Classic and Contemporary Buddhist Works

Awakening the Kind Heart - Preface

How to Meditate on Compassion

Preface

Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.
            —His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Everyone appreciates kindness. A smile, a few friendly words, a show of concern when we’re troubled or feeling unwell, an offer of help—gestures of kindness like these brighten our day and ease whatever sadness we may feel in our hearts. Feeling that “someone cares about me” fulfills a very deep need that we all have. And just as we appreciate other people being kind to us, others appreciate it when we are kind to them. That is why it is important to learn to be kind, because it will help make our relationships and interactions with others more satisfying and more problem-free.

But it’s not always easy to be kind. Sometimes our hearts are filled with anger or hatred, jealousy, or pride, and being kind is the last thing we feel like doing. Or we get so caught up in our work and responsibilities that we find no time to think of others and their needs, no time to be kind and gentle. However, these problems can be remedied. The Buddhist tradition offers a wealth of methods that can be used to overcome whatever prevents us from being kind, such as anger or selfishness, and to practice kindness more in our daily life. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama says,“My religion is kindness.”

Some of these methods are explored and explained in this book—in a way that will allow you to practice them in your daily life. Two main traditions of practicing kind-heartedness are introduced here. The four immeasurable thoughts—love, compassion, joy, and equanimity—are essential practices in all traditions of Buddhism. In section one, one chapter is devoted to each of these, with meditations on love and compassion included in separate chapters and meditations on joy and equanimity at the end of their respective chapters to help you actualize these four profound thoughts in your day-to-day life.

The second type of practice explored in this book, thought transformation (lojong in Tibetan), is a powerful method of practice in the IndoTibetan tradition that is becoming better known in the West. We will explore it in section two using The Eight Verses of Thought Transformation, composed by the eleventh-century Tibetan meditation master Geshe Langri Tangpa. The Eight Verses is a beautiful little text, easily memorized, that offers us precious gems of wisdom on how to transform difficult situations into opportunities for spiritual growth—to transform pain into joy and lightness.

The explanations of these compassion teachings are not scholarly commentaries. Rather, I am simply sharing some things I have learned in my studies of Buddhism, as well as in my attempts to practice these teachings in my life. I have found these teachings very helpful, and I hope and expect others will too.

Awakening the Kind Heart was originally published by Amitabha Buddhist Centre, Singapore, in 1995, as a small booklet for free distribution. For this present edition, I revised and expanded the original material and added a number of meditations.

This book has come about through the kindness of many people. I would first of all like to thank from the depths of my heart my teachers, especially His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Lama Thubten Yeshe, Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey, Geshe Jampa Tegchog, Ribur Rinpoche, and the many other precious masters from whom I learned about kindness and compassion, not only from their teachings but from their perfect, living example. I also give my heartfelt thanks to Venerables Drolkar, Dekyong, and Sarah Tenzin Yiwong, and to Doris Low, Paul Ferguson, and Don Brown for their help with the original booklet, and to freelance editor Barry Boyce and Josh Bartok of Wisdom Publications for their invaluable editing assistance in this new edition. Many thanks as well to Snow Lion Publications for permission to use the quotations of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Last but not least, I extend my deepest gratitude to my late parents, David and June McDonald, my first teachers of loving-kindness.

May this work help to bring peace and happiness to the minds and lives of all beings everywhere.

 

How to cite this document:
© Kathleen McDonald, Awakening the Kind Heart (Wisdom Publications, 2010)

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