Cultivating Compassion

Going beyond crises

by Juewei Shi (Volume editor) Stephen Hill (Volume editor) Suzanne Franzway (Volume editor)
©2024 Edited Collection XX, 318 Pages
Open Access


The massive disruptions caused by climate change, the Covid-19 Pandemic, war, and ever-rising inequalities have presented the world with challenges across social and economic life, health and education, policy, politics, and community life. Compassion is a central Buddhist value and practice but is also essential to our survival. Defined as feeling genuine concern about the suffering of others and, critically, coupled with a commitment to attempt to alleviate or prevent it. The desire and commitment to help are what differentiates compassion from similar emotions like empathy and sympathy. Compassion demands the courage to turn toward suffering with clarity and skilful means.  Hence, we have the Buddhist recognition that compassion is inseparable from wisdom, in the analogy of the two wings. This book is titled, Cultivating Compassion: Going Beyond Crises as it is rooted in this perspective while presenting different approaches which aim to advance our understanding of the questions and dilemmas posed by the current global crises and the cultivation of compassion.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Juewei Shi and Grace Ewart
  • Stephen Hill
  • Len Fisher
  • Jonathan Page
  • Jane Wang
  • Jade Hutchinson and Alexander Trauth-Goik
  • Iain Sinclair
  • Bee Scherer
  • Gawaine Powell Davies
  • Meg Hart
  • Gawaian Bodkin-Andrews, Shannon Foster, Aunty Frances Bodkin, Uncle John Foster, Uncle Gavin Andrews, Aunty Karen Adams, Uncle Ross Evans, Jade Foster-Guadalupe, BRONWYN CARLSON, AND JOANNE KINNIBURGH
  • Nadine Levy
  • Kwong Chan and Linda Humphreys
  • Jonathan Mair
  • Linus Lancaster and Asherah Weiss
  • Tina Ng
  • Cecilia B. Manikan
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Glossary
  • Index


We would like to acknowledge that the creation and production of this book took place on many lands, from the minds of Buddhists, non-Buddhists, researchers, teachers and community leaders. We, the editorial team, connected on D’harawal and Kaurna Country, the lands in Australia on which we live, work and play, to fuse the writings and the stories of these compassionate minds. We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of these lands, the Wodi Wodi and Kaurna people, and offer our appreciation for their custodianship of the plains, mountains and waterways that we have enjoyed while working on this project. We also extend our respect to First Nations Elders past, present and emerging. The editorial team would also like to pay our upmost respect and thanks to the members of the D’harawal Traditional Descendants and Knowledge Holders Circle, who entrusted this book to be a vessel for their truth-telling and storytelling.

We are indebted to many people and organizations for their contributions, permission and support. In line with Buddhism’s view of infinite conditions, we recognize that the list of people and organizations deserving of thanks is extensive, and we apologize in advance for any unintentional omissions.

Many wise teachers and mentors have influenced our work. The most important is of course the late Venerable Master Hsing Yun to whom we dedicate this book. We are profoundly grateful to him for teaching us that there is nothing more important than compassion in our lives. His embodiment of compassion and wisdom has inspired us to create this book after the successful completion of the Eighth International Symposium of Humanistic Buddhism, his brainchild. Carrying on his legacy, Most Venerable Hsin Bao wrote an illuminating foreword, and we thank him for his support as well.

We would like to express our deep appreciation and gratitude to Fo Guang Shan for sponsoring and supporting the Eighth International Symposium of Humanistic Buddhism, in particular, the Institute of Humanistic Buddhism who transmitted their experiences and shared their networks generously with us.

The preparation of the book manuscript and its publication are also generously funded by the Hsing Yun Education Foundation in Australia, without which we would not have been able to bring this book into fruition.

We would also like to acknowledge the Nan Tien Temple for being the spiritual home for running this project, and for providing the logistical and infrastructural support for the smooth and professional global Zoom-based Symposium.

Our heartfelt gratitude goes to the Nan Tien Institute, and in particular, its Humanistic Buddhism Centre, for being the implementing agency that shaped the book and created its message. Under the experienced leadership of President Professor Denise Kirkpatrick, the Institute provided the guidance and facilities for us to complete this project.

We want to deliver our sincere gratitude to all the authors for sharing their insights and research, both during the Symposium and afterwards, and for completing their chapters in a timely fashion. Their enthusiasm at every project meeting and collaborative attitude ensured that we could complete this laborious journey fruitfully.

We also must express our thanks to Jamila Choubassi, whose skill for referencing and attention to detail ensured that all the chapters were edited consistently and swiftly.

It will be remiss of us not to thank Peter Lang’s anonymous reviewers, whose extremely insightful and generous suggestions moulded the book in its final stages.

We are most grateful to the staff of Peter Lang, in particular Group Publishing Director, Lucy Melville, and Editorial Support, Ashita Shah, for their kind assistance, advice and support.

Finally, we will never be able to thank Grace Ewart enough for her assistance throughout the Symposium and book publication processes. She ensured that these incredible projects were completed on time and in the most compassionate way. Communicating with authors, nudging the editors and managing the administrative tasks and deadlines she brought cohesion, coherence and accuracy every step of the way. We are very grateful to Dr Pema Düddul for his skilful assistance during the final weeks of production.

Juewei Shi

Suzanne Franzway

Stephen Hill


It is a real joy to see this special anthology of worldwide contributions arising from the Eighth International Symposium on Humanistic Buddhism in print. The theme of the 2021 Symposium, ‘Humanistic Buddhist Responses to Modern Crises’, drew together timely humanistic responses to the disruptions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. The founder of this symposium series, Venerable Master Hsing Yun, envisioned a forum for scholars and practitioners to exchange ideas about how scholarship can reinforce the practice of the Dharma in daily life and vice versa. This book bears testimony to that vision.

Crises have become almost a ‘normal’ part of people’s daily life and conversation. In the Sattasuriyasutta (or The Sermon on the Seven Suns) of the Aguttara Nikāya (also known as the Numerical Discourses), the Buddha is said to have taught about the appearance of seven suns in this world. Can you imagine living in a world with seven suns where even the deep and vast oceans are dry, and lofty mountains are smoking due to forest fires? This discourse reminds us that the nature of this world is impermanent and that climate changes greatly.

While we may not see seven suns in the skies, many people are familiar with droughts or the fear of such. In 2021, Taiwan suffered a water shortage which resulted in much inconvenience for its residents. In July 2022, 2,000 cattle died in Kansas, USA, due to its 40 degrees heat. During the same month, a heat wave in Spain and Portugal caused the death of 1,000 people. In the past, many people ignored news about global warming such as the melting of Antarctic and Arctic ice basins and icebergs, as well as rising sea levels. However, these days more people are aware of climate change endangering the safety of humanity. Environmental degradation is bringing in its wake droughts, floods and suffering. The alarm bells that scientists have sounded can no longer be ignored.

One of the things we can do now is slow down climate change. Fo Guang Shan has provided 100 hectares of land to plant 30,000 to 40,000 tea trees in its headquarters in Taiwan. In the future, not only will there be tea to drink but also greater awareness of planting trees as a form of green public welfare to slow down the ecological crisis.

The compelling nature of impermanence, as seen in the environment, reminds us of the urgent need of Buddhist practice (savega): to reduce suffering and increase happiness, and to achieve liberation. Many countries value freedom and liberation, but liberation should start from the individual’s mind.

Buddhist practice is often directed towards awakening because it is believed that an awakened person will know what to do for the benefit of the self and others. Awakening is directed towards seeing the truth of the nature of existence. This truth is expressed in the Four Noble Truths, which the Buddha is said to have taught at the Deer Park in Sārnāth, India? These four truths are commonly articulated as life is suffering, the cause of suffering is desire and grasping, liberation from suffering is possible by eliminating passions and the way to emancipation is by practising the Noble Eightfold Path.1

The suffering that stems from today’s crises highlights the need for a practitioner to perceive their afflictions clearly. Buddhist teachings such as The Commentary of the Hundred Dharmas states that our mind contains greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance and doubt (also known as the five fundamental afflictions).2 To eliminate any or all of these mental states and suffering, one must be aware of how these are caused.

Afflictions arise from the six sense organs (of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and consciousness) and their associated sensory objects. Through contact by the sense organs with the sensory objects, desire and grasping are produced for objects we ‘like’ or ‘want’. As a result, feelings of pain arise, when the desire cannot be met, or pleasure when it can be met. With pain, vexation and hatred follow; with pleasure, greed appears. Hence, further desire and grasping follow that perpetuates this cycle of rebirth.

This force of craving for desirous objects and aversion for objects of displeasure is so strong that one cannot stop even if they want to. Buddhists call this the strong pull of karma. We may not be able to see the power of our greed when we have no shortage of supplies. However, on a day without water, one can clearly see the strength of one’s thirst and what it may cause one to do. As long as we are alive, people cannot disregard the six sense organs and the six sensory objects.

Buddhists believe that the life of the Buddha has proven that liberation from these sensory attachments is possible. The Eightfold Path advocates starting with the right view. Right view is an understanding of the workings of karma, or the causes and consequences of actions in this world. In The Sermon on the Seven Suns, the Buddha also teaches that everything is impermanent, unstable, and insecure. He goes on to say that liberation can only be obtained when craving for existence is annihilated. Followers can work diligently at experiencing, observing, and contemplating the truth of impermanence, as Prince Siddhartha (the Buddha) did.

The teaching of the Four Noble Truths also reminds people that there can be no liberation when they are not awakened. Being busy all their lives will only increase the troubles and wrong views of the unawakened. Instead, one should aim for self-transformation to transform the world. By observing the various changes in the body and mind, a practitioner can realize the impermanence of the world; by recognizing that we cannot control the change, one can be liberated from unrealistic expectations. With fewer expectations, one can be happy and at ease.

Hence, instead of running away from suffering, practitioners welcome suffering as the source of liberation. Venerable Master Hsing Yun says, ‘through frustration, we gain insight’. Buddhists who wish to attain supreme wisdom should know that such wisdom does not arise from thin air, but from meditating on our experiences of troubles and suffering. While the common reaction of many people is to avoid contact with others, the Venerable Master urges that the best place to practise is among sentient beings. The best model is that of a Bodhisattva, or a being determined to achieve enlightenment by liberating others.

To liberate others, the bodhisattva is also a model of compassion. A person who studies Buddhist teachings but does not practise compassion is still an ordinary person entrapped in their sensory bondage. It is only when one ‘suffers with’ others that bodhisattvas truly see others as themselves. With a compassionate heart, a bodhisattva does not consider adverse relationships as obstructions or enemies. When the mind is in harmony with this wisdom of interdependence, both the body and mind can then become free and liberated. The Bodhisattva’s practice is able to liberate others, and the self is liberated at the same time. This is why Buddhahood is said to be attained by following the way of the Bodhisattva.

Buddhism teaches one to eliminate greed, anger, and ignorance. By practising the Dharma, one is immersed in a bodhisattva’s state of being – benefiting self and others, as well as enlightening self and others. I hope that this book will stimulate your interest in exploring compassionate ways to liberate yourself and others from the sufferings of an imperilled world.

Most Venerable Hsin Bao

Chief Abbot

Fo Guang Shan

12 September 2022

1 These eight practices are right views, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.

2 Fo Guang Shan. (2023). Mahāyānaśatadharmaprakāśamukhaśāstra (Dasheng Bai Fa Ming Men Lun) 大乘百法明門論 [The Commentary of the Hundred Dharmas], NTI Reader, <https://ntireader.org/taisho/t1614_01.html>.


XX, 318
ISBN (Softcover)
Open Access
Publication date
2023 (November)
Compassion Buddhism adaptation to crises community resilience
Oxford, Berlin, Bruxelles, Chennai, Lausanne, New York, 2024. XX, 318 pp., 12 fig. col.

Biographical notes

Juewei Shi (Volume editor) Stephen Hill (Volume editor) Suzanne Franzway (Volume editor)

Venerable Juewei Shi has been an ordained monastic and a Buddhist Studies scholar for over twenty years. Juewei is Head of Program for Applied Buddhist Studies and Humanistic Buddhism, as well as Director of the Humanistic Buddhism Centre at the Nan Tien Institute, Australia. Her recent publications include "Connecting with the human condition from the inside out and outside in: a dialogue between a social anthropologist and a Buddhist theologian" (2022). Suzanne Franzway is an Emeritus Professor at UniSA. Her books include Sexual Politics of Gendered Violence and Women’s Citizenship (2018), Challenging Knowledge, Sex and Power: Gender, Work and Engineering (2013), Making Feminist Politics: Transnational Alliances between Women and Labor (2011), and Sexual Politics and Greedy Institutions: Union Women, Commitments and Conflicts in Public and in Private (2001). Stephen Hill is Emeritus Professor at the University of Wollongong. Prior to retirement, Stephen was United Nations Regional Director for Science for Asia and the Pacific, and in parallel, Principal Director and Ambassador of the UN organization, UNESCO. Prior to joining UNESCO in 1995, Stephen was Director of the Australian Research Council's National Centre of Excellence for Research Policy, at UOW, following seventeen years as Foundation Professor of Sociology.


Title: Cultivating Compassion