Here are some brief excerpts from an interview with Khandro Rinpoche by Sandra Scales entitled “Compassion Is About Awareness” that beautifully express some of the dynamics between compassion, awareness, and wisdom.
From the book “Sacred Voices of the Nyingma Masters,” pages 185-187:
Sandra Scales: There are so many teachings about love and compassion, and I trust in them. But why does compassion actually work? Is there logic behind it? Would you talk about what true compassion is?
Khandro Rinpoche: Compassion is not about kindness. Compassion is about awareness. Compassion in the general sense of kindness would be an expression of awareness, but one that might not necessarily be free from the stain of ego grasping. Genuine compassion is egoless. It is the inherent essence expressed, inseparable from awareness. This natural essence, which is genuine compassion, does not need to be formulated or even expressed as something like “compassion.” We see this exemplified in our great teachers. Their genuine compassion does not require phrases and expression or even actions. Just their presence, who they are, is nothing other than the quintessence of compassion. We, in contrast, have to invent and demonstrate compassion. Our contaminated compassion still requires effort and deliberation. That is conventional or general compassion.
SS: If we practiced this kind of conventional, ego-tainted compassion repeatedly, would that lead to awareness compassion?
KR: Yes, the good thing about the use of deliberate or conventional compassion is that it matures the mind so that ego grasping diminishes. It definitely has that effect and is therefore a skillful method for developing awareness compassion.
SC: Thank you, Rinpoche. This afternoon, you were talking about looking into or through the eyes of others. Would you speak more about that?
KR: We talk about compassion but in a very impersonal way. Genuine compassion arises as the ability to go beyond self. This requires that we transcend our preoccupation with our own happiness and suffering. As meditators, one of the first things we can do is to honestly look at the world from behind another’s eyes. Experience that person’s craving for happiness and fear of suffering with the same immediacy that we would if his heart and mind were ours. We may see that this individual’s immense hope and fear are even greater than our own. See the similarities we all share. We cannot even begin to commit ourselves to the path of selfless compassion if our mind is unable to sense the sameness of the ground we all stand upon. Ultimately, to understand selflessness, we have to go beyond self.
SC: This breaks down some of the imaginary barriers between us?
KR: And can also lead to the understanding of all-pervasive ground, an understanding that “Oh, yes there is the same happiness, the same suffering, the same ignorance and the same wisdom.” And yet this mind of ours thinks, “No, it is different. Your problem is your problem, my problem is my problem.” And so separation begins. When that separation is established, we definitely have a natural instinct to safeguard our own selfish interests and to be unaware of other’s needs.
But if we were able to really look into the eyes of another, we would see the oneness of all sentient beings and the sameness of the ground we all share. And then we would know the immense potential each being has for complete liberation at that very moment.