Buddhism spirituality practice and types of meditation

Karuna for the Spiritually Imperfect

Almost everyone has that one person or that one aspect of the self that burns like a rash. Being irritated by your dismissive boss, or your people-pleasing friend does not make your spirituality phony or render you a bad Buddhist. It makes you human. This does not mean you should let these anger triggers consume you or dictate your actions. However, perhaps it is time to fine tune your practice so you can develop karuna--a Mahayana term for compassion that has been described as 'compassionate pity'--for everyone involved in this situation, especially yourself. In order to do so, you must release all judgments of yourself for being irritated so you can understand what about these people, places, and things upset you; and heal that part of yourself.

Why Develop 'Compassionate Pity'?

Buddism and meditationBuddhists differentiate compassion and pity by whom the action benefits. Loving kindness helps those outside of yourself, whereas pity only serves you. If the active practice of karuna is supposed to move the practitioner away from all forms of mara, or bitterness, why incorporate pity into the practice? The simple answer is that karuna incorporates clear-minded action to help others with acknowledgement of one's vulnerability to help the practitioner move through the mental and emotional blockages that keep one stuck in anger and irritation.

Start With You

The late Debbie Ford often talked about the Shadow Self, the aspects of you that make you feel disgusted, ashamed, or less than. The Shadow Self rarely acts consciously, but rather comes out in reactions that do not match the situation, addictions, self-harm, limiting beliefs, etc. Psychotherapist Tara Brach and Buddhist nun Pema Chodron both favor healing the Shadow Self with a meditation called tonglen. Practicing Buddhists say the guiding principle behind tonglen meditation is transmuting suffering into karuna for self and others. This is done through breathing in all of the other person's suffering you can handle, then breathing out karuna for that person. When done daily, tonglen meditation can increase understanding in a situation so the practitioner can move past it.

Try, Try Again

True spirituality

In Buddhism, true spirituality requires letting go of judgment. This means releasing all notions of being able to dispel afflictive emotions just by thinking loving thoughts. Karuna is an active concept that entails daily practice. Through tonglen meditation, the practitioner is guided to transmute anger and irritation into active and useful loving kindness.


Guided Meditation
The Dark Side of the Light Chasers
  • Ford, Debbie. The Dark Side of the Light Chasers Riverhead Books; Anniversary edition (November 2, 2010)
Buddhism and Compassion