Mettā (Pali) or maitrī (Sanskrit) is benevolence, friendliness, amity, friendship, good will, kindness, close mental union (on same mental wavelength), and active interest in others. It is the first of the four sublime states (Brahmavihāras) and one of the ten pāramīs of the Theravāda school of Buddhism. Mettā is love without the suffering that arises from attachment (known as upādāna).
The cultivation of benevolence (mettā bhāvanā) is a popular form of meditation in Buddhism. In the Theravadin Buddhist tradition, this practice begins with the meditator cultivating benevolence towards themselves, then one’s loved ones, friends, teachers, strangers, enemies, and finally towards all sentient beings. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, this practice is associated with tonglen(cf.), whereby one breathes out (“sends”) happiness and breathes in (“receives”) suffering. Tibetan Buddhists also practice contemplation of the Brahmavihāras, also called the four immeasurables, which is sometimes called ‘compassion meditation’.
What is the difference between empathy and compassion? Is it possible to train compassion? Can it be measured? How useful is compassion training in schools, clinical settings, and end-of-life care? Can the brain be transformed through mental training?
The free eBook: Compassion. Bridging Practice and Science by Tania Singer andMatthias Bolz describes existing secular compassion training programs and empirical research as well as the experiences of practitioners. The state-of-the-art layout of the eBook includes video clips and a selection of original sound collages by Nathalie Singer, and artistic images by Olafur Eliasson.
In addition, the film Raising Compassion by Tania Singer and Olafur Eliasson brings together workshop participants in a remarkable exchange between science, art, and contemplative practice.