The Buddhist understanding of compassion

The word compassion is often misunderstood. In English it has Christian overtones that include pity, turning the other cheek, and weakness. It is often seen as powerless. But the Buddhist understanding of compassion is much more. It is the method to stand up to injustice. It is full strength and courage divested from ego. Compassion towards close ones is mixed with attachment. Real compassion is towards one’s enemy. Every day HH the Dalai Lama practices “taking and giving” (tonglen) towards Chinese hardliners trying to destroy Tibetan culture. He imagines taking away, into himself, their suspicion, anger, and violent tendencies. Then he fills them with trust, tolerance, and peace. This is not just lip-service, but actually done from his heart. A distinction is made between the person and his/her actions. When the actions are harmful, we must stand up and criticize opposing their harmful deeds, and hold accountable by courts of law when necessary. The person on the other hand, always has the potential for full complete goodness. Towards the person we always have compassion. Just like us they only want happiness, but do not know how to find it. We have compassion for all living beings.