What are the benefits of sincere compassionate attitude?
If you are interested in compassion and kindness it is because you have compassionate and kind nature. Most people have wonderful kind hearts and only their minds are creating “problems” that are preventing them to relate with the world in a kind and warm hearted way.
As human beings we all rely on human closeness, positive feelings and warmheartedness.
The seeds of compassion are ingrained in our buddha nature. They are ingrained in our hearts and when we are nurtured and carried in the mother’s womb we absorb the love and affection from the mother and environment. Once born with mother’s milk, closeness, and affection we are taught to trust the love and generous kindness of our mother and father and our close relatives.
These are the beginnings of our cultivation of compassion. We cannot survive or develop properly psychologically without proper love and affection from our mother.
The precious relationship that we begin with is the model on which we build our understanding and model our world and relations. First this is a very biased relationship very one sided, a relationship that depends on the other person. It is oriented to us and oriented to our own personal wellbeing. It concerns only us.
We develop genuine altruism and sincere compassion as we apply intelligence and intellect and practice kindness and compassionate behaviour towards others. Practices such as the 37 practices of bodhisattva are part of the Tibetan tradition and teachings which help to expand our minds from the me-oriented love to a bigger community oriented love. We learn to weed out behaviours like gossip and slander and replace them with speaking about others well and with care and love.
Scientific studies show that with a practice of meditation we begin to develop an understanding of our minds and our relationship to the feelings and emotions, relationships and way we live. As a result with prolonged practice we can learn to generate and cultivate compassion, much in the same way as the Tibetan monks meditate in the monasteries practicing kindness and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings.
In western psychotherapy and medicine we are always asking ‘why’ trying to find causes of something like an anxiety or an illness so we can cure it. In the meditative traditions, one does not necessarily have to understand why the problem arises in order to transform it into wisdom & compassion.
Meditation as a practice develops wisdom and compassion which penetrate through the problem. In practices like Shyiné (Samatha/Calm abiding) we can bring awareness into the problem, problem into loving kindness and then into emptiness. There is not need for a question ‘why’ to arise, we dissolve it in emptiness and allow compassion to emerge from natural mind.
Compassion is opposite of stress in terms of its physiological effects. We may imagine that peace is the opposite of stress, but peace is more the absence of stress than its opposite.
Compassion in a number of ways produces the opposite effect from those that stress causes.
It is very well known that stress suppresses the immune system. Part of it is due to the stress hormone cortisol. So effective is cortisol in suppressing the immune system, in fact that millions of people use it every day as hydrocortisone cream without realizing that hydrocortisone cream is cortisol. The cream acts to reduce inflammation, which is why it is used to treat conditions like eczema, itching and rashes.
When we are compassionate, at the very minimum it spares us some stress and so by default it allows the immune system to work more optimally by minimizing cortisol production.
Can compassion do more than this and even enhance the immune system?
The Mother Theresa effect was named after a Harvard University study where volunteers watching a video of Mother Theresa carrying out acts of kindness and compassion experienced an immune boost.
In the study, researchers took secretory immunoglobulin-A (s-IgA) samples from 132 volunteers before and after watching the video. Found in saliva, it is the immune system’s first line of defence if a person eats something that’s contaminated, and is generally considered a fairly good indication of overall immune function.
After watching the film, their s-IgA levels were significantly elevated and remained elevated for a while afterwards as the volunteers kept thinking about particular scenes from the film.
In a different experiment, researchers at the HeartMath Institute, in Boulder, Colorado, asked volunteers to cultivate feelings of care and compassion for just 5 minutes. Similarly, they also received an immune boost, with s-IgA levels increasing by around 50% and again staying elevated for some time. – see references
Empathy which is closely related to compassion shows in numerous medical studies that when patients receive compassionate and empathetic care their sense of wellbeing improves. Feelings generate hormones positive feelings generate dopamine and serotonin. Uplifting feelings excite the brain into wellness and function as natural pain killers, it is brain’s version of morphine. Feelings associated with empathy and compassion produce oxytocin (bonding relationships hormone). These hormones improve our immune system and alter and improve functioning of our bodies.
Sincere compassionate attitude is an attitude of oneness where we are sensitive to the pain and suffering of all sentient beings and where we are not ignoring or repressing the suffering of others, rather we are looking at ways to alleviate it practically and through prayer.
Relating to our feelings properly, cultivating altruistic motive and kind relationships is necessary basis for good ethics and for the wellbeing of our brothers and sisters and global politics.
It is possible that the western minds are very intellectual and that the intellect needs to be directed to cultivate and act in compassionate ways. Rather than remaining in the intellectual space we can make decisions and actions that are beneficial and positive for the collective (not just for an individual). Compassion, empathy and kindness require less thinking and more direct practice.
No matter how long you practice or what method you use in the Tibetan Buddhist meditation ultimately each one will generate compassion. In other traditions volunteering, offering services for free, spending time with elderly and other activities that generate kindness, and create friendly bonds all will help to cultivate compassion, empathy and raise our immune systems.
May all sentient beings benefit