Universal Compassion

Last updated
Universal Compassion: Inspiring Solutions for Difficult Times
Author Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Religion, Buddhism, Spirituality
Publisher Tharpa Publications
Publication date
4th. ed., 2002
Media type Print
ISBN 978-0-948006-72-2
OCLC 51047789

Universal Compassion: Inspiring Solutions for Difficult Times, Tharpa Publications (4th. ed., 2002) ISBN   978-0-948006-72-2 is a commentary to Geshe Chekhawa's Training the Mind in Seven Points by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, a Buddhist teacher and author in the West.

Tharpa Publications is "a major international and multilingual publisher of Buddhist books" by the Buddhist author and scholar Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. They are based in New York. These include basic Buddhist meditation books such as The New Meditation Handbook, books on the Buddhist way of life such as Universal Compassion, books on Buddhist philosophy and psychology such as Heart of Wisdom, and books on Buddhist Tantra. Tharpa Publications is a non-profit corporation that has operated for 25 years and claims to have sold over a million books. Waterhouse adds that the books "are distributed widely and may be seen on the shelves of popular booksellers as well as in university libraries."

International Standard Book Number Unique numeric book identifier

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.

Training the Mind in Seven Points is an explanation of Buddha's instructions on training the mind or Lojong in Tibetan, which explain how to transform adverse conditions into the path to enlightenment, principally, by developing one's own compassion and wisdom. Geshe Chekhawa or Chekawa Yeshe Dorje (1102-1176AD) was a famous Kadampa Buddhist meditation master. Universal Compassion is a word by word commentary to Training the Mind in Seven Points, described as "an admirable accomplishment in presenting the profound teachings of present-day Mahayana Buddhism" [1] and "An inspiring book for all who aspire to practise the Buddhist path". [2] The commentary also contains a clear translation of the root text.


Lojong is a mind training practice in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition based on a set of aphorisms formulated in Tibet in the 12th century by Chekawa Yeshe Dorje. The practice involves refining and purifying one's motivations and attitudes.


Compassion motivates people to go out of their way to help the physical, mental, or emotional pains of another and themselves. Compassion is often regarded as having sensitivity, an emotional aspect to suffering, though when based on cerebral notions such as fairness, justice, and interdependence, it may be considered rational in nature and its application understood as an activity also based on sound judgment. Compassion is a feeling you get if you are a true human; the desire to help or, at the very least, see what you can do. There is also an aspect of equal dimension, such that individual's compassion is often given a property of "depth", "vigor", or "passion". The etymology of "compassion" is Latin, meaning "co-suffering." Compassion involves "feeling for another" and is a precursor to empathy, the "feeling as another" capacity for better person-centered acts of active compassion; in common parlance active compassion is the desire to alleviate another's suffering.

Buddha’s teachings emphasize unconditional love and compassion, and in this commentary to the popular Buddhist poem Training the Mind in Seven Points, the author explains powerful Buddhist methods for developing these altruistic states. The practice of Lojong also explains how one can transform day-to-day living – including even demanding and difficult conditions – into opportunities for spiritual development. [3]

The Lojong teachings in Universal Compassion have been used by caregivers, healers and hospice workers in the UK and US both to help them cope and to find effective techniques to manage the suffering of the ill and the dying. [4] For example, hospice psychologist Kathleen Dowling Singh (author of Grace in Dying) explains:

The Lojong teachings... are particularly applicable for those caregivers who see the ultimate unworkability of viewing the needs of self and other in opposition and who seek to find a way to give care and benefit to both self and other simultaneously. These Dharma teachings bridge the gap from ordinary mind to enlightened mind, illuminating the process whereby, with effort, we are able to exchange the object of our cherishing from self to other." [5]

Taking and giving is a profound practice that takes some getting used to. The author says: "At first we may find it difficult to take on others' sufferings... but this will become easier as our compassion increases." (page 37) Joan Borysenko PhD, who calls Universal Compassion "a marvelous book on the practice of tonglen", [6] supports this observation:

Tonglen is Tibetan for 'giving and taking', and refers to a meditation practice found in Tibetan Buddhism.

People sometimes fear that tonglen (taking and giving) will harm them when they imagine breathing in pain, ignorance or illness. The Tibetan lamas say that the only thing we can harm with tonglen is our ego and its self-grasping, which will dissolve in the intention of compassion. [7]

In fact the object of meditation for taking and giving is great joy: "We develop the conviction that we have destroyed our self-cherishing mind and purified our negative karma, and then generate joy. We meditate on this feeling of joy for as long as possible." [8]

The teachings in Universal Compassion give a step-by-step explanation of developing the minds of love, compassion and wisdom and in this way progressing along the spiritual path to enlightenment. Kathleen Dowling Singh explains:

Step by step, the Lojong practices, when practiced with sincere effort, strong faith, and deep intention, move us through the stages of the Mahayana path. We develop "equalizing self and others", the capacity and willingness to cherish all living beings to the same degree that we cherish ourself. We work to develop the capacity for wishing love, that is to say, the wish that all living beings be happy. The Lojong practices then offer skillful means to develop our compassion, the wish that all living beings without exception be free from suffering and its causes. We make the precious practice of taking and giving second nature. This practice enhances and completes our exchanging the object of our cherishing from self to other. From this attainment, we can develop the mind of enlightenment, bodhichitta. [9]

Universal Compassion is part of the Kadam tradition of Mahayana Buddhism. Training the Mind And Cultivating Loving Kindness by Chogyam Trungpa explains that the Kadam lineage, founded by Atisha, places great emphasis on monastic discipline, the cultivation or bodhichitta and compassion, and mind training. This emphasis was carried into the Kagyu lineage by Gampopa. The origin and history of the Lojong teachings, which come from the Kadam lineage, are explained in Universal Compassion. [10]

These practices are not restricted only to Buddhists, and Universal Compassion "could be read with profit by anyone whose religion demands the exercise of compassion." [11] These teachings explain how all living beings are equally important and help create a world that does not discriminate based on people's background, faith, sexual orientation and so on. [12]

Universal Compassion is used as an integral part of the New Kadampa Tradition's Foundation Program with tens of thousands of students worldwide, described by Steven Heine in Buddhism in the Modern World: Adaptations of an Ancient Tradition:

The Foundation Program is meant for serious students who want a guided study at a deeper level than they can get through the series of Lamrim talks, usually all pitched to a beginner's capacity, that normally constitute the fare of Western Dharma centers. [13]

It is also an integral part of the New Kadampa Tradition's Teacher Training Program, a rigorous "multilayered educational" study program of Buddha's teachings of Sutra and Tantra presented in accordance with the tradition of the Tibetan master Je Tsongkhapa (AD 1357-1419), designed for those training as Buddhist teachers. [14]


  1. Buddhism Today
  2. Buddhist Studies Review
  3. Official Tharpa Publications reference for Universal Compassion "http://www.tharpa.com/us/book-cover-Universal.Compassion-594-1.html"
  4. Healing Hands: Simple and Practical Reflexology, Techniques for Developing Good Health and Inner Peace page 145, O Books (January 25, 2005) ISBN   1-905047-12-6
  5. Wisdom of Listening anthology, Mark Brady, Wisdom Publications (October 25, 2003)ISBN   0861713559
  6. page 220 of The Power of the Mind to Heal, Hay House (October 1995), ISBN   1-56170-144-0
  7. page 362 Pocketful of Miracles: Prayer, Meditations, and Affirmations to Nurture Your Spirit Every Day of the Year, Grand Central Publishing (November 1, 1994), ISBN   0-446-39536-6
  8. Universal Compassion page 37)
  9. Wisdom of Listening anthology, page 208, Mark Brady, Wisdom Publications (October 25, 2003)ISBN   0861713559
  10. The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa, Volume 2: The Path Is the Goal - Training the Mind, page 227, Shambhala, 2004, ISBN   1-59030-026-2
  11. Faith and Freedom
  12. Our Families, Our Values: Snapshots of Queer Kinship page 127, Routledge 1997, ISBN   0-7890-0234-5
  13. Buddhism in the Modern World: Adaptations of an Ancient Tradition by Steven Heine page 232, Oxford University Press, United States (January 1, 2003)ISBN   0195146980
  14. Buddhism in the Modern World: Adaptations of an Ancient Tradition by Steven Heine page 231, Oxford University Press, United States (January 1, 2003)ISBN   0195146980

Related Research Articles

Bodhisattva in Buddhism, a being who has developed a  spontaneous wish and a compassionate mind to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings

In Buddhism, a Bodhisattva is any person who is on the path towards Buddhahood but has not yet attained it.

Tibetan Buddhism body of Buddhist religious doctrine and institutions characteristic of Tibet

Tibetan Buddhism is the form of Buddhist doctrine and institutions named after the lands of Tibet, but also found in the regions surrounding the Himalayas and much of Central Asia. It derives from the latest stages of Indian Buddhism and preserves "the Tantric status quo of eighth-century India." It has been spread outside of Tibet, especially due to the Mongol power of the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), founded by Kublai Khan, that also ruled China.

Kadam (Tibetan Buddhism)

The Kadam school of Tibetan Buddhism was founded by Dromtön (1005–1064), a Tibetan lay master and the foremost disciple of the great Bengali master Atiśa (982-1054). The Kadampa were quite famous and respected for their proper and earnest Dharma practice. The most evident teachings of that tradition were the teachings on bodhicitta. Later, these special presentations became known as lojong and lamrim by Atiśa.

<i>Dharmapala</i> type of wrathful god in Buddhism

A dharmapāla is a type of wrathful god in Buddhism. The name means "Dharma protector or defender" in Sanskrit, and the dharmapālas are also known as the Defenders of the Law (Dharma), or the Protectors of the Law.

Bodhicitta in Mahayana Buddhism, mind that strives toward awakening, empathy, and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings

In Buddhism, bodhicitta, "enlightenment-mind", is the mind that strives toward awakening, empathy, and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings.

Kelsang Gyatso Tibetan writer and lama

Kelsang Gyatso is a Buddhist monk, meditation teacher, scholar, and author. He is the founder and former spiritual director of the New Kadampa Tradition-International Kadampa Buddhist Union (NKT-IKBU), an "entirely independent" Modern Buddhist order that presents itself to be a tradition based on the teachings of the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, which has grown to become a global Buddhist organisation and currently claims to have 1200 centers and branches in 40 countries around the world.

Lamrim is a Tibetan Buddhist textual form for presenting the stages in the complete path to enlightenment as taught by Buddha. In Tibetan Buddhist history there have been many different versions of lamrim, presented by different teachers of the Nyingma, Kagyu and Gelug schools. However, all versions of the lamrim are elaborations of Atiśa's 11th-century root text A Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment (Bodhipathapradīpa).

Tara (Buddhism) female Bodhisattva

Tara, Ārya Tārā, or White Tara, also known as Jetsun Dölma in Tibetan Buddhism, is an important figure in Buddhism. She appears as a female bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism, and as a female Buddha in Vajrayana Buddhism. She is known as the "mother of liberation", and represents the virtues of success in work and achievements. She is known as Tara Bosatsu (多羅菩薩) in Japan, and occasionally as Duōluó Púsà (多羅菩薩) in Chinese Buddhism.

The Bodhisattva vow is the vow taken by Mahayana Buddhists to liberate all sentient beings. One who has taken the vow is nominally known as a Bodhisattva. This can be done by venerating all Buddhas and by cultivating supreme moral and spiritual perfection, to be placed in the service of others. In particular, Bodhisattvas promise to practice the six perfections of giving, moral discipline, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom in order to fulfill their bodhicitta aim of attaining enlightenment for the sake of all beings. Whereas the Prātimokṣa vows cease at death, the Bodhisattva vow extends into future lives.

The term New Kadampa is a synonym for the 14th century Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, as founded by Je Tsongkhapa. Being a great admirer of Kadam teachings, Je Tsongkhapa was an enthusiastic promoter of the 11th century Kadampa school's emphasis on the graded path to enlightenment and Mahayana principles of universal compassion as its fundamental spiritual orientation. Though the synonym is less well known in English-speaking countries, in Tibet the Gelugpa was well known as the "New Kadampa," while the earlier school was referred to as the "Ancient Kadampa" or "Original Kadampa". Je Tsongkhapa considered the New Kadampa tradition he founded to be the successor to Atiśa's Old Kadampa tradition. Geoffrey Samuels remarks that Tsongkhapa "was following in the footsteps of Atisha, and indeed the Gelugpa are sometimes known as the 'New Kadampa' and regarded themselves as above all a continuation of Atisha's work."

New Kadampa Tradition organization

The New Kadampa Tradition – International Kadampa Buddhist Union (NKT—IKBU) is a global Buddhist new religious movement founded by Kelsang Gyatso in England in 1991. In 2003 the words "International Kadampa Buddhist Union" (IKBU) were added to the original name "New Kadampa Tradition". The NKT-IKBU is an international organisation registered in England as a charitable, or non-profit, company. It currently lists more than 200 centres and around 900 branch classes/study groups in forty countries.

Heruka Kadampa Meditation Centre (KMC) is the main New Kadampa Tradition Buddhist Centre for North & Central London. It is located in Golders Green, and was founded in 1992 aiming "to provide a venue for Kadampa teachings in the London region". Roughly 20 students live and study at Heruka KMC. In addition the main meditation room, the Centre contains a small library and a shop that offers books published by Tharpa Publications, CDs, and artwork, and gifts.

Geshe Langri Tangpa (1054–1123) is an important figure in the lineage of the Kadampa and Gelug schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He was born in Central Tibet, as Dorje Senge. His name derives from Langtang, the area in which he is said to have lived. He was a Kadampa master, and disciple of Potowa.

<i>The New Heart of Wisdom</i> book by Kelsang Gyatso

The New Heart of Wisdom: Profound Teachings from Buddha's Heart is a commentary to Buddha Shakyamuni's Heart Sutra by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, a Buddhist teacher and author in the West.

Geshe Chekhawa (1102–1176) was a prolific Kadampa Buddhist meditation master who was the author of the celebrated root text Training the Mind in Seven Points, which is an explanation of Buddha's instructions on training the mind or Lojong in Tibetan. These teachings reveal how sincere Buddhist practitioners can transform adverse conditions into the path to enlightenment, principally, by developing their own compassion. Before Chekhawa Yeshe Dorje's root text this special set of teachings given by Buddha were secret teachings only given to faithful disciples.

<i>The New Meditation Handbook</i> book by Kelsang Gyatso

The New Meditation Handbook: Meditations to Make Our Life Happy and Meaningful is a guide to Buddhist philosophy and meditation techniques. It is a compilation of twenty-one concise meditations on Lamrim, or the stages of the path to enlightenment, by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, a Buddhist teacher and author in the West.

Dharmarakṣita is a c. 9th century Indian Buddhist credited with composing an important Mahayana text called the Wheel of Sharp Weapons. He was the teacher of Atiśa, who was instrumental in establishing a second wave of Buddhism in Tibet.