Author Topic: My Difficulties in Cultivating Compassion  (Read 2596 times)

Offline Reed

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My Difficulties in Cultivating Compassion
« on: September 29, 2012, 11:46:19 pm »
I am a relatively newcomer to the Dharma. I have been practicing for about a little over a year now, and there is one aspect of practice in my day-to-day that I find gives me particular difficulty. That aspect is the cultivation of true compassion for others. This certainly does not apply to all situations, but I find myself struggling to find empathy for people in situations such as those in which a seemingly minor circumstance, such as the desire for a certain food, is viewed as major problem and of lasting importance. I often catch myself looking at situations in this same way, and I try my best to correct my thoughts and avoid the same mistaken view in the future. At the same time, when I see someone else causing harm to themselves in this way, I try to recognize their suffering and sympathize that they cannot to curb the harmful thoughts. However, subconsciously I suppose the thought in my head is "if I am suffering the same suffering as this person in life, then why should I feel compassion for their inability to control thoughts that obviously cause them pain?" Of course I recognize the flaws in this way of thinking, but I am not always aware enough of my thoughts to notice this view, and the that makes it difficult to find empath for those who are ignorant of their own self-harm. Does anybody have any advice for someone seeking to better develop true compassion?
« Last Edit: September 30, 2012, 12:01:44 am by Reed »

Offline Spiny Norman

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Re: My Difficulties in Cultivating Compassion
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2012, 02:32:22 am »
Does anybody have any advice for someone seeking to better develop true compassion?


You might find it helpful to do some metta bhavana practice ( development of loving kindness ).   The first stage is particularly important.
See here: http://www.wildmind.org/metta

Offline dhammaseeker51

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Re: My Difficulties in Cultivating Compassion
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2012, 11:07:00 am »
You are not alone.
I think it's probably the most difficult part of the practice.

with Metta

Offline 0118401

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Re: My Difficulties in Cultivating Compassion
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2012, 12:52:55 pm »
I have been practising for over 12 years and still struggle with developing compassion for others. Nevertheless, I feel that my mind is very different to how it was and it has changed (in a good way).

I'm not sure what your practice is or if you follow a particular tradition. I would agree that doing some metta bhavana practice (development of loving kindness) will help. Personally, I have found the Lamrim meditations explained in the mediatation handbook by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and the various lines of reasoning explained to help generate compassion particularly helpful (a combination of the Sevenfold Cause and Effect and Exchanging Onself With Others). Lamrim will also help you to be mindful so that you are more aware of your thoughts.

I would recommend going along to you nearest dharma centre and getting some teachings on this and talk to other practitioners (very important). You are not alone in struggling with this. We have to learn to encourage ourself, that is our responsibility, so do not be disheartened if you struggle. You mind will change in all sorts of other beneficial ways even if you do not feel that you've developed compassion as welll as you think you should.

I pray that you develop universal compassion and bodhichitta for the benefit of all  :namaste:

Offline FallingLeaf

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Re: My Difficulties in Cultivating Compassion
« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2012, 01:02:14 pm »
Classic ego driven behavior and egos don't give up their power easily. Practice mindfulness until its clear that this is just your ego doing what egos evolved to do.  I augment traditional practice with a lot of reading from contemporary literature that may have a slightly different way of looking at the same concepts as Buddhism. You might like a title such as 'The Ego Tunnel: The Science Of The Mind And The Myth Of The Self' by Thomas Metzinger. I'm not an especially touchy/feely kinda guy so the whole loving kindness approach just feels a little awkward for me. I focus on wisdom guided by knowledge. It suits my cerebral nature and once you have wisdom you will have compassion, since you can't be wise without it.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2012, 01:09:06 pm by FallingLeaf »

Offline MikeL

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Re: My Difficulties in Cultivating Compassion
« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2012, 06:33:29 pm »
There may be certain things that cannot be approached directly.  Compassion may be one of them. 

Can a person truly be altruistic?  Can one really put others before themselves?  If I am compassionate because I think it will get me somewhere, or altruistic because it will make me a better person, am I really being compassionate or altruistic?  These might seem be to be contradictions or paradoxes of any mind-body that sees itself as a self.  How can a self not serve itself? 

True altruism or compassion may only be accessible to those mind-bodies that no longer have selves to serve. 

When you no longer see people as persons and when "you" no longer see "yourself" as a independent, autonomous person, then compassion will fill all space for an awakened mind.

Try not to worry too much about it.  Really.  What matters most is intention, not action.  That which you do without thought creates no karma; that which you know that you do, accumulates karma.  Take not yourself seriously or concretely, and you'll occupy the illusion we call life, and know that it's an illusion.  Then compassion will come very easily.  Be here now. 

Don't recall:  let go of what has happened.
Don't imagine:  let go of what could happen.
Don't think:  let go of what's happening now.
Don't examine: quit trying to figure things out.
Don't control:  quit trying to make things happen. 
Rest, relax, right now. 

It's that last line that says all that you need to know. 

Be well.

Offline msmiitz19

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Re: My Difficulties in Cultivating Compassion
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2016, 10:40:36 am »
Practice tonglen and think of how your mother took care of you selflessly growing up. Somebody has helped you on your path and everybody has a soft spot towards someone.

Offline The Artis Magistra

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Re: My Difficulties in Cultivating Compassion
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2017, 02:39:35 am »
Hello. Look at all these compassionate people who reached out to help you.

I have some tips you could test out for compassion.

Be good to animals, insects, and plants, even inanimate objects, walk gently and considerately but not superstitiously.

Practice goodness, extra courtesy, extra politeness, extra awesomeness and niceness and beneficence every opportunity you get, even to yourself, even when no one is around.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: My Difficulties in Cultivating Compassion
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2017, 05:20:39 am »
Quote
Reed:  "... one aspect of practice in my day-to-day that I find gives me particular difficulty. That aspect is the cultivation of true compassion for others.

My suggestion is to re-define compassion: 

"com·pas·sion
[k uhm- pash- uhn]

NOUN
1.
a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering."
...from dictionary.com

Certainly, none of us as Buddhists could disagree with the last part of this definition, which is "a desire to alleviate suffering."  ...because that is why we practice, and having had any success at all, we know from our own personal experience that freedom from suffering is better than suffering for everyone.  Or, is it?

Suppose a drug addict will not give up their drug.  Their addiction to it compells them to steal, perhaps beat-up old women or even their parents in order to acquire the money to make their next purchase of their fix.  At this point they cannot help themselves.  But, eventuall they get to a point where nothing, no drug at any dose can attenuate their pain.  They reach a point where they will either do anything, even kill to get rid of this pain, or often die themselves due to an overdose, or a bad batch of their available drug for that evening. 

If lucky they then eventually come to realize that drugs are not the solution to their problem, they reach their bottom and  as a result become willing and motivated to ask for assistance. 

Would anyone have compassion in this case?  Does anyone not understand the desperate straits addicts are in? 

Consider that all attachment is in reality an addiction and that we cannot help ourselves when addicted. 

As addictions cause suffering through attachment and dependence upon drugs, so does all forms of attachment as Buddha points out in his Second Noble Truth.



Quote
.. I find myself struggling to find empathy for people in situations such as those in which a seemingly minor circumstance, such as the desire for a certain food, is viewed as major problem and of lasting importance. I often catch myself looking at situations in this same way, and I try my best to correct my thoughts and avoid the same mistaken view in the future. At the same time, when I see someone else causing harm to themselves in this way, I try to recognize their suffering and sympathize that they cannot to curb the harmful thoughts. However, subconsciously I suppose the thought in my head is "if I am suffering the same suffering as this person in life, then why should I feel compassion for their inability to control thoughts that obviously cause them pain?"

Realize that empathy does not equal compassion.  Empathy implies that we have had similar experience and understand the other individual's situation. 
In fact we do not truly understand the condition and depths of the suffering of others.  We may see the outcroppings of their suffering in some cases, but in other cases those in suffering might cover it up very well.  Some people may ber suffering terribly, but do not even realize it themselves, because they have become accomodated to it.  For example folks in sressful jobs or horrific marriages usually find themselves in very stressful situations.  Battered wives may think that everyone's marriages are like what they are experiencing.  Those who marry drunks, whose parents were also drunks are usually in the same boat, and out of ignorance don't even realize how or why they got to their condition in the first place, simply because they may have been born into it.

Quote
Of course I recognize the flaws in this way of thinking, but I am not always aware enough of my thoughts to notice this view, and the that makes it difficult to find empath for those who are ignorant of their own self-harm. Does anybody have any advice for someone seeking to better develop true compassion?"

My suggestion is to begin with studying the ways in which we are presonally suffering first, and then observe noting and realizing that all of us in this human condition react to life's circumstances in pretty much the same ways, and that some of us adapt, suppress, or merely pretend that we are not suffering better than others.

It is easy to visit a cancer ward, or a veteran's hospital, or a mental institution, or a hospice and see suffering.  Come to realize that as Buddha said in his First Noble Truth that anguish, saddness, stress, fear, worry, pain, and all sorts of agony (birth, aging, disease and death) are the human condition in this samsaric realm in which we live.  Those in the process of dying have difficulty letting go of life.  Those againg struggle to let go of their attachement to their youth and vigor.  Those in pain, those afflicted with disease, those aggrivated by deteriorating joints,..... those in bad jobs for which they find no satisfaction, or which rob them of their family life; those fighting in battles forced upon them by governments, or by invading or abusive exterior forces, .....all of these are suffering from an inability to walk away from that which is causing their suffering.  Attachement causes suffering for all of us.

So, realising that we are all suffering in one respect or another, having gained the insight that we must begin to express compassion by first having compassion for ourselves, as all humans, and especailly as for all life, which struggles for its existence in this harsh universe in which we live, we might find it easier to have compassion in general.  I hope so!   :hug:
« Last Edit: July 16, 2017, 05:39:17 am by Ron-the-Elder »
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Online IdleChater

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Re: My Difficulties in Cultivating Compassion
« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2017, 06:10:48 am »
Quote
Reed:  "... one aspect of practice in my day-to-day that I find gives me particular difficulty. That aspect is the cultivation of true compassion for others.

My suggestion is to re-define compassion: 

"com·pas·sion
[k uhm- pash- uhn]

NOUN
1.
a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering."
...from dictionary.com

Certainly, none of us as Buddhists could disagree with the last part of this definition, which is "a desire to alleviate suffering."  ...because that is why we practice, and having had any success at all, we know from our own personal experience that freedom from suffering is better than suffering for everyone.  Or, is it?

Suppose a drug addict will not give up their drug.  Their addiction to it compells them to steal, perhaps beat-up old women or even their parents in order to acquire the money to make their next purchase of their fix.  At this point they cannot help themselves.  But, eventuall they get to a point where nothing, no drug at any dose can attenuate their pain.  They reach a point where they will either do anything, even kill to get rid of this pain, or often die themselves due to an overdose, or a bad batch of their available drug for that evening. 

If lucky they then eventually come to realize that drugs are not the solution to their problem, they reach their bottom and  as a result become willing and motivated to ask for assistance. 

Would anyone have compassion in this case?  Does anyone not understand the desperate straits addicts are in? 

Consider that all attachment is in reality an addiction and that we cannot help ourselves when addicted. 

As addictions cause suffering through attachment and dependence upon drugs, so does all forms of attachment as Buddha points out in his Second Noble Truth.



Quote
.. I find myself struggling to find empathy for people in situations such as those in which a seemingly minor circumstance, such as the desire for a certain food, is viewed as major problem and of lasting importance. I often catch myself looking at situations in this same way, and I try my best to correct my thoughts and avoid the same mistaken view in the future. At the same time, when I see someone else causing harm to themselves in this way, I try to recognize their suffering and sympathize that they cannot to curb the harmful thoughts. However, subconsciously I suppose the thought in my head is "if I am suffering the same suffering as this person in life, then why should I feel compassion for their inability to control thoughts that obviously cause them pain?"

Realize that empathy does not equal compassion.  Empathy implies that we have had similar experience and understand the other individual's situation. 
In fact we do not truly understand the condition and depths of the suffering of others.  We may see the outcroppings of their suffering in some cases, but in other cases those in suffering might cover it up very well.  Some people may ber suffering terribly, but do not even realize it themselves, because they have become accomodated to it.  For example folks in sressful jobs or horrific marriages usually find themselves in very stressful situations.  Battered wives may think that everyone's marriages are like what they are experiencing.  Those who marry drunks, whose parents were also drunks are usually in the same boat, and out of ignorance don't even realize how or why they got to their condition in the first place, simply because they may have been born into it.

Quote
Of course I recognize the flaws in this way of thinking, but I am not always aware enough of my thoughts to notice this view, and the that makes it difficult to find empath for those who are ignorant of their own self-harm. Does anybody have any advice for someone seeking to better develop true compassion?"

My suggestion is to begin with studying the ways in which we are presonally suffering first, and then observe noting and realizing that all of us in this human condition react to life's circumstances in pretty much the same ways, and that some of us adapt, suppress, or merely pretend that we are not suffering better than others.

It is easy to visit a cancer ward, or a veteran's hospital, or a mental institution, or a hospice and see suffering.  Come to realize that as Buddha said in his First Noble Truth that anguish, saddness, stress, fear, worry, pain, and all sorts of agony (birth, aging, disease and death) are the human condition in this samsaric realm in which we live.  Those in the process of dying have difficulty letting go of life.  Those againg struggle to let go of their attachement to their youth and vigor.  Those in pain, those afflicted with disease, those aggrivated by deteriorating joints,..... those in bad jobs for which they find no satisfaction, or which rob them of their family life; those fighting in battles forced upon them by governments, or by invading or abusive exterior forces, .....all of these are suffering from an inability to walk away from that which is causing their suffering.  Attachement causes suffering for all of us.

So, realising that we are all suffering in one respect or another, having gained the insight that we must begin to express compassion by first having compassion for ourselves, as all humans, and especailly as for all life, which struggles for its existence in this harsh universe in which we live, we might find it easier to have compassion in general.  I hope so!   :hug:

Wow,  responong to a 3-year old post.  Thats kinda like sending an email to a gravestone.   :lmfao:

Offline VisuddhiRaptor

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Re: My Difficulties in Cultivating Compassion
« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2017, 02:06:34 am »
Wow,  responong to a 3-year old post.  Thats kinda like sending an email to a gravestone.   :lmfao:

 :teehee:  :namaste:

Offline VisuddhiRaptor

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Re: My Difficulties in Cultivating Compassion
« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2017, 02:14:39 am »
Be good to animals, insects, and plants, even inanimate objects, walk gently and considerately but not superstitiously.

In Buddhism, the word translated as 'compassion' refers to the willingness to help people overcome suffering therefore is highly dependent upon having wisdom & understanding about the human condition. In other words, it requires more understanding than that which comes from giving a monkey a banana or a dog half of your lunch. :namaste:

Offline The Artis Magistra

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Re: My Difficulties in Cultivating Compassion
« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2017, 03:47:25 pm »
Haha yes, they should do those goodly things you and I mentioned as well, you and I should do so too. Regardless of whatever or who says what.

Offline Anemephistus

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Re: My Difficulties in Cultivating Compassion
« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2017, 05:59:24 am »
Wow,  responong to a 3-year old post.  Thats kinda like sending an email to a gravestone.   :lmfao:

 :teehee:  :namaste:

It's now five years old, but I still found it relevant  :D

 


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