Our capacity for empathy is the source of that most precious of all qualities, which in Tibetan we call nying-je.
Nying-je connotes love, affection, kindness, gentleness, generosity of spirit and warm-heartedness. But most importantly, nying-je denotes a feeling of connection with others and reflects its origins in empathy.
We can understand nying-je in terms of a combination of empathy and reason. Empathy we can think of as a very honest person; reason as someone who is very practical. When the two are put together, the combination is highly effective. This fact that we can enhance our feelings of concern for others is of supreme importance because the more we develop compassion, the more genuinely ethical our conduct will be. As we have seen, when we act out of concern for others, our behaviour towards them will automatically be positive. This is because we have no room for suspicion when our hearts are filled with love. It is as if an inner door has opened and is allowing us to reach out.
Thus, if I may give an example from my own experience, I find that whenever I meet new people and have this positive disposition towards them, I notice that there is no barrier between us. No matter who or what the persons may be, whether they have blonde hair or they have black hair, or they have hair that is dyed green, I feel that I am simply encountering a fellow human being who has the same desire as me to be happy and who tries to avoid suffering just as I do. And I find that I can speak to these people as if they were my old friends, even when we are meeting for the first time.
By keeping in mind that ultimately, we are all brothers and sisters, that there is no substantial difference between us, that all others share the same desire as me to be happy and to avoid suffering, I can express my feelings as readily to people as I would to someone whom I have known intimately for years. And not just with a few nice words or gestures, but really straight from the heart — heart to heart, no matter whatever is the language barrier.
From Ancient Wisdom, Modern World [Little, Brown and Company (UK) 1999]