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Compassion and the determination to be free

69 Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature

Part of an ongoing series of teachings (retreat and Friday) based on the book Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature, the third volume in The Library of Wisdom and Compassion series by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Venerable Thubten Chodron.

  • Compassion for self and others
  • Four noble truths in terms of three levels of practitioners
  • Karma and its effects, fortunate rebirths
  • Twelve links, liberation
  • Bodhicitta, full awakening
  • Determination to become free and how our outlook changes
  • Bodhisattvas taking rebirths free from afflictions to benefit others

Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature 69: Compassion and The Determination to Be Free (download)

Contemplation points

  1. What does it mean to have compassion for yourself or to “love yourself” from a Buddhist perspective?
  2. Describe the four truths (dukkha, origin, cessation, and cause) according to each of the three levels of practitioners (initial, middle level, and advanced).
  3. What is the reasoning behind why compassion is such a powerful antidote to anger and resentment?
  4. Spend some time contemplating the post mid-day meal prayer from the text. How do you feel in your own mind when you consider wishing others well, wanting those blessings for others?
  5. Think of someone whom you care about deeply and reflect that they cycle in samsara under the control of afflictions and karma. Let compassion arise. Now, think of someone whom you do not like or who has harmed you. Recognize that this person too cycles in samsara under the control of afflictions and karma. Imagine what this person would be like if they were free from ignorance, anger, and attachment. Let compassion for them arise as well.
  6. Consider the demarcation for having the determination to be free from samsara. What would this be like? How would this change the way you relate to your own life and the world around you? Make this personal. How would your life be different?
  7. What does renunciation really mean and why is it essential on the path to awakening? Why is the aspiration for liberation for ourselves a necessary first step before cultivating true compassion for others?
  8. What is meant when it is said that bodhisattvas resolve to remain in cyclic existence for sentient beings?
Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.