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"In Praise of Great Compassion" book cover
Compassion Observing Phenomena


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

Bodhisattvas observe sentient beings as momentarily impermanent, “evanescent . . . like the reflection of the moon in rippling water.” The rippling of the water indicates both the gross impermanence of death that all of us are subject to and the subtle impermanence of disintegrating in each moment. The water’s nature is to change; it can never remain static.

Similarly, sentient beings’ bodies, minds, environments, companions, and enjoyments arise and cease in each moment. To get a strong sense of sentient beings’ impermanence, imagine a reflection of the moon shimmering in rippling water as the breeze constantly blows. Then think that constant, rippling change is like the unstoppable momentary change of our body and mind in saṃsāra.

Blind to this transitory nature, we cling to the notion that we and everything around us is reliable and unchanging. When a loved one is injured or we receive a terminal diagnosis, when we lose our job or our country is torn apart by war, or when things don’t turn out as we wish, we sentient beings suffer.

Holding what is impermanent to be permanent makes the mind inflexible; we refuse to accept the reality of a situation that doesn’t agree with our expectations. Observing that sentient beings suffer by holding what is impermanent as permanent, bodhisattvas experience compassion for sentient beings.