"...our capacity for empathy is the source of that most precious
of all qualities, which in Tibetan we call nying-je. Now whilst generally
translated simply as compassion, the term nying-je has a wealth of meaning
that is difficult to convey succinctly, though the ideas it contains are universally
understood. It connotes love, affection, kindness, gentleness, generosity
of spirit and warm-heartednes. It is also used as a term of both sympathy
and of endearment. But most importantly, nying-je denotes a feeling of connection
with others, reflecting its origins in empathy...
...Although it is clear from this description that nying-je,
or love and compassion, is understood as an emotion, it belongs to that category
of emotions which have a more developed cognitive component. Some emotions,
such as the revulsion we feel at the sight of blood are basically instinctual.
Others, such as fear of poverty, have this more developed cognitive component.
We can understand nying-je in terms of a combination of empathy
and reason. Empathy we can think of as a very honest person; reason as someone
who is very practical. When the two are put together, the combination is highly
effective. As such, nying-je is quite different from those random feelings
like anger and lust which, far from bringing us happiness, only trouble us
and destroy our peace of mind. This fact that we can enhance our feelings
of concern for others is of supreme importance because the more we develop
compassion, the more genuinely ethical our conduct will be. As we have seen,
when we act out of concern for others, our behaviour towards them is automatically
positive. This is because we have no room for suspicion when our hearts are
filled with love. It is as if an inner door is opened, allowing us to reach
out. Having concern for others breaks down the impediment which inhibits healthy
interaction with others...
...Thus if I may give an example from my own experience,
I find that whenever I meet new people and have this positive disposition,
there is no barrier between us. No matter who or what they are, whether they
have blonde hair or black hair, or hair that is dyed green, I feel that I
am simply encountering a fellow human being with the same desire to be happy
and to avoid suffering as myself. And I find that I can speak to them as if
they were old friends, even at our first meeting. By keeping in mind that
ultimately, we are all brother and sisters, that there is no substantial difference
between us, that all others share my desire to be happy and to avoid suffering,
I can express my feelings as readily as to someone I have known intimately
for years. And not just with a few nice words or gestures, but really heart
to heart, no matter what the language barrier."