The Buddha taught: “Radiate boundless love towards the entire world.”
Have you ever thought about the difference between looking and seeing? It is the same difference as hearing and listening.
For example, you might read a page or more only to realize that you have no idea what you just read because you drifted off. I think the same thing happens when we look but do not see.
My mentor once told me that if you really see someone, you cannot be mean to them. When you really see, rather than look, you see that everyone is suffering in one way or another. This insight can be the beginning of a new understanding of compassion, one of the qualities we desperately need in our country and in our world today.
While philosophy is the search for wisdom it also brings with it a deep opening to compassion. Wisdom and compassion are just two sides of the same coin.
One way to cultivate compassion is to train ourselves to see rather than just look. When I only look, I only see exteriors. But when I see, I can spot the interior beauty that shines within most, if not all, people.
We rarely see unintentionally. In other words, we have to try to see. This takes effort and intention. This is very difficult for people, which is why we need practices that help us.
It helps to start with seeing the beauty of nature, then maybe a pet, then someone you love deeply. Eventually you work to see your “enemies,” the people you dislike or even harmed you. In Buddhism, this is called the lovingkindness meditation. If you look it up, you will find guidance on how to do this.
I learned it from Pema Chodron (highly recommended), but there are other teachers as well.
We know we have to practice sports or piano or surfing. Almost anything we do needs practice. Why not compassion?
When we see the suffering in this world we also see that we need the qualities of love — wisdom and compassion — to make the many needed changes in how we interact with other people and nature as well.
Voltaire wrote: “The discovery of what is true and the practice of that which is good are the two most important aims of philosophy.” Notice the word “practice.”
My hope is that you will not simply learn about philosophy, but that you will commit your life to awakening, where we see and listen rather than look and hear.