"This is my simple religion. No need for temples. No need for complicated philosophy. Your own mind, your own heart is the temple. Your philosophy is simple kindness.” – Dalai Lama
We all know that love and compassion are things that we should cultivate if we want to be happier. Yet how can we awaken these virtues in us? Often we look at the world and see no reason for love and compassion. Sometimes the source of our love is hidden from ourselves and we may not have easy access to it. Fortunately, there are various Buddhist techniques to help usawaken love, which resides in all our hearts.
1. Open your heart for love
There is a way to create love and compassion, no matter when and where: the loving-kindness meditation. Close your eyes and visualize the love that someone gave you and that really touched you. Maybe a moment in your childhood in which you felt loved and safe. This could be the love of your parents or grandparents, or maybe it is the memory of a pet that evokes the feeling of love within you. Remember a certain moment in which someone showed you true love and you really felt it. Also, recall moments when you felt love and compassion towards other people. Feel the love as if the moment happened right now.
Let this feeling rise again in your heart and fill it with gratitude. Allow your heart to open so that love can flow in and out. Imagine how you send love to people. Start with those closest to you and then spread your love to friends and acquaintances, then to neighbors, strangers, and even to people you do not like or that you are in conflict with. Send your love out into the world so that it can touch all hearts.
2. See yourself in others
"After all, all human beings are made the same: made of human flesh, bones, and blood. We all want happiness and want to avoid suffering. Further, we all have an equal right to be happy. In other words, it's important to realize our sameness as human beings." – Dalai Lama
For example, if you have difficulty with a loved one, your mother, father, spouse, or friend. Try not to see them in the specific role of mother, father, or partner, but simply as another version of yourself, a human being with the same feelings as you, the same longing for happiness, the same fear of suffering. The moment you recognize the human being and see yourself in it, you open your heart.
When we consider others as equal, it helps us to improve our relationships with one another. Let us start in our personal environment, with our closest relationships, and then broaden our perspective. Imagine if all people worldwide met each other with an attitude of equality. We would finally have the beginning of a solid basis for peace on earth and the happy coexistence of all peoples. Make your contribution to a better world and be a role model by recognizing your fellow human beings as equal.
3. Put yourself in the position of others
If someone is suffering and you do not know how to help him, ask yourself, "How would I feel in his place? How would I want my friends to treat me? What would I appreciate most about them?" When you place yourself in the same position as another person, you open your heart to love and compassion. You free yourself from the usual focus on your personal interests and ego attachments and take the perspective of the other person. This is a very effective way to practice love and compassion. If you find it difficult to put yourself in another person’s position, try the next method in point 4.
4. Help a friend to practice compassion
Another effective way to feel compassion for a person who suffers is to imagine a very close friend or someone you truly love in their place. Imagine your brother, daughter, mother or best friend in the same painful situation. Your heart will naturally open and compassion will awaken within you. Would not you want to do anything to help this person? Then take that compassion generated in your heart and transfer it to the person who needs your help. You will find that the help you give is more inspired and spontaneous and that it will be much easier for you to help.
5. Compassion for the suffering of the world
Every day, life gives us countless opportunities to open our hearts, and all we have to do is recognize and, more importantly, take these opportunities. You may meet a neighbor who walks up the stairs with two heavy shopping bags she can hardly carry. A boy with crutches anxiously trying to cross a busy road. A homeless person looking for shelter from the rain under the roof at the bus stop. A bird with a broken wing, hopping along the sidewalk. All you have to do is turn on the TV and you will see plenty of scenes showing the suffering of the world. Do not close your heart towards the suffering shown and do not look away. Open your heart to compassion. Be vulnerable. Use this suddenly emerging compassion for you and your heart. Concentrate on it, go into the depths of your heart and meditate on it, cultivate it, deepen it.
Do not confuse compassion with pity. The latter is based on fear, compassion is love. Fear separates, love connects. To be compassionate means to know that all beings are equal and that we suffer in a similar way. In this way, your first reaction to a person's suffering is not just shallow pity, but deep compassion. Respect and even be grateful to a suffering person for helping you to open your heart and grow spiritually. Because where people touch you, you too can touch them: in the heart.