Buddhism and Meditation

Compassion and the Divine Abodes

Last week the Milton Keynes Meditation Association were exploring the second of the Divine Abodes (Sanskrit: Brahma Viharas) – Compassion (Skt: Karuna).

We practiced some Mindfulmess of Breathing Meditation and then explored the topic of Compassion – how Metta (firendliness/positivity) is the basis, we talked about our experiences of Compassion (giving and receiving) and talked about what gets in the way of connecting with and feeling for the suffering of beings.

We finished the evening by practicing the Karuna Bhavana Meditation.

Here are our notes from the evening:


Karuna Bhavana – The Cultivation of Compassion


Metta is not something that happens to us, like an emotion or a pleasant sensation, it is something we do. It is active; it is a Karmic action (something done consciously, with intention, leading to a result). Feelings and emotions are not Karmic action – they are results of previous (Karmic) action.

Cultivation of Metta (Metta Bhavana) is a conscious (subtle) effort to develop friendliness. We may or may not experience emotions or sensations as a result – but these should not be confused with Metta, which is active.


Buddhism – The 4 Noble Truths:

  • 1/ Suffering (physical, emotional/psychological, spiritual/existential
  • 2/ The Cause of Suffering – grasping
  • 3/ The Possibility of Ending Suffering
  • 4/ The Path to Cease Suffering – The 8 Fold Noble Path



What Does Compassion Mean to Us? – Discuss in groups

The “Enemies” (blockages) to Compassion


Far Enemy: Cruelty – wishing harm upon another


Near Enemies:


  • Sentimentality (an inappropriately emotion response) – can involve elements of clinging/attachment or projection onto a suffering person.


  • Horrified Anxiety – feeling overwhelmed by the suffering of others and unable to respond with positivity.


  • Pity – feeling superior (“I am not suffering” or “they brought it upon themselves”) true Compassion feels genuine connection with others and the universal nature of suffering. It does not “look down on” but “is with” the other person.


The Karuna Bhavana Meditation


The Working Principle – cultivating skilful, positive, friendly mental states (Metta), then on this basis, looking directly at a person’s experience of suffering.

  • Need to be constantly aware of your mental state and maintain friendly positivity in the face of pain.


  • Important to work from where you really are, acknowledging your actual experience, not trying jump ahead or conjure up something that isn’t there.


  • Start by looking for any signs of positivity, goodwill, openness, receptivity, contentment, concentration. Give attention to what you find and build on them.


Stage 1 – Get in Touch With Metta -  For yourself particularly and also for others, use body awareness, visualisation, phrases. Bring to mind a good friend if this helps to get things going. Include an element of universal Metta if this seems appropriate.

Stage 2 – A Suffering Person – try not to choose a too extreme situation – start gently with something you can handle. Don’t judge their situation – it is enough that they are suffering – in whatever form, for whatever reason. Cultivate through Metta the wish that they be free from suffering.

Stage 3 – A Good Friend – reflect, your friend can also suffer, they do suffer at times. Cultivate the wish that they be free from suffering.

Stage 4 – Neutral Person – all beings suffer, then so must this person. Work with the fetter of indifference. Their suffering is no less real than your friends.

Stage 5 – Difficult Person – beware enjoying their difficulty (cruelty). Reflect that both you and they experience similar difficulty. Perhaps suffering contributes to their behaviour.

Stage 6 – Equalise – bring to mind all the previous people, all beings suffer equally and all equally wish to be happy. Work to overcome personal bias.

Make it Limitless – reflect on the universal truth of suffering for all sentient beings, both in experience and potential. All grow old, get sick and die. Cultivate a sense of universal Compassion going out to all.



Take time to absorb the practice. Don’t get up and rush off. Notice how you are, how you feel. If possible take a few minutes to “Just Sit” in an open, receptive state, don’t “do” anything, simply rest in the experience of the senses including the mind sense (thoughts/emotions).



A fuller description of the Karuna Bhavana Meditation can be founbd on Kamalashilas website: www.kamalashila.co.uk


you can listen to a talk on the Brahma Viharas from Kulaprabha by downloading an MP3 audio file from Free Buddhist Audio: www.freebuddhistaudio.com