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Can you have too much compassion?

JakbobJakbob Explorer
edited August 2010 in Buddhism for Beginners
When you define the word compassion, it means to have a deep awareness of and sympathy for another's suffering . In Buddhism, we should be compassionate, understanding, thoughtful, and kind. But does compassion really fit here? I interpret it as, one should be aware and acknowledge another's suffering. Okay this makes sense. And to then have sympathy for them is to in a way take on that feeling they are having and make an effort to end this suffering that they are experiencing. This seems big because I always viewed Buddhism as being passive. To not hold view or perceptions or to act out on others to change them. But what if the person doesn't want to, or isn't willing to be liberated from their suffering. Do we still pursuit or do we give up?

In summary- If someone is suffering, and as a buddhist you wish to help relieve them from this, is it our place to try to help them? Or are we doing the wrong thing by not being more compassionate... Confused I am. :)

Also, how can one be compassionate to another person, without clinging? This also seems like a challenge.
Namaste

Comments

  • fivebellsfivebells Veteran
    edited August 2010
    The practical Buddhist understanding of compassion is a little different than the usual English meaning. The practice leads to an open restful awareness of the experience of pain, and this awareness is what is meant by compassion. It naturally leads to "compassionate" actions, in the sense of actions which bring an end to suffering. From this perspective, there can be no such thing as too much compassion. There can be too much action to bring an end to pain (meddling), but that is not what compassion really means in this context.
  • JakbobJakbob Explorer
    edited August 2010
    [QUOTE=fivebells;124789]The practical Buddhist understanding of compassion is a little different than the usual English meaning. The practice leads to an open restful awareness of the experience of pain, and this awareness is what is meant by compassion. It naturally leads to "compassionate" actions, in the sense of actions which bring an end to suffering. From this perspective, there can be no such thing as too much compassion. There can be too much action to bring an end to pain (meddling), but that is not what compassion really means in this context.[/QUOTE]

    I understand this, but is it as a Buddhist our responsibility to make that attempt to "fix" others or is the true goal just acknowledge its presence?

    I think I just realise what I was looking for. We can be compassionate and understanding and respect someone, even if that means they choose suffering over liberation, but only they can liberate themselves if they choose, we cannot do that for them.
  • nanadhajananadhaja Veteran
    edited August 2010
    As buddhists,we of course should develop compassion.This compassion extends to all sentient beings,which is why there is the aspirational prayer"May all beings be happy and know the cause of happiness-May all sentient beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering".However we should try to be equonomous(sorry,not sure how to spell that,please have compassion)so that we do not find ourselves caught up too much in the suffering.Not always easy-not yet at least.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited August 2010
    Wisdom and compassion are like two wings of a bird. Without one, the other cannot function.
    look up the difference between Wise Compassion, and Idiot Compassion.

    In brief, Idiot Compassion contains and inherent desire to effect a change in another person.
    Wise compassion enables a person to make changes for themselves.
  • edited August 2010
    [quote=Jakbob;124790]
    I think I just realise what I was looking for. We can be compassionate and understanding and respect someone, even if that means they choose suffering over liberation, but only they can liberate themselves if they choose, we cannot do that for them.[/quote]

    You may enjoy [URL="http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel006.html"]this[/URL]

    Compassion isn't the only thing Buddhists wish to develop. There are the 4 sublime states. They include equanimity. Equanimity results in an awareness that there will always be suffering and not everyone has found the path to end it and not everyone cares. It is not the job of a Buddhist to shove the darma down someone's throat or beat them over the head with it. However, compassion might result in your wanting to share some bit of it in plain language with others and assisting those who express interest in learning more.

    Even more important though is to turn the focus inward. Eventually people will likely become interested in why you are the way you are because you appear different than most (in a good way).
  • fivebellsfivebells Veteran
    edited August 2010
    [quote=Jakbob;124790]I understand this, but is it as a Buddhist our responsibility to make that attempt to "fix" others or is the true goal just acknowledge its presence?[/quote] My responsibility as a Buddhist is to open to whatever arises with clarity, acceptance and gentle persistence. Ethical behavior happens to arise when this stance is maintained, but ethical behavior is not the practice itself, nor is it the end goal.

    [quote=Jakbob;124790]I think I just realise what I was looking for. We can be compassionate and understanding and respect someone, even if that means they choose suffering over liberation, but only they can liberate themselves if they choose, we cannot do that for them.[/quote]
    That sounds mostly true. There is scope for skillful manipulation to help bring someone to awareness, but it is quite limited, and certainly can't proceed effectively without compassion (in the sense I meant), acceptance, and clear understanding.
  • ChrysalidChrysalid Veteran
    edited August 2010
    My brother is a very compassionate person, to the point that he acts as counsellor to several of his friends and work colleagues. In his words he seems to attract people with problems. He's always the guy they turn to, and will drop everything that he considers less important (even a family celebration like a wedding) to act as a shoulder for them to cry on.

    He thinks that I am hard and uncaring for not acting as he does, but I see the effect all these people's emotional baggage has on him - he's stressed, depressed, tired all the time and short tempered. He doesn't seem to see these effects, or if he does he refuses to do anything about it.

    At what point does being compassionate turn into being a crutch for the broken? And is there anything I can do to help him deal with these people better?
    Or is he right, am I uncaring for putting my own mental health above that of others?

    I don't mean to hi-jack the thread, I feel this post is on topic, but if not then I can start a new one. :)
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited August 2010
    See my post.....
    Does any of it make sense? :)
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