Compassion and sympathy describes the mental status of Bodhisattva. Literally, compassion is care, conferring happiness, relieving pain. Bodhisattva's compassion, if not understood completely, can easily be confused with man's love. In fact, Bodhisattva's compassion is very different from man's love.


Man's love

Men are shallow, intolerant, mean and calculating. Love is limited to what is between related persons, couples, and friends. To put it simply, there are four characteristics of love:

  1. For one-self
    Parents' love and protection for children is because they are my blood, they belong to me, and their growing up has very profound influence on me - can ease my mind or worry me. Love and care between brothers is because he is part of my family and he can benefit or hinder me. Attempt to maintain love between husband and wife is for satisfaction of my feelings for the opposite sex, to get a life companion and keep myself happy. Love between friends is because we met, and it is my choice to make him/ her as my friend.

  2. Conditional
    Parents' love for young children is due to their sense of responsibility. Keeping the family happy and children well behaved would give me sense of satisfaction and pride. Love towards grown up children is due to the expectation that they would succeed everything I have so that nothing will be left for the others. There is also the hope of depending on them during old age, and be taken care of. And if they become rich and famous, it glorifies the family. The love from young children towards parents is because they wish to be protected and favoured and live worry-free. The love from grown-up children to parents is based on giving back, so that they won't be ashamed of not returning favours, and avoid being accused of not following the rule of filial piety and therefore the feeling of remorse. The love between husband and wife is like two halves that cannot be separated. One wants to own the other person totally, to build a family, raise kids and go through life's ups and downs together. It is about making a living together in difficult times and enjoying the fruits from their joint hard work. Love between friends is for mutual help, trust and commitment. You can tell each other your sad happenings and encourage each other.

  3. To accord with casual conditions
    Whether it is love between related people, couples or friends, there is no strict rule of how much love there should be. According to the fate set by your last life, situations can be good or bad, and therefore love can be shallow or deep, and it can be long lasting or temporary. What two parties give and take does not necessarily have to be the same. Sometimes there is only giving and nothing received, or one can receive love without giving any. Other times you may give less than you receive, or give more than you receive. These different reactions are all due to the difference in casual conditions (karma) you had set down in the past. The ones with good karma would be happy together. Those with bad karma will point fingers at each other and suffer together.

  4. Changeable
    Because love springs from selfishness, it is conditional and limited by fate. How one thinks change and so does love. Whenever my greed or conditions are not met, or when one starts failing to appreciate the fate, love can change into hate. What you once treasured before can turn into nothing. This kind of hatred is stronger towards those you have loved before than those you have not loved.

Love among mankind is very weak. When greed is not met, there is discontentment and that explains the family tragedies, fights among siblings, couples separating, and friends not keeping his words. The root of the problem is that their love is based on selfishness. Even there is love that does not end due to changes in feelings, because there is fate of leaving or death, it creates unspeakable pain. As quoted from Agama Sutra," If there arises love, sadness, sorrow, worries, trouble and affliction will arise."


Bodhisattva's Compassion

Bodhisattva has gone through the drill in cultivating their mind and is very forgiving. He has already broken through his biggest hindrance. He has also gone through the training of liberating sentient beings and has the ability to see through the thinking of mankind, as well as the persuasive debating skills. He therefore has a very strong power of teaching, and his target audience is not limited. The compassion of Bodhisattva can be appreciated from four angles:

  1. For salvaging living beings
    The motive behind Bodhisattva's compassion is to liberate all living beings from suffering and anxiety and to leave the realm of suffering and pain as soon as possible. Bodhisattva himself is already not bound by worries, and therefore his goal is to teach them how to relieve from suffering and accept instructions to arrive at the happy Pure Land in our mind.

  2. Unconditional
    Bodhisattva cultivate diligently to have no desire and pursuit, and to untie all knots in their mind. They teach living beings without calculating how many people they have liberated. They do not expect any reward, and do not care their merits and virtues in mind. They plough without requesting harvest.

  3. To accord with their own will power
    Since Bodhisattva has made their will to become Buddha, they have also made their will to benefit, teach and salvage sentient beings. They let all sentient beings depart from sufferings and attain happiness, whether they have or have not any relationship with Bodhisattva, whether they are rich or poor, whether they are wise or unwise. Bodhisattva has no discriminative mind of love and hatred. As all are equal, Bodhisattva will treat all sentient beings without any weighing. To what extent that the sentient can receive the benefits from Bodhisattva depends on their capacity of blessing and virtues. Nevertheless, the charity given by Bodhisattva is regarded to be the same.

  4. Unchangeable
    The compassion mind of Bodhisattva is not easily changed and moved by external factors. Under any circumstances, they are not disturbed by any adverse reaction. There has no conflict, no hatred, no nuisance in Bodhisattva's mind, as there has only understanding and sympathy. That is why Bodhisattva never encounter failure in despair, and give up their thought of benefiting, teaching and salvaging sentient beings.

The compassion of Bodhisattva that can be challenged by any condition, has no selfishness, no desire, no discrimination in conditional relationship. From the point of view of Bodhisattva, all worldly embarrassment and affliction can be thrown to the furnace of wisdom, and turns bright flames.

Man's love is the root and offspring of suffering, while Bodhisattva's compassion is the source of happiness. If one studies Buddha and cultivates one's mind, one should learn to be as compassionate as Bodhisattva. Although it cannot be achieved in a day and a night, Bodhisattva has gone through Ten Grounds (ten stages of cultivation) after he understands it thoroughly, then he can express his compassion without any obstruction. As long as we have the right aim and the persistent mind, we can transform the man's love to the Bodhisattva's compassion, thus we will benefit ourselves, as well as others, and all attain happiness and delight.