Returning to the idea of kindness to oneself as an aspect of compassion, one thing about this is that if one attempts to cultivate compassion for others, love for others without having compassion and love for oneself, one will have no basis within oneself for that cultivation. It is a little bit like trying to donate or give money to others when you have no money to give. In order to give, you first have to acquire what it is you wish to give. In the same way, in order to be able to cultivate genuine compassion for others, we must start by cultivating compassion for ourselves.
Photographer Martin Klimas has created some superb and explosive photographs of martial arts figures in porcelain. The porcelain figures are dropped from a height of three meters and photographed when they touch the ground, literally exploding, giving the photograph a huge energy.
It’s crucial for us to become good people. If we are not, then how could we say we’re Buddhist? We need to reflect: What kind of person am I? If you’re making a golden vase, first you have to see if the material is real gold. If it’s brass, then you’re not making a gold vase. To become a good Buddhist, you have to become a good human being. It doesn’t mean that you have no anger or jealousy, for example, but that you have decreased the negative emotions. Otherwise, it’s a sham: you have the name of a Buddhist, but have not transformed yourself. Nobody can change us. We have to talk to and instruct ourselves about the right way, then change will happen.
Compassion for the “other,” whether people, animal species, trees, or other plants, and for Earth itself, is the only thing that will ultimately save us human beings. Most people are primarily concerned about their work, wealth, health, or family. On a daily basis, they probably feel they have more urgent things to worry about than their environmental footprint. Of course, paying attention to this issue would mean having to make inconvenient choices and changes in their lives. I am not so different. Although I had considered giving up eating meat for many years, I became a complete vegetarian only a few years ago. Somebody presented a short documentary that showed how animals suffer before and during the act of killing. Watching it, I could feel the fear felt by the animals. Like a thunderclap, I became aware that these living beings were suffering so greatly simply to satisfy my habitual preferences. Eating meat became intolerable for me at that moment, and so I stopped.