Question: Rinpoche, you often mention the importance of compassion and love as the essence of practice and realization. How do we cultivate it without it being contrived? I have been taught that compassion is a naturally arising quality of the spontaneous nature of mind, so is it more important to spend time trying to rest in the natural state, or to try to cultivate relative bodhichitta through other methods?
Garchen Rinpoche: Although the quality of unconditioned compassion is inborn to our nature, temporarily our buddha nature is like a frozen block of ice. Its nature is always like pure water; it has neither turned into a rock nor has it ever become defiled.
Nevertheless, due to the condition of self-grasping—which is like cold weather—it has frozen into a block of ice. Ice has the quality of water, but it must be actualized by melting.
We melt the ice of self-grasping by cultivating the warmth of compassion. When the ice is melted and becomes flowing water, we realize the actual quality of water, the vast oceanic dharmakaya within which all buddhas are one.
We all have love, but due to self-grasping, it manifests as attachment. We love, or are attached to, those beings that are pleasing to us. We feel compassion for them because we love them. But because we cling to a self, this love is not all embrace, but is biased through the ego’s wishes.
However, we can utilize this biased love and consider that all sentient beings have been our kind mothers. How does this love feel as the limitation of bias collapses? It is very natural. Everyone is the same; there is a compassion for all beings, even if they are not in your field of vision. When this is eventually habituated, it will become effortless.
However, if we allow it to be interrupted by the ego, if we get jealous and angry, then the mind becomes narrow again.
If you really love someone, no matter how troublesome they are, you will always love them and thus will tolerate their temporary moods. When you love others, your mind is very relaxed and happy.
When you get angry, your mind becomes unhappy and narrow like a block of ice. The very nature of love is happiness. That is what it is. The very nature of self-centered emotions is suffering.