Everyone's capable of compassion

by Bryan Reynolds, The Eastern Progress, April 12, 2007

Chautauqua, Kentucky (USA) -- "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." Those are the words of the famous Dalai Lama.

And this was the opening quote of Lance Brunner during the latest lecture in the Chautauqua series Thursday.

A crowd listened to Brunner, a professor of medieval music and Buddhism at the University of Kentucky, as he spoke about the correlation between the idea of compassion and the path of Buddhism.

Brunner began by giving the audience a brisk overview of the Buddhist faith. He talked about the Dukkha, the unhappiness and suffering in our life.

He said overcoming those life woes is the basic purpose of Buddhism, which is otherwise known as The Eight-Fold Path.

Brunner then began to speak about death. He said at least one audience member would die before the others. He asked the audience to look into the eyes of a person near them and ask, "Is this person the one?"

He then turned it around and told the audience to look at the person beside them and imagine them being born and growing up. He explained this was an effective way of dealing with those you hate and even those you love. These are all things that everyone has in common: birth, life and death, he said.

These two exercises were tools he used to help the audience understand what he later discussed.

Brunner said the path of Buddhism is compassion. Compassion from within leads to compassion for others.

Then he talked Buddhism's most well known practice: meditations.

He explained meditations' purpose was to quiet the "thinking mind" and contact the "feeling heart."

Buddhists believe all people are naturally good and compassionate, but the Dukkha, the distractions of life, gets in the way of this nature.

Brunner ended the lecture with a story.

In the story, a grandfather tells his grandchildren that in all men's hearts there are two wolves. One wolf is vicious and vengeful. The other wolf is kind, gentle and courageous.

The two wolves fight a savage war within the hearts of all people.

"Which wolf will win, grandfather?" the children asked

The grandfather replied, "That depends on which wolf you feed."