Our Pristine Mind: A Practical Guide to Unconditional Happiness (2016)
A Good Heart: The Companion to Pristine Mind
THE FOURTH COMPONENT of a good heart is impartiality. When our love, compassion, and joy toward others is not subject to any kind of limitation to a particular group, race, or nationality, or to any other class of being, we say it is impartial. The love we develop, the compassion we develop, the sense of rejoicing we develop toward others, is impartial. If it’s subject to any kind of restriction, where we think, “Well, I want these people to be happy, but I don’t care about that other group,” then we are not impartial.
Impartiality means not having any personal bias or prejudice. Our love, our compassion, and our joy are directed at everyone equally, universally, and unconditionally. The quality of impartiality influences all other aspects of a good heart that I have described. For example, an impartial teacher treats his or her students equally, caring about and loving all of them, and wanting each of them to have what they need to grow and flourish. The teacher has the same loving and compassionate feelings and wishes for each of them.
If you have five children in your family, you care for them equally, impartially. You do not treat one badly and another very well. But impartiality goes beyond our own families and groups. With true impartiality, we care not only about humanity but about every life form possessing a mind, no matter how primitive or complex. Where there is such a living being, there are feelings: physically, there is pain and pleasure, and emotionally, there is happiness and sadness. Any such form of living being will have that experience. Therefore it is appropriate to care about everyone equally, love everyone equally, feel compassion toward everyone equally, and rejoice for everyone equally. The greatest good heart extends love and compassion far beyond the boundaries of species.
Limiting one’s love to the human species, or to a particular race, nationality, religion, or other human attribute, is not being totally impartial. For example, if I only care about human beings and I don’t care about dogs or cats, then my perspective and understanding are inaccurate. Dogs and cats may not be human, but their experience is very similar to our own. They have feelings like we do. Dogs can feel fear. Cats can feel lonely. Because all beings with a mind have mental and emotional pain, desire, and contentment, the most authentic compassion, the most authentic love, and the most authentic joy have no place for any prejudice or bias. The first three boundless attitudes are thus all embraced in the fourth component of a good heart—impartiality.
We can start to apply this principle in a small group, such as a family, a circle of friends, or a team of co-workers. We must regularly make a conscious effort to treat all the members of that group equally, feel love toward them equally, feel compassion toward them equally, and rejoice for all of them equally. This is not just an exercise you do by yourself; you need to remind yourself to do it in the context of your daily life. Then, expand the group to include the larger community. Ultimately, this must expand to all living beings from all groups and species.
This creates a harmonious experience. What we mean by a good heart here is not simplistic. Sometimes people say things to each other like, “You are so good-hearted. You did something so nice today.” In this way, we may use the term “good-hearted” to mean something very simple, to describe a relatively nice person. But in the sense in which we use the term here, there are many levels, degrees, and dimensions of a good heart. Once we understand that everyone is just like us, it gives us a more accurate perspective. Our perception, then, transcends superficial boundaries. A truly good heart has no boundaries at all: our compassion, love, and joy extend to every living being that feels; and our good heart is open to every being with physical and mental sensations. This has nothing to do with their characteristics, whether they are close to us, or even whether they are human. Instead, it has to do with the fact that they have feelings, emotions, sensations, and mind. Any being that has sensations, emotions, feelings, pain and pleasure, is an object for our caring attitude and action.
The reality is that everyone wants happiness and does not want suffering. Everyone wants these equally, so it only makes sense to honor their wishes equally, and to do what we can to help others achieve those wishes.