Whereas altruism is strongly advocated by religious people with hearty support of many scholars, and its high principle is held to be irrefutable and incontrovertible truth, Buddhism, however, says nothing of altruism, but on the contrary, urges that love, as the root cause of all sufferings and samsaric existence(existence of samsara), by all means, should be discarded. What is the difference between compassion and altruism? According to Buddhism, positively there is a world of difference between the two. Where there is love, it involves two aspects of love a subject to love and an object to be loved, e.g. the “I-personality” and the other or others, and between the two, there is a marked difference of love. Usually, one loves oneself more than others. If someone say that he loves others more than himself, it may be conceded that in such case, the motive of prejudice is not ruled out. Moreover, if love is conditional, and, as conditions are not immutable, change of love or loss of love would be inevitable, e.g. one may love another person because of the latter’s appearance, education, character, etc. but since all these things are subjected to change and if they are changed for worse, then love would be quickly lost. Again, assuming that the object of love is a person, and there is a rivalry of love over the same person, in such case, whoever captures the object, envy and conflict would remain unabated; thus there would be the suffering of meeting the hated, the suffering of not getting what one craves for, the suffering of parting with the beloved, and under these conditions, the pure and peaceful world would be turned into “five turbulent worlds.” In view of this, Buddha says that love is the root cause of transmigration and the source of vexations and sorrow. Considering that love is the cause of defilement, no matter how broadly, extensively and infinitely it may be extended to others, one can not be free from its power of contamination. An this is the reason why Buddhism refrains from promoting altruism. “Love thy enemies”, another popular slogan on the lips of faithful religious people, is paradoxical, if not hypocritical, for as long as there is “the enemy” in the sayer’s mind, there is no abatement of such bitter feelings as envy, hate and vengeance, therefore to say of loving one’s enemy is utterly a hypocrisy, lying and deception. On the other hand, Buddhism teaches us that the way to deal with those of evil intent is to look upon them neither as enemy nor as friend, but in accord with the fundamental principle of universal equality, to treat them as equals, and in playing this game, there is no place for love, because, on the understanding that all sentient beings are of one entity, and, therefore at parity with one another, at once All-Compassion would be aroused, averting every evil intention, and so nothing but happy feeling would ensue. In the light of this principle of Buddhism, let us proceed further to understand the true meaning of compassion.

In Buddhism, Compassion is defined with two Chinese characters “Chi”, “Bei”; “Chi” means loving-kindness to help others joyfully, and “Bei” means to deliver others from suffering out of pity. These two aspects of compassion are selfless, non-egoistic and based on the principle of universal equality. Here at this point lies the fundamental difference between compassion and altruism. As mentioned previously, as far as the material elements of the body and the psychical aspect of consciousness are concerned, all sentient beings are identical with one another. This shows conclusively that they are of one entity and at parity with one another. Hence, in Buddhist terms, “Chi” is said to be “pity for one and same entity”. Therefore in practising Compassion-Meditation, one should dwell with full attention on the thought that since all sentient beings, oneself included are of one substance and at parity with one another, one should help them, as best as one can, to satisfy their needs: If giving charity, he does not cherish the thought that he is the giver, and sentient beings are the receivers, what is given and how much is given, thus, in one’s mind no arrogance and self-conceit would arise; if charity is given without expecting fame, remuneration or anything in return and without any conditions whatsoever, this is called : “unconditioned almsgiving” or “compassion on equality basis”. If this principle of affinity of substance and equality of all sentient beings is put into practice, one would look upon others’ sufferings as if one’s own, and compassion would be aroused spontaneously and indiscriminately. And if help is given without making distinctions of “self” and others, without consideration of personal gains or advantages, and without any ulterior motive, this is called “The Great All-Compassion for the same entity”.

In the light of the principle of compassion, at once we can realize that it is wrong to kill those living things for food to satisfy our appetites; it is wrong to take what is not our own for personal enjoyment; it is wrong to have improper sexual relations. We can realize that passionate desire for beauty and wealth is nothing but manifestation of the mind, where both the subject and the object of desire are empty and unreal; from this standpoint, all killing, stealing and debauchery committed by sentient beings cannot but be called “stupidity”.

Again, with our understanding of the principle of compassion, we can realize that it is foolish to say of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara’s remarkable miracles as superstition, inasmuch as both Dharmakaya of every Bodhisattva and the essence of sentient beings are of one substance and at parity with each other, and it is because of this affinity that the S.O.S. call of the one may draw the spontaneous compassionate response of the other; however, there must be no lack of sincerity, otherwise the mid of sentient beings, contaminated by cravings and defilements, would hardly be in unison with that of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, and if the two minds do not meet on the common ground, it means that sentient beings are separating themselves far apart from the Bodhisattva and the two are not of one and the same essence, in that event when there is no compassion on the part of the sentient beings, naturally there will be no response from the compassionate Bodhisattva, for only the like may draw the like together; in short, without evoking compassion, one can hardly accomplish anything, and even the Dharma of Reciting Buddha can be of little avail.