Compassion and Altruism

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Are compassion and altruism different?

From a Buddhist point of view they are the same. Technically, however, altruism seems to mean that our sense of compassion expands to the point where we become devoted to the welfare of others. That doesn’t mean we don’t care for ourselves at the same time, but in practice we tend to think of what someone else might need or want before we think of our own needs and desires…

This seed of compassion, this sense of openness, softness, and warmth is what we need to connect with now. The more genuine we can be, honest with ourselves, without pretension or guile in relation to others, the more aware we become of all the potentiality that exists around us. The world becomes more brilliant, more surprising and fresh, and even more endearing. On this journey, it is easy to fall in love with the world. In spite of its suffering and its dizzying confusion, it’s a world of great beauty and power that nurtures and sustains us on many levels. That’s why we create art and enjoy it; it’s the reason we sing and dance, play games, tell stories, and wonder why an apple falls from a tree at a certain rate. We create problems to be sure, and then we try to solve them, which we sometimes do.  We are a work in progress.

Compassion or altruism, then, is not about being perfect or just doing good; its about this daring heart that cherishes others and life itself. We may never save the world, but our actions do help in profound ways because they arise spontaneously from love. – from Rebel Buddha: on the Road to Freedom by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

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