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Tahlia Newland

Meditation & compassion – how do they fit together?

The Buddhist teachings tell us that wisdom and compassion are like the two wings of a bird that will fly you to enlightenment and that you need both wings in order to fly. What does that mean for us?

First of all we might just reject this as irrelevant to us because we don’t think we want to be enlightened, we’ll settle for happiness. What we don’t realize, however, is that enlightenment is just a fancy name for the highest form of happiness, a state that is not only our birthright but the end point of our evolution. We’re heading there anyway, whether we think we want to or not. Some of us aren’t moving of course, some of us are even going backwards, but our innate desire for happiness will keep pulling us towards it.



Okay, so if you’re cool with the idea of enlightenment, then how do wisdom and compassion fit together and how do they relate to meditation? This was one of the questions I asked myself when new to the dharma and it took me a while to put it together. This is how I see it.

An important point to understand is that wisdom in Buddhism doesn’t refer to knowledge but to the realization of the ultimate nature of all things, which we can discover through meditation. However, coming to this realization with meditation alone is very difficult because our ego gets in the way. We are far too hung up on ourselves to let go of it, and in order to see the nature of reality – which is beyond concepts – we have to break down the barriers between ourself and others, between ideas of this and that, existence and non existence and so on.

Enter compassion. The meditations on love and compassion break down our ego – defined as grasping at a false sense of self - this not only makes us more loving and compassionate, but also because we’ve loosened our concepts of self and other, this and that etc, we’ve made it easier to see the nature of reality, on a simple level, it helps make our meditation clearer.

On the other side of the coin, as our meditation progresses, we become calmer and less likely to foster negative emotions which allows our innate love and compassion to reveal itself.

So they each help the other. In summary - training in love and compassion help you realise the inherent nature of things by taking your limited idea of yourself and others out of the picture, and meditation uncovers your innate love and compassion. They fit together and support each other beautifully because the heart of wisdom is compassion, and the essence of true compassion is wisdom.

Do you feel more loving and compassionate after you’ve meditated? That’s what I’m talking about.