beings on this planet, but they feel that the infinite number of beings throughout the universe has nothing to do with their own experience as individuals.

...What is important here, however, is to grasp the impact of cultivating such altruistic sentiments. The point is to try to develop the scope of our empathy in such a way that we can extend it to any form of life with the capacity to feel pain and experience happiness. It is a matter of recognizing living organisms as sentient, and therefore subject to pain and capable of happiness.

...Such a universal sentiment of compassion is very powerful, and there is no need to be able to identify, in specific terms, with every single living being in order for it to be effective.

...Given patience and time, it is within our power to develop this kind of universal compassion.


from The Compassionate Life, by TenzinGyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, edited by David Kittelstrom, sponsored by Richard Gere and the Gere Foundation