FULL MOON – Empathy

Published Monday, 23 August 2021

Having empathy for others
one sees that all beings are afraid
of punishment and death.
Knowing this, one does not attack or cause attack.

Dhammapada v.129

If we have the misfortune of being on the receiving end of somebody else’s ill will, we know how painful that can be. And maybe we find ourselves asking, ‘why would anybody want to be so unkind?’ In this Dhammapada verse the Buddha says attacking others won’t occur when there is empathy. In other words, it is when people are lost in self-obsession that they project their pain outwards. In Buddhist teachings we are encouraged to cultivate empathy in two different ways: karuna is to feel empathy with others in the context of suffering; mudita is to feel empathy in the context of joy. Karuna, or compassion, means being alive and aware enough so that when we witness those who are suffering we are able to meet them there, without judgement, without closing our hearts. Mudita, or empathetic joy, means being mindful and restrained enough so that when we are with those who are doing well, we simply share in their delight.

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