Author: Tulku Thubten Rinpoche

How to Practice Random Kindness and Genuine Compassion

kindness flower ~ From a talk given by Rinpoche given at California Institute of Integral Studies on Nov. 16th , 2005 ~

We have to think about integrating the compassion with activities, in other words compassion in action.

You have to go out and reach other people in the world and practice cultivating loving kindness in action. There are many ways that you can practice action. It doesn’t always have to be a big deal like joining the peace corps or going to some remote area in Asia or Africa.

Of course it would be amazing if you have the opportunity to go to foreign countries and really help people and to be a bodhisattva. There are also many opportunities in our every day lives to practice compassion.

For example I told my story about getting angry at the dogs. That was a perfect opportunity for me to practice compassion in my relationship with the dogs. There is always a perfect opportunity to practice loving kindness, forgiveness, gentleness in our relationships with other people.

For example when you wake up in the morning you can try to practice loving kindness with the first person you run into. It could be your wife or husband or it could be your dogs or it could be your neighbors or it could be a stranger on the street.

The moment you wake up look around. Who is going to be the first person you meet, the first person of the day? You can vow in your mind, “I shall intend positive energy. I shall practice loving kindness to that person.

Then when we wake up to our husband or wife we might suddenly practice loving kindness. Instead of saying “Last night I couldn’t sleep because you were snoring” or “you didn’t flush the toilet last night and I’m utterly offended” or “who is going to cook breakfast today” and instead of having anger as a reaction to their behavior, you might start to practice absolute forgiveness, loving kindness, acceptance.

Or you may get into your car and start driving and notice a stranger in another car. You don’t know them and are never going to meet that person again in your entire lifetime. But at least you can practice loving kindness. You can imagine that you are sending loving kindness to that person.

I heard that sometimes the person in front of you pays the bridge toll for you. Imagine that you were going over the Bay Bridge expecting to pay money and you reach to get the money and then hear that the person in front of you paid for you.

You might want to do that for somebody else. That would make somebody’s day, right. It is very easy. It just requires three dollars. It would be quite nice to do that now and then. Not every day but how about Christmas or Thanksgiving or one of those holidays.

You can turn one of the holidays into a holy day by practicing random kindness, random compassion. It is very easy. It does not require lots of wealth or prosperity to make somebody happy and somebody joyous because they feel that they have received compassion. They are loved and they are cared for.

Try to remember a time when you showed genuine compassion to somebody and that changed you own life as well as the life of the other person. Recall a time, a place where you practiced genuine compassion toward another human being.

How about if we close our eyes and we try to go through the memories of our past and try to come up with a story. Not a fiction but a true story where we practiced genuine compassion without any other motive. Try to think of one event.

Perhaps you remember a time a moment in your life where you practiced genuine compassion. When you really think about that you may notice that at the very moment when you helped someone, when you showed genuine, true compassion it was actually effortless.

It was not coming from this small self, the I that is always filled with ulterior motives, looking for a reward, a payback, recognition. But rather it was coming from a very infinite source. You see that there is an infinite source in you, one that is way bigger than you can comprehend. It’s like you have the Buddha mind living in your consciousness.

And when you are able to awaken to that source you realize that there is this amazing rich source of wisdom and loving kindness, equanimity and joy within you. And most of the time you are disconnected from that infinite source.

But in your meditation when you look and you try to remember the time when you practiced genuine compassion for another person you see how marvelous, how miraculous it is to be connected to that part of yourself, this infinite source. How effortless it is. And when you experience that infinite source within you then you are no longer ordinary, you are awakened.

You are completely a bodhisattva. You don’t have to force yourself into practice. You are already a bodhisattva.

All you have to do is remember that you have this infinite source. In other words Avalokiteshvara resides in you. Your pure essence is Avalokiteshvara. In Buddhism they talk about realizing one’s true nature. The way you bring about absolute awakening is realizing your true nature, your Buddha nature.

That is none other than that infinite source that you have glimpsed at times in your life. You may have glimpsed it on a number of occasions. When you experience genuine loving kindness toward another without any ulterior motive, at that very moment you are glimpsing your true nature, your Buddha nature, your infinite nature, source; source of love, source of wisdom.

So now the question is if you want to know the truth, you must know your true nature. But if you want to know your true nature, you must allow yourself to experience genuine compassion. Through experiencing this genuine compassion then you are able to experience that inner, infinite source. And in that state of awakening you realize your true nature.

You realize the truth, you realize the emptiness, whatever you are looking for. Some of you might be looking for the realization of emptiness. Some of you might be looking for the realization of luminous awareness, or godhead, or Buddha mind. Whatever you are looking for you find the firsthand realization of in that state of infinite source.

So now I’m going to ask a question.

Do you want to be liberated?

Do you want to experience spiritual ecstasy?

Do you want to be awakened?

Do you want to be awakened right now?

There is this shortcut to the great awakening or spiritual awakening, or liberation, or realization of truth. That is that at this very moment you invite yourself to embrace and to experience that inner infinite source of wisdom, love and compassion, at this very moment.

An extraordinary thing is that you don’t have to know anything. You don’t have to know anything.

You don’t have to have any introductions, any concepts, any systems.

Sometimes you might like to use certain techniques as a catalyst to open that door to awakening into that infinite source within you.

Therefore I recommend that each of you visualize a specific person, a group of people, an animal you love or a situation as a catalyst to remove all of the blocks, all of the defense mechanisms in order to experience directly that infinite source which is bodhicitta, the awakened heart. In that you will realize every principle. You will realize the ultimate truth.

I have often been asked if this type of meditation has an effect on the other person and in response to that I will give you some examples to show that meditation of loving kindness has a direct impact on other people. Imagine that somebody is suffering, experiencing internal confusion, either self-hatred, or loneliness or being mistreated.

If you actually meditate on loving kindness in front of that person and send the energy of loving kindness into that person’s consciousness directly, you will see that the person will begin to transform. That person will begin to experience loving kindness too.

In Tonglen meditation, we ask two people to face each other and practice loving kindness toward each other. It is one of my favorite meditations. When two people sit and face each other and meditate on loving kindness, people start experiencing Buddha mind, awakened mind, loving kindness whatever you like to call it.

Sometimes people start to cry and experience a breakdown as well as a breakthrough. So I believe that there has been a transfer.

Also when you meet an animal, say a dog and experience mistrust, fear or another negative force you can see that the dog senses that. But if you experience loving kindness, projecting that image to the dog or animal then you can see that the animal is actually touched by that.

Also, I have been in the presence of quite a few people who have dedicated their lives to loving kindness. The Dalai Lama for example is someone who I believe practices loving kindness. At his teachings there may be 20,000 to 40,000 or more people attending.

It does not mean that most people understand what he is talking about. But there is a common experience that everybody in his presence feels his love and compassion. And that is because his consciousness is absorbed in an ocean of loving kindness and that is affecting the mind of the group and the mind of the collective society too.

Therefore if you start practicing loving kindness at your home every day then you affect everybody around you. First you affect your family members. Then you affect your neighbors. Then they will affect their neighbors and eventually your practice of loving kindness has a great effect on even the collective mind too.

Similarly if you are meditating on evil, negative thoughts then you can have an effect on the mind of other people as well as the mind of collective society. If we have evil thoughts, hatred towards a group of people of a different race or religion, the negative thoughts are like a virus. They go around and start infecting the body of other peoples’ consciousness too.

Therefore we have to be quite mindful about what we are going to register in our minds. Every time we create negative thoughts like hatred, unexamined hatred, that has a tremendous impact on our own consciousness.

We call that karma in Buddhism. Karma is not simply action. Karma is more of a mind habit. If I allow myself to experience unexamined hatred based on evil and lack of loving kindness, then I created a very powerful imprint in my consciousness. And that is how I develop tendencies or habits of experiencing hatred in the future.

This also may lead me to commit negative karma by punishing somebody else.

Whatever I have resisted in my consciousness has a direct impact on people around me and also on collective mind. Therefore every time you practice loving kindness imagine that you are directing that loving kindness toward other people and then they feel that loving kindness too.

Sometimes when I talk with my mother who lives in Tibet she has lots of melodrama for some reason and experiences difficulty. When that happens I start to practice loving kindness right there while I am talking to her. And I notice that her voice starts getting softer and she starts experiencing peace.

In the beginning she will be talking about how difficult her life is and how people are dishonest with her. And then at the end of the conversation all of her problems are gone. I feel the same way when people practice loving kindness toward me. I believe that this practice has a direct, immediate impact on both people—the person generating loving kindness and the person receiving loving kindness.

I would like to sit for two minutes. The shortest meditation I have ever done, and to just generate love, compassion and then to send that to each of us. And imagine that we are sending that force of loving kindness and compassion toward everyone and all beings everywhere.

Thank you everybody.

Resources for Further Reading

Mind in Indian Buddhist Philosophy Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Avalokiteśvara (Sanskrit: अवलोकितेश्वर, “Lord who looks down“)

Bodhichitta is the compassionate wish to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings: www

The Dalai Lama: www

What is Luminous awareness: Rupert Spira’s blog

Photo by Reginaldo Andrade

About Tulku Thubten Rinpoche

Tulku Thubten Rinpoche was born in Tibet and took up spiritual training in the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism at an early age. He was recognized as the incarnation of Anam Lama by several masters, including Gompa Tulku Rinpoche. Rinpoche came to the West in 1992, and teaches in fluent English.

Filed under: Blog Posts, Meditation & Mindfulness

How to Perform Tonglen Meditation and Compassion Sadhana

a monk in meditation

a monk in meditation

~ From a talk given by Rinpoche given at California Institute of Integral Studies on Nov. 16th , 2005 ~

Tonglen Meditation

There is another meditation called Tonglen, a method of working with breath and exchanging your happiness for the suffering of others.

To do this you can either visualize all beings in front of you or you can single out one person who is in great turmoil, a friend in the hospital or someone who is having difficulty or hardship, someone who is lonely or angry. You can visualize one or two people or you can visualize all of the people in Iraq or Africa.

Imagine that you are taking in everybody’s suffering and misery. Imagine this as black smoke and take it all in, especially when you inhale. Allow your self to feel this immense level of universal suffering and meditate on that. Allow yourself to feel the suffering of other people.

When you do this you experience that there is no longer any real separation or gap between yourself and others. You feel that you are one with everybody else. You are one with that person who is in turmoil. You are one with the people in Iraq who are suffering from fear because of war and lack of food.

You feel as well that you are one with the people of Africa who are hungry, dying from terminal illness or whose parents have been killed, or whose children have been abducted. You don’t feel a separation between those who are suffering and yourself even though you are externally living here in a beautiful place, almost an earthly paradise.

We are very fortunate to be able to live where we are sheltered from a lot of unfortunate situations—war, starvation. Most of us have food and shelter. We have quite a different life compared to most of the worlds’ population.

Therefore even though we are living in this beautiful paradise, we can at the same time, actually reach out to the hearts and minds of everybody all over the world and experience oneness with them And we can experience what they are going through.

There is a fear somewhere in the backburner of our minds that if we are so open hearted, so courageous that we completely embrace the suffering of other people then we will be depressed and that will spoil our good time. But that’s not true. When you allow yourself to embrace the suffering of other people it doesn’t make you depressed.

Whenever you embrace the suffering of other people you become more compassionate and less self-centered. You begin to worry less about your personal affairs. You begin breaking your attachment to your selfish mind, the ultimate cause of sorrow.

So in some sense you begin to experience spiritual bliss, spiritual ecstasy, and spiritual contentment when you allow yourself to embrace the immeasurable level of suffering of humanity and all living beings too.

When you exhale, imagine that you are sending out this beautiful bright pure pristine golden light and reflecting it on all living beings on earth, to each specific individual who is suffering who is in a situation of confusion, loneliness, physical pain. Imagine that you are sending all of your loving kindness, your happiness, all of your goodness.

Imagine that they have received all of your generosity and kindness. Imagine that they are free from sorrow and misery.

This is a very powerful meditation.

Compassion Sadhana

It is very necessary for us as spiritual practitioners to place a great emphasis on this idea of compassion or loving kindness in everyday life and we have to find a sadhana or practice to help us generate compassion.

Sadhana is a Sanskrit word that means basically a spiritual practice. Sadhana is widely practiced in both Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Sadhana is usually a meditation structure with specific stages involving visualization, chanting, mantra recitation and different types of yoga. But I’m talking about the idea that we also must practice compassion sadhanas in our everyday life.

The practice of compassion sadhana in daily life means that you have to make some sort of a commitment to practice the compassion sadhana lets say once, twice or three times every day.

In Tibetan Buddhism we practice the Avalokiteshvara sadhana in order to cultivate compassion and loving kindness. Sometimes meditators go on retreat for years and years, six years, nine years, ten years practicing only the Avalokiteshvara sadhana and meditating on loving kindness.

When I was growing up in my village I had neighbors, two older people in the house next door. They were uneducated. They had never been to the monastery. They were illiterate. They did not know how to read prayers. But they memorized some simple prayers of Avalokiteshvara and spent their entire lives reciting Om Mani Padme Hum, the mantra of Avalokiteshvara.

Many of the older people in Tibet don’t cut their fingernails and I remember that these two old people had long fingernails and they counted mala beads while reciting Om Mani Padme Hum and meditating on compassion. And the finger nails on their thumbs were worn down in the middle. It looked like there were two horns growing out of their thumb because the middle was completely worn down because of their compassion practice.

Whenever I was with them I felt joyous and happy. I wanted to dance and sing songs every time I was in their presence because there was a field of energetic loving kindness. So it is very good to practice a compassion sadhana. Maybe you can make a personal commitment to recite the prayers that I talked about three times every day and meditate carefully on all of the lines.

  1. The first line is called the meditation on love.
  2. The second line is called the meditation on compassion.
  3. The third line is called the meditation on the sympathetic joy.
  4. The fourth line is called the meditation on equanimity.

In the beginning it might be quite challenging to pick a specific time every day but after a while you will discover how joyous and liberating and fulfilling it is to practice compassion sadhana a few times every day.

If you don’t recite any prayers you can just think, “I love all beings”, or “May I have absolute loving kindness toward all beings” or “I forgive everyone. I forgive all those people who have hurt me and caused pain in my life.”

Or you can think “I love all beings” or ”I love all of you”. How about that? And that’s prayer too when you say I love all beings. And you can recite that prayer in your mind again and again, generating a mind of loving kindness.

It can be very powerful.

Read the third part of this talk here.

Resources for Further Reading

How Avalokiteshvara Attained Her 1000 Arms: Buddhist studies

The Teacher’s Guide to Sadhana: Yoga Journal

Photo by Hartwig HKD

About Tulku Thubten Rinpoche

Tulku Thubten Rinpoche was born in Tibet and took up spiritual training in the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism at an early age. He was recognized as the incarnation of Anam Lama by several masters, including Gompa Tulku Rinpoche. Rinpoche came to the West in 1992, and teaches in fluent English.

Filed under: Blog Posts, Meditation & Mindfulness

A Simple Prayer For Developing Loving Kindness and Compassion

Tibetan prayer room

Tibetan prayer room~ From a talk given by Rinpoche given at California Institute of Integral Studies on Nov. 16th , 2005 ~

Dharma Teaching –  Compassion and Wisdom

There is a saying in the Buddhist traditions:

Birds cannot fly with one wing.

They have two wings.

This means that one can never achieve the great awakening without cultivating the path of compassion as well as wisdom or emptiness.

Recently I met with a Tibetan lama who has been reading my poems and spiritual songs. He said that while he appreciated my poems but he thought I emphasized emptiness and didn’t say much about compassion.

He encouraged me to write more about compassion and loving kindness.

Therefore I feel that this talk is a miraculous opportunity for me. It allows me to remember how important it is to unite the practice of compassion with wisdom– the understanding of emptiness, the nature of reality.

These two are the foundation of Buddhist practice, especially in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

The word for compassion in the Tibetan language [sNying rje] actually means heart and the practice of compassion deals with the heart rather than the head.

Compassion has nothing to do with intellectual concepts or philosophy. It is about opening one’s heart. There is innate compassion within each of us. Our pure essence is compassion, whether we are aware of that or not.

When our mind is shrouded in layers of emotional upset we are not able to listen to that innate compassion even though it is the very pure essence of our consciousness.

For example when you are driving along and see an animal that has been killed, or you see somebody who has been in a car accident instantly you want to help them. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know their name, address or phone number.

Without having any prior contact you automatically feel sympathy and want to help. Often people recite prayers. You wish and aspire for them to be happy, to not suffer and to gain freedom and liberation. It is very natural.

You don’t have to be a bodhisattva to practice compassion. You don’t have to be a Buddhist or a Christian either. It’s natural.

You also experience this sudden expression of innate compassion when there are natural disasters or catastrophes such as earthquakes, floods, famine, and epidemics. At these times we see that there are many people everywhere on earth who care about the suffering of other people.

But sometimes it is easy to think that most human beings are self-centered and don’t care about the well being of others. This is quite easy to believe when you drive on the highway. Most people are extremely aggressive and self-centered when they drive.

Everyone tries to get ahead of everyone else by honking their horn and acting quite nasty. It seems that nobody gives a chance to anybody else.

But that’s not really true. When there is a great natural disaster we see that human beings care for each other. We saw this after hurricane Katrina. We have a sangha sister, a quiet southern lady, a wife, who seems to be quite low profile.

But suddenly overnight she became this bodhisattva, powerful personality. She went on the radio and asked everybody to donate bicycles. She wound up collecting 300 bicycles and gave them to those who had lost their vehicles and had no means of transportation.

She became this powerful human being with magic, power and so much potential to relieve other people’s suffering.

Even though we often experience our internal issues, mental defilements such as hatred and resentment, at the same time the very pure essence of our consciousness, our heart, is actually divine.

It is Buddha, awake. It is enlightened because it’s really love and compassion. In Buddhism they often say that the human mind or consciousness is like a mirror covered with dust.

When the mirror is covered with dust it can no longer reflect images but when the dust is removed the mirror is absolutely perfect. It’s already a royal mirror. It can reflect images.

The mirror has always been the mirror. The dust on the mirror is not the mirror. It is the incidental obscuration to the mirror. Similarly the true, pure, eternal essence of the our consciousness, of our being is actually already enlightened, its already Buddha, it is love, wisdom and compassion.

The states of unenlightened mind that we are experiencing in our everyday lives- anger, hatred, resentment, jealousy, confusion, fear– are not really a part of our consciousness. They are incidental obscurations.

They are not natural to our pure state of mind. And they can be completely transcended so that we are able to experience the pure essence of our consciousness which is compassion.

However if you leave the dust on the mirror, the dust never goes away. The dust can stay on the mirror for ages and ages, for eons and eons. One must take action to wipe the dust from the mirror. To remove the dust requires action or practice.

Loving Kindness and Compassion Prayer

We have to cultivate meditation, reflection on loving kindness and compassion in order to remove all of the incidental obscurations and bring about the complete awakening to our innate nature which is compassion.

There are numerous forms of practice in Buddhism regarding the cultivation of loving kindness and I would like to share two of those meditation methods with you. One is called The Four Immeasurables.

May all sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.

May all sentient beings be free of suffering and the causes of suffering.

May all sentient beings never be separated from happiness and may they be free from sorrow.

May all sentient beings remain in the state of equanimity in which the duality of friends and enemies has been transcended .

This is a prayer that you can recite. Most Buddhist practitioners in the Vajrayana tradition recite this prayer a few times every day, in the morning, at noon, in the evening—3 times, 7 times or 21 times.

It is very good to memorize this prayer. It is a beautiful prayer. You don’t have to be Buddhist to recite it. You can be Christian, Muslim and still recite this prayer because there is no Buddhist terminology, ideas or philosophy. This is a beautiful inspiring prayer and that helps you to generate loving kindness.

For example, I myself am a very poor meditator and a very poor Buddhist practitioner. Often I discover that I am falling back into my old tendencies and propensities and sometimes it is quite easy to experience anger towards another human being. Not so much hatred.

It took a long time for me to resolve layers of my hatred that I have been storing for many lifetimes but sometimes I experience anger.

This happened a few days ago. Currently I am living with 3 dogs and recently one of the dogs pooped in my kitchen. So I brought all three dogs into the kitchen and I was ready to practice some kind of improvisational interrogation method.

I looked at their faces kind of asking who did this you or you? They knew that I was angry. They were definitely experiencing this negative vibration from me. Suddenly I remembered this prayer and started reciting it.

In that moment I felt this tremendous sense of loving kindness toward them and I experienced bodhicitta, ultimate love for 4 or 5 minutes. It collapsed. It doesn’t last a long time.

I experienced a sense of love and forgiveness and inner peace simply by reciting the prayer. That’s all I did. For some reason when I was looking at the dogs they looked very nervous and frightened and that opened my heart and lead me to the recitation of this simple Buddhist prayer called The Four Immeasurables.

I recommend that all of you recite this prayer a few times every day of your life, especially when you feel angry, confused, emotional. When you feel that your life is in turmoil, recite this simple prayer and you will feel your whole heart opening to loving kindness and forgiveness.

You will experience spiritual awakening right there simply out of reciting the prayer. When you recite the prayer you can concentrate on the meaning. It doesn’t require any formal previous studies or research of Buddhist teachings.

The talk continues here.

References for Further Reading

Introduction to Buddhism www

Mahayana and Vajrayana schools of lineage: www www

The Four Immeasurables www

Photo by Indi Samarajiva

About Tulku Thubten Rinpoche

Tulku Thubten Rinpoche was born in Tibet and took up spiritual training in the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism at an early age. He was recognized as the incarnation of Anam Lama by several masters, including Gompa Tulku Rinpoche. Rinpoche came to the West in 1992, and teaches in fluent English.

Filed under: Blog Posts, Meditation & Mindfulness