The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

Monday Mindful Morsel: Ultimate Healing

by Lydia Anderson
June 16, 2014
Mon, 06/16/2014 - 11:00 -- landerson

This month, our morsels will be focusing on healing, in honor of Bhante Gunaratana's new book, Meditation on Perception. Today's morsel comes from Lama Zopa Rinpoches's Ultimate Healing. In Ultimate Healing, Lama Zopa Rinpoche helps us to recognize the root of illness and gives us the tools to create our future happiness. In the selection below, Rinpoche looks at how one can use his or her illness to develop compassion.

Using Illness to Develop Compassion

One of the greatest benefits of experiencing a disease or any other problem is that we can use it to develop compassion for the other beings who are suffering in samsara. To appreciate this benefit fully, we have to realize just how precious and important compassion is. Otherwise, when we hear that problems help us to generate compassion, we might not think that is important.

Compassion is incredibly important and precious because all our own happiness, now and in the future, and the happiness of every other living being, depend on our compassion. Once we appreciate how precious compassion is, we see how important it is that our problems help us to develop compassion for others. We then see our disease and other problems in a positive light.

We easily feel compassion for others who have a problem similar to ours. If we have a blinding headache, for example, we naturally feel compassion for anyone else with a headache. The same applies to any disease. We feel empathy for and want to help other people with the same disease as we have because we know how it feels. If we didn’t have the disease, we wouldn’t feel this strong compassion. We naturally feel compassion for such people, and we can expand this compassion more and more. This feeling of compassion and the wish to help others are benefits of our having an illness.

We have to think about problems in a more expansive way, however, and not simply focus on one problem, such as a particular illness. As I mentioned earlier, there are many different levels of problems. Disease is just one tiny problem among the thousands of problems that are in the category of the suffering of suffering; and living beings also experience the suffering of change and pervasive compounding suffering. Just as how well doctors treat a disease depends on the extent of their knowledge of disease, how well we generate compassion depends on the extent of our knowledge of suffering.

We have to look not just at our sickness but at all the shortcomings of our own samsara, our own suffering realm. We then have to look at the numberless others who have the same disease as we have, as well as many other experiences of the suffering of suffering, suffering of change, and pervasive compounding suffering. We should think, “I myself am nothing, my problem is nothing. Numberless others are experiencing not only this suffering but even worse suffering. How wonderful it would be if they were free from all their suffering. I will free them from all their suffering.” In this way we use our problems to develop great compassion.

Each time we use our problems to generate great loving kindness and great compassion, we accumulate infinite merit and purify obscurations, the cause not just of disease but of all suffering. If we have great loving kindness and great compassion, we can enjoy any problem that we experience. We can enjoy having cancer or AIDS; we can even enjoy dying.


How to cite this document:
© Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Ultimate Healing (Wisdom Publications, 2001)

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