Practising the Good Heart

By Lama Zopa Rinpoche

The practice of compassion, the good heart, is incredibly important. We really need compassion. Compassion is the source of all our happiness.
Every single happiness that you experience in your life, every single comfort and enjoyment of your daily life, as well as everlasting happiness of liberation and the bliss of highest enlightenment, comes from bodhicitta. The root of bodhicitta is great compassion. Thus, whatever happiness you experience derives from great compassion. Then, your bringing happiness to all sentient beings - the happiness of this life, the happiness of future lives, the everlasting happiness of liberation and enlightenment - all depends upon your having compassion for yourself. It all has to come from your own compassion. Therefore, compassion is the most important human quality in which you can educate your mind.
When do we need compassion?
In every life situation, you need compassion. When you live with your family, you need compassion. Without compassion, your family life is full of problems and suffering. When you do business, you need compassion. Otherwise you experience so much frustration, unhappiness and dissatisfaction. If you're a doctor or a nurse working in a hospital you need compassion. If you don't have compassion, your job becomes boring, tiring, exhausting and uninteresting because you are motivated by only the wish for your own happiness. You're trying to do something for others but it becomes just a job.
When teaching in school, you need compassion. When studying, the best way to learn is with compassion. In that way your study becomes meaningful; beneficial for other sentient beings. Your life becomes beneficial for others; your study becomes service for other sentient beings. Whatever your lifestyle - singing, dancing, acting, theatre - what makes it meaningful is having compassion for others. That transforms it into service for others. Even in the army you need compassion. In that way you can make your actions transcendent, special, out of the ordinary. With compassion for others, instead of being negative, your actions can become virtuous, the cause of enlightenment, a means of purifying negative karma and gathering merit. Even an action such as killing, if done with very strong compassion, strong bodhicitta, can become a cause for enlightenment - if done with strong bodhicitta, totally renouncing yourself to
suffer for the sake of others.
Even if you're a prostitute, if you are motivated by compassion, by bodhicitta, your life is not ordinary. Your life becomes transcendent; your deeds those of a bodhisattva. No matter what you do, if your motivation is out of the ordinary, great compassion, bodhicitta, your life becomes meaningful, beneficial for others. There's no risk, no danger.
Similarly, if you are in retreat, what makes your retreat most beneficial, extremely effective and highly meaningful is if you do it with compassion for others, and the stronger your compassion, the more powerful a purification it becomes.
And not only in retreat. Even if in your everyday life you do your prayers and sadhanas - even a rosary of mantras with compassion for others, each mantra you recite becomes highly meaningful, beneficial for all sentient beings. The stronger your compassion, the more powerful each mantra. Each little mantra can have the power of an atomic bomb. Nuclear weapons are so small but they can destroy so much. Like that, even short mantras, when done with strong compassion, can purify the karma of having killed human beings. One repetition of the mantra om mani padme hung motivated by strong compassion, can purify the negative karma of the ten non-virtuous actions. One repetition of this mantra can purify a fully ordained monk's having committed all four defeats, the violation of his four root vows - killing a human being, lying about realisations he doesn't have, engaging in sexual intercourse and stealing something that was not given - even one of which is extremely heavy.
Far beyond our level, similar principles apply. Maitreya Buddha generated bodhicitta, became a bodhisattva, much earlier than Guru Shakyamuni Buddha did, yet Guru Shakyamuni Buddha became enlightened before Maitreya. That is because his bodhicitta was greater. Before becoming a Buddha, you have to become a bodhisattva. First you have to realise renunciation of samsara, your own samsara. Then you generate compassion for the samsaric suffering of others using your own suffering as an example. Your compassion for other sentient beings wishing them to be free of all suffering and to have all happiness, including that of enlightenment - leads you to the decision to bring about all sentient beings' enlightenment by yourself.