Karuna Meditation Technique: The Ultimate Guide

Karuna meditation is a type of meditation that Buddhists use to develop compassion. In this guide we’ll look at how to do Karuna meditation technique, as well as the benefits that it offers you.



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If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.   – Dalai Lama


What does Karuna meditation mean?


The Pali term for compassion is “Karuna”, a word close to the heart of Buddhism and Jainism.

In Theravada Buddhism, living through Karuna (or living through compassion) is seen as the key to attaining great happiness in life. It is one of the four “divine abodes” (brahmavihāra), along with loving kindness (Pāli: mettā), sympathetic joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkha). It is considered impossible to become a bodhisattva (one who has achieved enlightenment) without achieving a high level of Karuna.

In Jainism, Karuna is one of the four reflections of universal friendship, the others being amity (maitri), appreciation (pramoda) and equanimity (madhyastha). These four reflections are used in Jainism to stop the influx of karma.



As a show of ultimate Karuna, or compassion, Bodhisatva’s (enlightened ones) vow to lead all sentient beings away from suffering towards the attainment of enlightenment.

This is a Buddhist statue of a boddhisattva, an enlughtened Buddha who lived for compassionate ends. This bodhisattva statue inspires compassion, which is developed through karuna meditation



One of the most important texts on the Bodhisattva path is Shantideva’s Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra.

Shantideva describes Karuna, and compassion, as written in the image below.

This scroll is of an actual classic text in which karuna meditation technique is described.



But it isn’t just spiritualities and religions that tout the importance of sympathy. Science does too.  Compassion is very important and beneficial to your health.

For starters, Buddha was right. Science has proven that being empathetic does make you happy. Research conducted by the National Institute of Health shows that the brain’s pleasure centres are activated then we perform acts of kindness.

If you spend a lot of money shopping for yourself you might as well quit and start shopping for other people instead. A study published in Science showed that people are on average happier when they spend their money on someone else than they are when they spend money on themselves.

If you’re single you might also like to show compassion, as science has proven that we are naturally attract to people who are kind, and not just people who are kind to us but people who are kind in general.

Then there’s the fact that your acts of kindness will make other people happy too.

Jonathan Haidt at the University of Virginia conducted research into the affect of kindness on group mentality. He showed that people feel happier when they see other people being kind. A subsequent study by UC San Diego showed that kindness is also contagious. When people see someone being kind they’re more likely to be kind themselves.  So, you’re one act of kindness will make you and others happy, and it will also make other people kinder too. This rising kindness then spreads like wildfire and before you know it we’re all being kind and loving to one another (it isn’t as hard as most people think). You can read more about this research on Psychological Science.


In case you somehow aren’t taken by the idea of universal happiness, you might like to know that kindness has also been proven to make you live longer. Yep. Many studies have shown that kindness makes you more resistant to illness and helps you to live a longer life.

And it isn’t just good for physical health but mental health too. If you ever suffer from anxiety or depression, do this: Be outrageously kind to someone. Just do something really, really nice. Science suggests it could lift you out of a funk.

And amazingly,  science has shown that being kind and compassionate actually makes you feel as though you have more time, not less.


  • Be kind to people.
  • Be kind to nature.
  • Be kind to animals.

Just be kind. Because every wins.

Be kind. Be kind to people. Be kind to nature. Be kind to animals. Just be kind. Because every wins.



Now let’s take a look a Karuna Meditation Technique

Karuna meditation is best practiced after loving kindness. Loving kindness is like the soil on top of which we build the flowers of compassion. But before you start being compassionate to others, first be compassionate to yourself. It can take time to feel genuinely compassionate. Don’t feel bad if you don’t turn into Ghandi on your first try. Give yourself some time. When you try the Karuna technique below, be patient with yourself. When you’re compassionate to yourself you will naturally start to be compassionate to others too.

With that in mind let’s take a look at how to do Karuna Meditaiton

How To Do Karuna Meditation Technique


1)      Find somewhere quiet where you will not be disturbed. Sit with good posture in a comfortable position.

2)      Take a few moments to do a body scan meditation, focusing on the sensations in your body. You may also do a breathing meditation before continuing.

3)      Bring to mind people who have been unfortunate.  Begin with the people for whom you feel the most sympathy. Remember that sincerity is everything in the Karuna meditation technique.

4)      Wish the individual freedom from their suffering. Wish for them to be happier, healthier, more fortunate and more successful.

5)      You may find it beneficial to speak out your wish for this person. For instance, for someone who is ill you may say, “May they become healthy and strong” or for someone who has been unfortunate with money, “May they find financial security, richness and prosperity.” These lines are just examples—express your sincere compassion in the words that feel right to you.

6)      If you feel any conflicting emotions—for instance if you feel judgmental of the person—be mindful of your feelings but do not dwell on them. Simply observe them (if you struggle to do this, you’ll find Vipassana and Mindfulness very helpful).

8)      Get in touch with the feeling of compassion. Be mindful of it. How does it feel in the body and the mind? Are there any obstacles in the way to true compassion? Be mindful of all that is happening within.

9) Compassion is a feeling, and a feeling is an energy. Connect with that inner energy of compassion. Meditate on it. The more you meditate on the energy of compassion, the more that energy will grow inside of you, making you more and more compassionate, developing your levels of Karuna one step at a time. Before long you may feel like a Bodhisatva!

The Dalai Lama one of the most compassionate people in the world. I wonder how much the Dalai Lama practices Karuna meditation for compassion?


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As part of your compassion training, also take a look at Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta). Let me know how you get on.

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Paul Martin Harrison

Im on a mission to spread spirituality and enlightenment. How? By writing and teaching. You guys asked me to write a book that will teach you how to meditate properly and how to find enlightenment. Guess what? The book is out now. It's called Welcome To Silence : A Practical Guide To Mindfulness And Meditation.

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