Author Topic: Is empathy required for comassion?  (Read 2972 times)

overmyhead

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Is empathy required for comassion?
« on: January 03, 2010, 09:47:23 pm »
I have been thinking about what it takes to have genuine compassion for others.  Does it require that I feel their pain and suffering?  Is there a less ... intrusive way to harbor genuine compassion, or is genuine empathy always part of the package?  I am trying to think of counterexamples, but everything I can think of involves attachment of one form or another.

Offline humanitas

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Re: Is empathy required for comassion?
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2010, 10:34:43 pm »
I have been thinking about what it takes to have genuine compassion for others.  Does it require that I feel their pain and suffering?  Is there a less ... intrusive way to harbor genuine compassion, or is genuine empathy always part of the package?  I am trying to think of counterexamples, but everything I can think of involves attachment of one form or another.

Why are you separating the two (compassion-empathy)?
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overmyhead

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Re: Is empathy required for comassion?
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2010, 10:42:51 pm »
I don't know whether the distinction is real.  I made it because it seems that empathy is not sufficient for compassion, even if it is necessary.  I can imagine someone who, feeling another's pain, has no desire to alleviate that pain, just as I see people in my own life who have no desire to alleviate their own pain.

Offline Wonky Badger

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Re: Is empathy required for comassion?
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2010, 11:19:21 pm »
I would say that no, you do not have to have empathy to have compassion. You do not have to feel a person's suffering to feel compassion, but you have to have felt suffering at some point. You need to have experienced suffering so that you can identify their suffering with the one you have felt and in that sense understand what they are experiencing.
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Offline humanitas

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Re: Is empathy required for comassion?
« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2010, 11:33:24 pm »
I would say that no, you do not have to have empathy to have compassion. You do not have to feel a person's suffering to feel compassion, but you have to have felt suffering at some point. You need to have experienced suffering so that you can identify their suffering with the one you have felt and in that sense understand what they are experiencing.

Yes, but I would say that one must have enough understanding of sunyata to identify the suffering of the "other" as non-dual to one's "own" suffering.  The problem is that most people don't possess enough insight into the nature of emptiness (myself included) to be able to skillfully understand the suffering of someone they are trying to be compassionate towards.  Being compassionate is also a skill dependent on how much one has opened one's heart to emptiness.  I would say that you can feel empathy without compassion, but you can't feel compassion without empathy since non-dual nature of emptiness (and therefore suffering and all of samsara as well) automatically would allow you to empathize with someone (when you are compassionate arousing bodhicitta) which makes you vulnerable like them and allows them to feel that you understand them. If you are very skillfull I'm not sure there is a big distinction between empathy and compassion...  I'm not that skilled so I am mostly talking out of my behind.  Perhaps we should reference the terms in the dictionary, does anyone besides me find that a useful point of ref.? But if they share usages then I'd say that there is little separation when living one's life to work for the benefit of all sentient beings and awakening...  So there, Wonky I disagree with you.  

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« Last Edit: January 03, 2010, 11:36:40 pm by 0gyen Chodzom »
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Offline Wonky Badger

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Re: Is empathy required for comassion?
« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2010, 11:44:23 pm »
I would say that empathy is defined as feeling what someone else feels. Sharing their feelings. (I haven't double-checked)
If you see a man with an arrow in his chest, do you feel his pain? Do you need to feel it to be able to feel compassion for him? I would say no. But since all of us have felt different sensations and degrees of pain, we can assume that the arrow hurts him like heck and hence we can feel compassion for him.

I tend to forget the nature of emptiness myself and half of the time my mind is so dim that I can't grasp it. I really should try to be more mindful.
My actions are my only true belongings.
I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
My actions are the ground on which I stand.
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What would Buddha do?

Offline humanitas

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Re: Is empathy required for comassion?
« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2010, 11:50:31 pm »
I would say that empathy is defined as feeling what someone else feels. Sharing their feelings. (I haven't double-checked)
If you see a man with an arrow in his chest, do you feel his pain? Do you need to feel it to be able to feel compassion for him? I would say no. But since all of us have felt different sensations and degrees of pain, we can assume that the arrow hurts him like heck and hence we can feel compassion for him.

I tend to forget the nature of emptiness myself and half of the time my mind is so dim that I can't grasp it. I really should try to be more mindful.

see my latest request for sub-forum... we could always practice there!
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TMingyur

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Re: Is empathy required for comassion?
« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2010, 12:02:47 am »
"genuine compassion" is the genuine wish that beings may be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. And the prerequisite for "genuine compassion" is "genuine love" which is the genuine wish that beings may have happiness and its causes.

There is no need to "re-invent the wheel" if one follows the teachings of the Buddhas.

Kind regards
« Last Edit: January 04, 2010, 12:07:02 am by TMingyur »

Offline Wonky Badger

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Re: Is empathy required for comassion?
« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2010, 12:39:05 am »
"genuine compassion" is the genuine wish that beings may be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. And the prerequisite for "genuine compassion" is "genuine love" which is the genuine wish that beings may have happiness and its causes.

There is no need to "re-invent the wheel" if one follows the teachings of the Buddhas.

Kind regards
Then are we talking about different kinds of compassion? "Genuine compassion" sounds really nice and all, but it also sounds like you could blissfully walk around among suffering people, having "genuine compassion" for them and wishing them well but not really acknowledging them or their individual suffering.
My actions are my only true belongings.
I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
My actions are the ground on which I stand.
---
What would Buddha do?

Offline Ngawang Drolma

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Re: Is empathy required for comassion?
« Reply #9 on: January 04, 2010, 01:25:06 am »
I apologize in advance for not having read through these posts yet.
But based on the title, I'd like to say that I don't think that empathy is required for compassion.  But it certainly can't hurt the development of compassion either. 

I'm fairly empathetic and to be honest, I don't always appreciate it.  If I had a choice in the matter I might choose to be a little less quick to walk in another's shoes.  It comes with pain, oftentimes.  I've known people too who are skilled in experiencing empathy but lacking in compassion.  They're definitely not the same thing.

 :namaste:

TMingyur

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Re: Is empathy required for comassion?
« Reply #10 on: January 04, 2010, 02:19:44 am »
"genuine compassion" is the genuine wish that beings may be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. And the prerequisite for "genuine compassion" is "genuine love" which is the genuine wish that beings may have happiness and its causes.

There is no need to "re-invent the wheel" if one follows the teachings of the Buddhas.

Kind regards
Then are we talking about different kinds of compassion? "Genuine compassion" sounds really nice and all, but it also sounds like you could blissfully walk around among suffering people, having "genuine compassion" for them and wishing them well but not really acknowledging them or their individual suffering.

Of course you can have "genuine compassion" and walk around among suffering people without any further engagement than to have "genuine compassion". But I doubt that you may "blissfully" walk around. But what "bliss" means may be another question.

Kind regards
« Last Edit: January 04, 2010, 02:27:53 am by TMingyur »

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Is empathy required for compassion?
« Reply #11 on: January 04, 2010, 11:11:52 am »
My sense is that the skill of paying attention to the needs of others and being of beneficial assistance is facillitated by both experience and willingness.  Therefore, your inkling that compassion is improved by empathy seems reasonable.

My personal understanding based upon the life experience of being the son of a mentally ill mother, a poorly socialized father both of whom were marginally educated and extremely intelligent, the brother of a drug addicted sister, having raised and educated four children into adulthood, buried one truly compassionate and caring wife, watching her die of cancer in total helplessness, and now the graduating to the role of playmate of five grandchildren, one of whom will shortly graduate from high school is the practiced ability to listen to problems shared with me and seeing their related experiences with eyes, ears, and a heart, which conceives of their issues and worries with great depth of understanding, but the ability to do so from discovery to resolution.

I call this particular skill the empathy of a grandfather, always served with smoochy kisses, hugs, and endless patience.  A nice plate of spaghetti and meat balls is helpfull. :hug:
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-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Chokyi Wangpo

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Re: Is empathy required for comassion?
« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2010, 11:21:06 am »
"genuine compassion" is the genuine wish that beings may be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. And the prerequisite for "genuine compassion" is "genuine love" which is the genuine wish that beings may have happiness and its causes.

There is no need to "re-invent the wheel" if one follows the teachings of the Buddhas.

Kind regards
Then are we talking about different kinds of compassion? "Genuine compassion" sounds really nice and all, but it also sounds like you could blissfully walk around among suffering people, having "genuine compassion" for them and wishing them well but not really acknowledging them or their individual suffering.

Of course you can have "genuine compassion" and walk around among suffering people without any further engagement than to have "genuine compassion". But I doubt that you may "blissfully" walk around. But what "bliss" means may be another question.

Kind regards
We are always walking among the suffering.

TMingyur

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Re: Is empathy required for comassion?
« Reply #13 on: January 04, 2010, 11:32:49 am »
"genuine compassion" is the genuine wish that beings may be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. And the prerequisite for "genuine compassion" is "genuine love" which is the genuine wish that beings may have happiness and its causes.

There is no need to "re-invent the wheel" if one follows the teachings of the Buddhas.

Kind regards
Then are we talking about different kinds of compassion? "Genuine compassion" sounds really nice and all, but it also sounds like you could blissfully walk around among suffering people, having "genuine compassion" for them and wishing them well but not really acknowledging them or their individual suffering.

Of course you can have "genuine compassion" and walk around among suffering people without any further engagement than to have "genuine compassion". But I doubt that you may "blissfully" walk around. But what "bliss" means may be another question.

Kind regards
We are always walking among the suffering.
Of course and we can do so with or without genuine compassion. And we ourselves are suffering with or without genuine compassion.

Kind regards

Chokyi Wangpo

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Re: Is empathy required for comassion?
« Reply #14 on: January 04, 2010, 11:35:37 am »
"genuine compassion" is the genuine wish that beings may be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. And the prerequisite for "genuine compassion" is "genuine love" which is the genuine wish that beings may have happiness and its causes.

There is no need to "re-invent the wheel" if one follows the teachings of the Buddhas.

Kind regards
Then are we talking about different kinds of compassion? "Genuine compassion" sounds really nice and all, but it also sounds like you could blissfully walk around among suffering people, having "genuine compassion" for them and wishing them well but not really acknowledging them or their individual suffering.

Of course you can have "genuine compassion" and walk around among suffering people without any further engagement than to have "genuine compassion". But I doubt that you may "blissfully" walk around. But what "bliss" means may be another question.

Kind regards
We are always walking among the suffering.
Of course and we can do so with or without genuine compassion. And we ourselves are suffering with or without genuine compassion.

Kind regards
That was my point.

 


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