Three kinds of compassion

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Three kinds of compassion (Wyl. snying rje gsum) —

  1. compassion focused on sentient beings,
  2. compassion focused on phenomena; and
  3. compassion without focus.

Commentary

Khenpo Namdrol explains: “Compassion focused on sentient beings is the wish that beings might be free from their suffering, without any thought as to whether those beings are permanent or impermanent, truly existent or illusory. Then, compassion focused on phenomena is a similar wish that beings might be free from suffering, made in the knowledge that those beings are impermanent. Compassion without focus is the wish that suffering beings might be free from suffering and attain enlightenment, complete with the knowledge that those beings lack any true existence.”

Many Great masters such as Mipham Rinpoche agree that these three types of compassion share the same essence, the wish to free beings from suffering. They are distinguished only in terms of their particular object of focus.

Compassion Focused on Sentient Beings

Dzongzar Khyentse Rinpoche explains that the object of the first type of compassion, compassion focusing on sentient beings are all ordinary beings who suffer from the suffering of suffering and the suffering of change, as well as shravakas and pratyakabuddhas still on the path. These are beings who are helplessly reborn in samsara by the power of karma and destructive emotions, rather than by their own free will.

Sogyal Rinpoche explains that this is compassion where the prime focus is the suffering of another sentient being and the wish to see that being free from suffering. This type compassion focuses on suffering that is more immediately evident and visible such as poverty or sickness.

Dzongzar Khyentse Rinpoche explains further that this kind of compassion is often called 'common compassion' because it is common to both Buddhists and non-Buddhists.

Teachings given to the Rigpa Sangha

Sogyal Rinpoche: New York 21 October 2007, Lerab Ling 13 August 2007, Haileybury 7 April 2007