Author Topic: The Importantance of Compassion  (Read 1086 times)

Offline Dharmakara

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4230
    • View Profile
The Importantance of Compassion
« on: July 11, 2015, 03:11:16 pm »
The Buddha taught that to realize enlightenment, a person must develop two qualities: wisdom and compassion. Wisdom and compassion are sometimes compared to two wings that work together to enable flying, or two eyes that work together to see deeply.

In the West, we're taught to think of "wisdom" as something that is primarily intellectual and "compassion" as something that is primarily emotional, and that these two things are separate and even incompatible.

We're led to believe that fuzzy, sappy emotion gets in the way of clear, logical wisdom. But this is not a Buddhist understanding.

The Sanskrit word usually translated as "wisdom" is prajna (in Pali, panna). I understand this word could also be translated as "consciousness," "discernment," or "insight." The many schools of Buddhism understand prajna somewhat differently, but generally we could say that prajna is understanding or discernment of the Buddha's teaching, especially the teaching of anatta, no self.

The word usually translated as "compassion" is karuna, which is understood to mean active sympathy or a willingness to bear the pain of others. In practice, prajna gives rise to karuna, and karuna gives rise to prajna. Truly, you can't have one without the other. They are a means to realizing enlightenment, and they are also enlighenment manifested.


Compassion as Training

In Buddhism, the ideal of practice is to selflessly act to alleviate suffering wherever it appears. You may argue it is impossible to elminate suffering, and maybe it is, yet we're to respond anyway.

What does being nice to others have to do with enlightenment? For one thing, it helps us realize that "individual me" and "individual you" are mistaken ideas. And as long as we're stuck in the idea of "what's in it for me?" we are not yet wise.

In Being Upright: Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts, Soto Zen teacher Reb Anderson wrote, "Reaching the limits of practice as a separate personal activity, we are ready to receive help from the compassionate realms beyond our discriminating awareness."

Reb Anderson continued, "We realize the intimate connection between the conventional truth and the ultimate truth through the practice of compassion. It is through compassion that we become thorougly grounded in the conventional truth and thus prepared to receive the ultimate truth. Compassion brings great warmth and kindness to both perspectives. It helps us to be flexible in our interpretation of the truth, and teaches us to give and receive help in practicing the precepts."

In The Essence of the Heart Sutra, His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote,

"According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It's not passive -- it's not empathy alone -- but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness)."


No Thanks

Have you ever seen someone do something courteous and then get angry for not being properly thanked? True compassion has no expectation of reward, even a simple "thank you," attached to it. Expecting a reward maintains the idea of a separate self and a separate other.

The ideal of dana paramita -- the perfection of giving -- is "no giver, no receiver." For this reason, traditionally begging monks receive alms silently and do not express thanks. Of course, in the conventional world there are givers and receivers, but it's important to remember that the act of giving is not possible without receiving. Thus, givers and receivers create each other, and one is not superior to the other.

That said, feeling and expressing gratitude chips away at our selfishness, so unless you are a begging monk it's all right to say "thank you" when appropriate.


Developing Compassion

To draw on an old joke, you get to be more compassionate the same way you get to Carnegie Hall -- practice.

It's already been noted that compassion arises from wisdom, just as wisdom arises from compassion. If you're feeling neither especially wise nor compassionate you may feel the whole project is hopeless. But the nun and teacher Pema Chodron says, "start where you are." Whatever mess your life is right now is the soil from which enlightenment may grow.

In truth, although you may take one step at a time, Buddhism is not a "one step at a time" process. Each of the eight parts of the Eightfold Path support all the other parts. Every step integrates all the steps.

That said, most people begin by better understanding their own suffering, which takes us back to prajna, wisdom. Usually meditation or other mindfulness practices are the means by which people begin to develop this understanding. As our self-delusions dissolve, we become more sensitive to the suffering of others. As we are more sensitive to the suffering of others, our self-delusions dissolve further.


Compassion for Yourself

After all this talk of selflessness, it may seem odd to end with compassion for oneself. But it's important not to run away from our own suffering.

Pema Chodron said, "In order to have compassion for others, we have to have compassion for ourselves." She writes that in Tibetan Buddhism there is a practice called tonglen, which is a kind of meditation practice for helping us connect to our own suffering and the suffering of others.

"Tonglen reverses the usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure and, in the process, we become liberated from a very ancient prison of selfishness. We begin to feel love both for ourselves and others and also we being to take care of ourselves and others. It awakens our compassion and it also introduces us to a far larger view of reality. It introduces us to the unlimited spaciousness that Buddhists call shunyata. By doing the practice, we begin to connect with the open dimension of our being."

Again, we see the way compassion "introduces us to a far larger view of reality." This larger view is seen by the two eyes of wisdom and compassion.


Source: About Religion
http://buddhism.about.com/od/basicbuddhistteachings/a/compassion.htm


Offline Ron-the-Elder

  • Member
  • Posts: 4485
  • May all beings live rightly and harmoniously.
    • View Profile
Re: The Importantance of Compassion
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2015, 08:45:37 pm »
In our Wednesday night ecumenical meditation group we often read Pema Chondron's commentaries regarding The Sutras.  As a result of listening to these wisdom and compassion have often been welcome visitors to our group.

Pema Chondron:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pema_Ch%C3%B6dr%C3%B6n
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.

Offline MissGrape

  • Mother of Dragons
  • Member
  • Posts: 107
  • Don't Worry ... Be Happy.
    • View Profile
Re: The Importantance of Compassion
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2015, 11:05:56 am »
I need to have more compassion for myself sometimes, I think. I give a lot to others but not enough to myself at times. :namaste:
:buddha: ~ Watcher on the Wall ~ :buddha2:

Offline Cobblers Apprentice

  • Member
  • Posts: 66
    • View Profile
Re: The Importantance of Compassion
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2015, 01:19:36 pm »


MissGrape, here is a passage from Pema Chodron's talk on Loving Kindness......

When people start to meditate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, they often think that somehow they're going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who they really are. It's a bit like saying, "If I jog, I'll be a much better person." "If I could only get a nicer house, I'd be a better person." "If I could meditate and calm down, I'd be a better person." Or the scenario may be that they find fault with others; they might say, "If it weren't for my husband, I'd have a perfect marriage." "If it weren't for the fact that my boss and I don't get on, my job would be just great." And "If it weren't for my mind, my meditation would be excellent."

But loving-kindness - "maitri" - towards ourselves doesn't mean getting rid of anything. "Maitri" means we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to change ourselves. Meditation practice is not about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That's the ground, that's what we study, that's what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest.

Sometimes among Buddhists the word "ego" is used in a derogatory sense, with a different connotation than the Freudian term. As Buddhists, we might say, "Well, then, we're supposed to get rid of it, right? Then there'd be no problem." On the contrary, the idea isn't to get rid of the ego but actually to begin to take an interest in ourselves, to investigate and be inquisitive about ourselves.

Offline Dharmakara

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4230
    • View Profile
Re: The Importantance of Compassion
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2015, 05:29:04 pm »
I need to have more compassion for myself sometimes, I think. I give a lot to others but not enough to myself at times. :namaste:

My friend, are you sure about that?

How can you have a lot of compassion for others and not enough for yourself?

     In order to have compassion for others, we have to have compassion for ourselves... there are no 'ands', 'ifs', or 'buts'.

Just as compassion and wisdom go hand-in-hand, the same can be said of compassion and forgiveness, that this also goes hand-in-hand, where one rises from the other, and visa versa --- in other words, it wouldn't be an issue of not enough compassion for oneself (which in and of itself would be an oxymoron), but specific to whether that compassion for oneself is tempered with forgiveness.

      Before you can live, a part of you has to die. You have to let go of what could have been, how you should have acted,
      and what you wish you would have said differently. You have to accept that you can’t change the past experiences, the
      opinions of others at that moment in time or outcomes from their choices or yours. When you have finally recognized
      that truth, then you will understand the true meaning of forgiveness of yourself and others.
     

Offline Cobblers Apprentice

  • Member
  • Posts: 66
    • View Profile
Re: The Importantance of Compassion
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2015, 12:21:44 am »
Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognise our shared humanity

(Pema Chodron)

Offline MissGrape

  • Mother of Dragons
  • Member
  • Posts: 107
  • Don't Worry ... Be Happy.
    • View Profile
Re: The Importantance of Compassion
« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2015, 10:01:02 am »


MissGrape, here is a passage from Pema Chodron's talk on Loving Kindness......

When people start to meditate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, they often think that somehow they're going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who they really are. It's a bit like saying, "If I jog, I'll be a much better person." "If I could only get a nicer house, I'd be a better person." "If I could meditate and calm down, I'd be a better person." Or the scenario may be that they find fault with others; they might say, "If it weren't for my husband, I'd have a perfect marriage." "If it weren't for the fact that my boss and I don't get on, my job would be just great." And "If it weren't for my mind, my meditation would be excellent."

But loving-kindness - "maitri" - towards ourselves doesn't mean getting rid of anything. "Maitri" means we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to change ourselves. Meditation practice is not about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That's the ground, that's what we study, that's what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest.

Sometimes among Buddhists the word "ego" is used in a derogatory sense, with a different connotation than the Freudian term. As Buddhists, we might say, "Well, then, we're supposed to get rid of it, right? Then there'd be no problem." On the contrary, the idea isn't to get rid of the ego but actually to begin to take an interest in ourselves, to investigate and be inquisitive about ourselves.


Thanks for sharing that with me Cobbler, and for your words as well Dharmakara. Always something to ponder when I come here to read and write.
:buddha: ~ Watcher on the Wall ~ :buddha2:

Offline Dhyana

  • Member
  • Posts: 64
    • View Profile
    • Zen of the Lotus
Re: The Importantance of Compassion
« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2015, 07:51:43 pm »
I have a very nice tattoo on my foot that says "Om Mani Padme Hum" in Tibetan. This is my daily reminder to be compassionate.

One thing I have discovered that helps, however, is to take the time to find compassion for someone who makes your life harder. It's hard at first, but it gets easier. After a while, it comes easy.

Offline MissGrape

  • Mother of Dragons
  • Member
  • Posts: 107
  • Don't Worry ... Be Happy.
    • View Profile
Re: The Importantance of Compassion
« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2015, 12:42:59 pm »
Good advice, Dhyana.  :namaste:
:buddha: ~ Watcher on the Wall ~ :buddha2:

Offline mysticmorn

  • Member
  • Posts: 98
    • View Profile
Re: The Importantance of Compassion
« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2015, 02:08:45 pm »
I'd like to add that wisdom is essential to the skillful practice of compassion.  Wisdom or insight is what guides us in  avoiding simplistic "idiot compassion", potentially counterproductive, and in implementing skillful means.  Sometimes I cringe at the thought of newly-minted Buddhists rushing out to spread their compassion somewhat heedlessly, around the family, the neighborhood, or the world..  Compassion isn't always about "being nice" to people.  Sometimes it takes the form of "tough love".

 It takes a lot of experience, learning and discernment to be skillful.  What's the expression--"The road to hell is paved with good intentions", or something?  I think most of us need to be mindful not to get carried away with our good intentions and our empathy, and rather, take a step back, exercise some humility, and be aware that situations often are more complex than they seem, solutions aren't always simple, and that we need to take time to carefully evaluate before rushing in to "help". 

On the other hand, sometimes it's necessary to act quickly and decisively, in the moment.  Allowing time to let our practice mature and give rise to wisdom is an important cornerstone of building capacity for skillful compassion, and for knowing when to seize the moment, and when to consider carefully before stepping into a situation.

Buddhism isn't about developing a savior complex; that is something that's ego-based.  Taming the ego as a means of cultivating wisdom is part of the total package.  All these aspects of Buddhist practice work together, like the gears in a watch, each supporting the other, in creating a harmonious whole.

Buddhism is holistic!  :)

 


SimplePortal 2.3.3 © 2008-2010, SimplePortal