I taught last night on the meaning of bodhicitta and how to practice it. Then I talked on the benefits of bodhicitta. When we talk based on texts, there's a lot to talk about. It would take years. So rather than that I thought personal experiences and how to practice would be more important. Bodhicitta is not about books. It is about practicing and then realizing what it means. Practice verbally, physically, and mentally. Whenever I talk about bodhicitta I feel I need to practice. If you understand one word, you should immediately put it into practice to develop a deeper understanding. Yesterday we talked mostly on loving kindness and how day to day we experience our human life and family, friends and society. The basic fundamental importance is that our human nature is to love our family, friends and society. So we have to see how spiritual ideals fit into this. It depends on the individual practice to develop an understanding of this.

Today I would like to touch a little bit on what compassion is. It means the wish to be free from suffering. As long as love is there, compassion will also be there. There can only be a verbal separation between the two. Both help each other. When love is strong, compassion will also be strong and vice versa. So human nature is to desire happiness and be free from suffering. That is the fundamental nature. This is what you must understand first, from the heart. You can understand it from study, contemplation and practice. The most important of these is practice. From practice develops insight, compassion and love. Otherwise it's only logical and philosophical. There may be some understanding, but it is not yet complete enough. The main point is there has to be practice. There will always be a warm hearted feeling in those who practice and realize. All beings share the desire to be free from suffering. The desire to have happiness and be free from suffering has to be understood at the heart level and based on that understanding we practice. From the practice standpoint, there's not too much to understand, just these two points. Practice until there is a truly warm feeling towards others.

So we need to discuss suffering, but human nature is not to want to talk about it. But spiritually we have to discuss what suffering is. The first noble truth talks about suffering. Until we understand clearly the nature of suffering, we don't see that we can't be free from suffering no matter how much we wish. So there is something here to study and meditate on. When suffering arises it's not at all pleasant. It's always a terrible feeling. Nobody says, "I am having a good time" when they are suffering. Humans have the opportunity to think about suffering and its causes and conditions. So there is a small chance to become free of suffering.

I don't have to explain what suffering is to anyone. The most important part is to understand the suffering of suffering. Then the understanding that the nature of suffering is impermanence. Suffering is never permanent. But due to our not having enough wisdom to see, we think of it as permanent, because our wisdom is not clear. So we need wisdom to see any level of suffering. It is not permanent at all. We make it permanent, by our ignorance and strong grasping. So though its nature is not permanent, we make it permanent. So it is not easy to deal with suffering and to have compassion. To understand compassion at a higher level we need to understand suffering. Nobody like to have suffering, but due to ignorance and not being aware of where it comes from, sometimes it arises or pops up.

Suffering always disturbs happiness and brings unpleasant experiences. This understanding makes it clear suffering arises in many ways. Just as I suffer, if someone else has these experiences, they also will suffer. The experience of suffering is the same. As I wish to be free of suffering, so do they. But no matter how we desire to be free of suffering, it doesn't go away. We need to do something to make it go away. We need to research whether it comes from inside or outside. The minute we understand suffering, it disappears. The second noble truth is the cause of suffering. Once we know suffering, we are rid of it. When we know the nature of suffering, it leads to happiness, because it leads to more loving kindness and compassion to others.

The important point is that suffering is always unhappy and unpleasant for yourself and others. So it is important to develop as much loving kindness and compassion as you can. When suffering arises in yourself you have to take care to see the nature of suffering. Sometimes we make more suffering as a result of our suffering. That does not help self and others, and we lose your wisdom, until we have a huge amount of suffering. Then sometimes we wake up. When suffering arises, we have a precious teaching. No matter who we have we have some wisdom. Don't give power to suffering, use your power to control suffering in a positive way. When you deal with suffering with clear understanding,. the suffering is unpleasant but in the next moment is disappears. You feel joy and have the sense of doing a good job. Once you can handle suffering in a positive way, you need to practice continually. Suffering or happiness may happen at any moment. That is human nature. Understanding human nature is important. Then we use our spiritual practice to deal with it. So that is my experience.

The next thing I have found important is the individual has the power to deal with suffering. Don't give your power over to suffering or to someone else. I didn't mean to say suffering never arises from someone else. It's clear in our present situation with all the war and killing going on. But we have the power to choose suffering or to have happiness. When we study I have the power to be the person I want to be. In some cases happiness depends on others. Events affect and disturb us. Our responsibility is to be always focussed on loving kindness and compassion rather than negativity. That's the big picture.

To make it practical, when someone hurts or wrongs you or anyone, as a spiritual practitioner, you need to know the reason. If you understand clearly, there's no reason to be upset or angry with anyone. So you can protect yourself and have more compassion to others. When you work it's hard to accept everything. That is human nature. People gossip. My responsibility is to protect my thoughts rather than watch other's thoughts. That makes for calm and peace in the family. It is a benefit for others, but also yourself.

For example, there is Milarepa. He did compassion and loving kindness meditation in Nepal. He was meditating in a cave on a mountain. During the meditation there were unusual sounds. Sometimes they were sounds of human and at other times sounds of nonhuman beings. He thought there must be external obstacles to his practice. So Milarepa concentrated harder on his practice. He was meditating at a deep level on love and compassion. The sound was still there. He went outside. There was a huge rock, so he sat on it and meditated on loving kindness and compassion. He heard wild animal sounds. Then a deer came in front of him and laid down calm and totally relaxed. Then he heard sounds which made him think there must be hunters. But he meditated and there was calm and peace. Then a dog appeared and tried to kill the deer. But when Milarepa looked at the dog, it calmed down and sat by him. So Milarepa meditated again and the hunter appeared. The hunter tried to use his bow and arrow. on Milarepa. Milarepa thought to himself that when he meditated on loving kindness and compassion, the deer and dog became calm. Why then not this human being? Milarepa says you'll have time for that later, but first let me teach. So Milarepa taught some dharma. The hunter dedicated his bow and arrow and everything he owned to Milarepa and asked to become Milarepa's student. The story shows that when compassion and love arises in yourself, it touches everyone indeed. So we have to understand that we need to follow Milarepa's example and meditate on loving kindness and compassion.

Every school in Tibet agreed Milarepa is a great practitioner. Even the Communist Chinese agree. Many times he said to his students I am a normal person, just as you are. If you think I am an incarnation, that is not right. Through my practice I realized the nature of phenomena and became enlightened. Many of his students thought he was an incarnation, This shows every being have an opportunity to become enlightened. We need to learn from Milarepa's story and how he was suffering. How he went through the three kinds of suffering.

Developing loving kindness and compassion is the very important practice that leads us on the right path. Receiving a teaching or helping others requires the motivation of loving kindness and compassion. That leads us on the right path. Loving kindness and compassion is the result of mahamudra and deity yoga practices. When we think of higher practices, they depend on loving kindness and compassion. Human nature is not about afflictive emotions like anger and hatred, It is loving kindness and compassion.

Question & Answer

Q: If through our compassion we try to help others, is it possible we are interfering with their karma and we are not really helping them by delaying the ripening of their karma?

A: I talked yesterday and today, how I feel and my internal experiences. There is a need for hard work to develop the wisdom to see the situation. We need to think practically. If we talk this is our karma, or their karma that doesn't help. We have to help the person who is hungry. If we can help, that is really needed. If an individual has laziness and doesn't want to work, I'm not saying shouldn't help them but have to teach them what the real problem is. Teach the person how to have a better life. Our responsibility and other person's responsibility has to work together.

Q: I spent the last three days with a family whose son was blown apart in Iraq. Compassion can just be being there with someone.

Q: I work with young children with bad home lives. Do you have suggestions on how to show them suffering is impermanent?

A: Continue having loving kindness and compassion to the children. Show verbally and physically. Unfortunately some parents are nasty to children. Children have to be talked to gently. If we do something wrong to them, they never forget it. So parents have a responsibility to know this. Show kindness in many ways. Children have the desire for love, but we parents need to have the wisdom to know what is good for children. You can't give them a knife or gun. That is misunderstanding loving kindness. My parents were totally dedicated to their children. Now that my older brother has one child, he can see what the compassion my parents, who had seven boys, was.

Q: I try to give and much as I can and help as much as I can while knowing I can't control the outcome. Is this the correct way to practice?

A: Yes.

Q: I have a woman in a codependent situation, who asks for help but isn't willing to make changes in her life. Then I realized I can't control the outcome. Now I say I know that you are suffering, but until you are willing to change, I can't help you.