Training the mind in compassion, or lojong, refers to a profound transformation from a state of mind in which we think only of ourselves, to a more enlightened perspective, in which we think principally of others.
Why is it important to change our attitude in this way? As long as we are only concerned with ourselves and our short-term interests thinking: “How can I get ahead? How can I get what I want?” our scope is very narrow, and we often find ourselves imprisoned in a tight, claustrophobic state of mind, in which even the slightest discomfort becomes unbearable and the smallest problems multiply into endless irritations and difficulties. When we focus on ourselves alone and neglect others, nothing is accomplished that is of benefit to anyone else, and we don’t achieve our own happiness either.
But when we think of the welfare of others, what happens? Not only are we able to offer them help, but in the process our own happiness is taken care of as a matter of course. This is because, when we have love and compassion in our mind, we automatically become more spacious and we feel more joy, contentment and well-being. Thinking of others is a tremendous source of happiness.
In short: whenever we harm others, it harms us; whenever we help others, it helps us. This is why His Holiness the Dalai Lama often says that if you wish to truly look after your own self-interest, then, at least be “wisely selfish”, rather than foolishly selfish. Take a good look and you will realize that if you truly wish to take care of yourself, it means giving up harming others, and trying to help them instead.
While at the moment we are mainly concerned with cherishing ourselves, through training our mind with the skilful means of compassion, we can slowly transfer and extend this cherishing of ourselves to others. This begins, firstly, by seeing how we and others are the same. Just as we want happiness and don’t want to suffer, others feel exactly the same. Thinking in this way we come to realize that just as we cherish ourselves, we should also cherish others.
Then, gradually, through training the mind in compassion, we can extend our compassion further to the point where we are willing to exchange ourselves with others. Our compassion becomes so great that we wish to take on the pain and suffering of others and give to them all our happiness and well-being. Finally, we can reach a point where we even consider others as more important than ourselves.
This is what the practice of lojong is really all about.
Though there are a lot of teachings on lojong, the most important point is to actually practise it, to bring these teachings into our being and actually transform our mind and heart so that we have more love, compassion and genuine concern for others.