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"In Praise of Great Compassion" book cover
Bodhisattvas as Inspiring Role Models


In Praise of Great Compassion

Volume 5 of The Library of Wisdom and Compassion

by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and
Ven. Thubten Chodron

Wisdom Publications

If we doubt our ability to generate bodhicitta and become bodhisattvas, it is helpful to reflect on Dharmakīrti’s teachings in chapter 2 of Commentary on “The Compendium of Reliable Cognition” (Pramāṇavārttika). Using reasoning, he first establishes the existence of past and future lives to demonstrate that since it takes time to familiarize ourselves with great compassion for all sentient beings, we can cultivate it gradually over many lifetimes.

He continues by comparing physical and mental development. The physical abilities of an athlete have limitations due to the limitations of the body. In addition, to improve, an athlete, such as a high jumper, must cover the area they previously jumped plus some.

Mental development is different; the mental factors of love and compassion already exist in our minds. The mind is a stable basis for the cultivation of these emotions, and the love and compassion we generate today can build on what we generated yesterday, so that these qualities continually increase.

If we doubt that we can develop great compassion at all, Dharmakīrti reminds us that we have all been one another’s parents and children in previous lives. Parents and children have natural bonds of affection, love, and compassion for one another. Since we have the imprints from such close relationships with all others in previous lives, it is possible to cultivate great compassion for everyone now.

Although effort is needed at the beginning of our practice, by increased familiarization with love and compassion, they will arise more easily in our lives.