Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
Welcome home! Please contact lincoln@newbuddhist.com if you have any difficulty logging in or using the site. New registrations must be manually approved which may take up to 48 hours. Can't log in? Try clearing your browser's cookies.

Meditations on compassion

JeroenJeroen Do it with a smileNetherlands Veteran

It seems to me right to write something on compassion, as a companion piece to what I was writing on love. Compassion for me is altogether harder to quantify. Some of you may know that I suffered some health problems ten years ago, and have spent time slowly recovering from that. After a stressful period I suffered a breakdown. I was what you call a “voice hearer”, someone who suffers for a certain period from hearing voices but has few other symptoms. The medication prescribed by the medical profession honestly has been more difficult to recover from, than the voice hearing episode itself. For completeness I will say there have been a few other symptoms along the way, some suffering.

In any case, the voice hearing led me onto becoming an expert-by-experience. It involves a training in which you tell your story to a group, with the idea of helping others with your experience. It was one of the purest experiences of compassion I have known. Later on I joined a project for helping others deal with difficult experiences, and spent several years there working with clients. These were people suffering from loneliness, a man who hadn’t been out of his house for 20 years who I started meeting for coffee at a local centre, and a man suffering from bipolar.

Compassion I think comes from acting out of the heart, if I think back to those training sessions there was a tremendous honesty towards yourself and others, an openness, a tackling of difficult emotional subjects which I think is central to the expert-by-experience role. Looking back on the years I did this work it has enriching.

BunksShoshin1JeffreyTozan

Comments

  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    Buddhism too has softened my heart. I recall hearing a story of a monk, 70 years old, who said, it took me fifty years, but when I was young, I was like a tiger, and now I am a pussycat. I am like that monk, I was a mixture of fear hiding behind competence and occasional gung-ho behaviour. It has been ten years of quiet and relative isolation since then, recovery and studying Buddhism.

    I recall studying with Jampel, the Gelugpa Tibetan monk who gave the course I did at the modest temple near where I lived, he really focussed on clarity and understanding, not so much the memorising of the lists. It’s funny, how learning things like the names of troublesome mind states can soften your attitude towards people. You get to see and recognise them in yourself, and you also gain compassion for them in others.

    Altogether, it is a training in human nature. Listening to Thich Nhat Hanh talk on YouTube taught me acceptance, peace and looking deeply. But practicing is something different, in contact with other people you put into practice the things you learn.

    BunksDavidNerida
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran
    edited June 2021

    Nice topic @Kerome .

    Compassion should start with the self. The ability to accept ourselves (warts and all) where we are here and now. It's difficult to accept others if we can't accept ourselves.

    I mentioned in another thread a Metta meditation I recently discovered that I practice each and every morning. It really uplifts the mind.

    Has been very helpful in recent times with the uncertainty and suffering that has sprung up in my region from lockdown and the threat of Covid.

    May all be well.

    lobsterNerida
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran
    edited June 2021

    No discussion of compassion is complete without talking a little about idiot compassion and the right way to go about actually helping people. It’s possible to say “you are my brother” without letting the other person walk all over you. It’s possible to be generous with your time and with your heart without losing your financial stability. Sometimes it is necessary to be strong with another person, to prevent their bad habits from hijacking your good impulses.

    My experience is that compassion starts with listening to the other’s story, to find out what is the source of their pain, and where they truly need our help. You first walk a mile in another’s shoes, before you are ready to have a heart-to-heart conversation. Then if necessary you show them a way out of their troubles, but they have to walk that way in the end. You can help them be strong, but you cannot walk for them.

    Compassion is about being open to another’s difficulties, having a clear view of them and the depth of your own understanding, and guiding the other as best you can onto a better path. Often that is about what is a healthy approach to living, how to cope with desire and addiction, becoming aware of a purposeful life, coping with your own emotions.

    So for me, compassion is both being a good friend and ready to lend a hand, and also being a more serious giver of care and guidance. The one is on the surface and the other is in the depths, and they complement each other. Being generous has its place, but it should be done with care so that it has the desired effect.

    lobsterNerida
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    The other aspect of compassion I wanted to discuss today was softness. We can all be beaten raw by life’s circumstances until our anger responds, but the trick to living a deep and fulfilling life is to stay soft. Softness is like a summer rain shower, cleansing and fresh and restorative to our deeper nature, and carrying it will allow us to deploy our deeper strengths.

    Softness is a part of wu-wei-wu, the way of the world where water splashes on rocks but also slowly wears away stone. Softness goes hand in hand with kindness, yet if you accept it it can function as a sustaining influence.

  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    I once saw a documentary about Buddhist spiritual ministers at a prison, and it really spoke to me. A lot of the guys in the Buddhist circle there had genuinely converted, and had been deepened by an insight into the difficulties of hard lives. It seems to me that those are the places where the rubber meets the road, where compassion and insight can make a difference.

    Compassion can be shown in many ways; by listening, by sharing wisdom, by making tea, by helping out around the house, being generous with time and attention. It has to know it’s bounds, in order not to be taken advantage of, but where there is an opening for the healing rains of compassion to do their job, we shouldn’t neglect to bring it out.

    A lot of it is about connecting, about togetherness, about sharing. Compassion manifests when we show others our difficulties, we walk in another’s shoes and we understand their unhappiness. But the thing about a lot of helpers is they eventually get worn down, and then they need to take a break and turn to renewing energies such as laughter and creativity. It is important not to overload your compassion, take holidays, spend time on family.

    lobsterKotishka
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    HHDL on compassion:

    “Before we can generate compassion and love, it is important to have a clear understanding of what we understand compassion and love to be. In simple terms, compassion and love can be defined as positive thoughts and feelings that give rise to such essential things in life as hope, courage, determination, and inner strength. In the Buddhist tradition, compassion and love are seen as two aspects of the same thing: Compassion is the wish for another being to be free from suffering; love is wanting them to have happiness.”

  • @federica said:

    It’s possible to say “you are my brother” without letting the other person walk all over you. It’s possible to be generous with your time and with your heart without losing your financial stability. Sometimes it is necessary to be strong with another person, to prevent their bad habits from hijacking your good impulses.

    I was recently sent this, which seems to fit:

    Thank you for clarifying this so well. And Kerome for bringing it up -meaning, the difference between compassion and idiot compassion, i.e. being walked all over-. In a way there's a few people I wish them good, but the draining is just too much for me.

    Time to bring the scissors... or perhaps a claw!

  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    It’s not just about the difference between idiot compassion and real compassion though. Lots of people equate compassion with generosity, and although they are related they are different subjects. It’s just a sign of our recent money-obsessed world that we think being compassionate towards someone means giving them money.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Time to bring the scissors... or perhaps a claw!

    Tee hee!
    If we have a tendency/impediment we are not acting independent from then it is not wrathful/skilful.

    However when we call on this quality in a skilful manner it can cut through to the heart of the matter.

    In a similar way being compassionate/kind to destructive individuals can be detrimental to their behaviour (enabling/reinforcing).
    https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/idiot-compassion

  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran
    edited June 2021

    People I really admire are the Zen Peacemakers, they do such good work. Here in the Netherlands they give out blankets to the homeless, they do initiatives such as bearing witness at the open-air concentration camp museum. They really do show compassion and not the type you can walk all over. These are real things, things you can point to.

    Sometimes bearing witness to difficult things is all you can do. The concentration camp museums are a good case in point. When you suffer a lot personally you can go wild and start making very poor life choices, so it is good to go slow, get used to a range of feelings and develop your wellsprings of compassion alongside your suffering.

    Compassion and suffering go hand in hand. When you’ve seen difficult times, you are more likely to sympathise with others, and so there is a kind of fellowship among those who have suffered.

    Wellness is what you want to reach for yourself and others, it is the point at which you and others can leave the tricks of desire behind, you no longer have to play the games of existence, and I think that is a good way of describing compassion, wanting that for yourself and others.

    lobsterJeffreyNeridaDavid
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran
    edited June 2021

    When I moved from Zandvoort due to housing pressure, we decided to go live near my uncle, the one who is dying from cancer. Since my mother, my stepfather and me bought a house together, they also came, and with the three of us we have become a regular support for my uncle and his wife. Us visiting them, they visiting us, sometimes their kids, my cousins, come along.

    It has been emotional at times, and a real learning environment for compassion. We come to spend time together, share memories and celebrate his life. And drink coffee of course.

  • TozanTozan Turkey Explorer

    I remember a Tibetan monk's statement:

    "If you have a little bit compassion in your heart then you are already a boddhisattva."

    JeroenNerida
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Dear friends of the Bodhisattva Hearted,

    As we know, compassion is focussed well wishing. As a wer lobster, with only a tiny heart, I can not waste universal love and friendliness on every deserving wastrel. Including me.

    Therefore my compassion is primarily for:

    • Myself. Useless as I might be, I have to be around this idiot cructacean.
    • Unavoidable contacts. I can at least be kind, courteous and friendly … or try.
    • People doing their best. If that is you, do better!

    Too harsh? Ah well, still training … <3

    Jeroen
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    @lobster said:

    • People doing their best. If that is you, do better!

    That is an interesting aspect to compassion. If people are lying under a bridge trying to sleep, does that mean they haven’t done their best? Do they then not deserve compassion because they haven’t managed to keep themselves standing upright in our western society?

    A lot of folks who end up living on the streets have some form of mental health problems, and they sometimes make irrational decisions. Does that mean they should have access to some form of protected housing, where they can have a place to stay which they cannot lose so easily?

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    These people need the help, to help themselves.
    We have a situation in our town where there are homeless people who actually don't want help, charity or assistance. They don't want a place to sleep, they don't want to rely on a shelter of be given accommodation.
    They want to be permitted to live their lives exactly as they choose. Which, given that sometimes the way they lead their lives is considered at best, antisocial, and at worst, completely inappropriate, is not always a possible thing to engineer. So those Associations that can, and do provide help, step in and forcefully oblige these homeless individuals to comply with what society deems appropriate and acceptable. And that doesn't always sit well, or is thanked.
    So, what kind of compassion is that?

    Nerida
  • Omar067Omar067 Veteran

    The best way to develop compassion is to read the writings of Nichiren Daishonin. He was a very compassionate man. You can tell by reading his letters. He was well versed in Buddhism. There are many who hate him, and many who love him but no one can say that he was not a prolific writer.
    It is a proven fact that book lovers or anyone involved in literature will have more compassion than the average person. It is proven that reading builds empathy. So if anyone wants to develop compassion, than read lots of books.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    It's not "The Best Way", it's one way. Please stop speaking in absolutes.

  • Omar067Omar067 Veteran
    edited June 2021

    I'm speaking what's on my mind. I'm not faking compassion. You adhere to the belief that there are many ways to enlightenment, the Buddha says other wise. I'm an ignorant man who is a novice in Buddhist study, but I have firm faith in the Buddha. If you can point out the flaws in my views than I will give them up immediately.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    There are no flaws in your views. It's just not skilful to promote your views as facts. They're not the truth, they are YOUR truth, but they're not necessarily anyone else's.

  • Omar067Omar067 Veteran

    Do you deny that the Buddha said that the Lotus Sutra is the formost teaching in the world? It is the only sutra that gives an explanation for the various teachings that the Buddha expounded. It is the only sutra that declares itself to be formost among all sutras preached in the past, present, and future. It is the only sutra that can cure the affliction that the people of the two vehicles have and can even allow woman and evil people to become Buddhas. The Buddha's of the Ten Directions gave there word that the Lotus Sutra is the formost teaching. One of those Buddha's who gave their word was Amida Buddha. It even explains that it will be the most effective for the people living in the Latter Day of the Law and when it will be propogated. The priest today are fawning and crooked and they decieve there followers. They only become monks so that they can have food and clothing. They only care about living an easy life. They barely read the sutras. Everyone hates Nichiren and the followers of the Lotus Sutra. Do you know why, the Buddha said that followers of the Lotus Sutra would be persecuted and it occurred. He said that practitioners would be mocked. He also said that it would be the most difficult teaching to believe so it is no surprise that you don't believe it. Show me one person who can keep the precepts among the Theravada school. That school is the most selfish school in the world. They can only become cause awakened and voice hearers. People who reach those two states can't achieve Buddhahood because they are selfish and obsessed with the void. They can't arouse a desire for to help people. Many people talk about compassion but what school is making efforts to spread the teaching to every person in the world regardless of their race. Many people call themselves Mahayana Buddhist but they do nothing to spread the teachings. This all due to the crooked and perverse Buddhist who like to pretend that they're compassionate. Who will you listen to. The Buddha, or crooked Buddhist scholars and monks who like to pretend that they have compassion. If you choose the latter than you shouldn't even call yourself a Buddhist.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Do you deny that the Buddha said that the Lotus Sutra is the formost teaching in the world?

    Yes. It is only written that this is what he said. We don't know that he said it for sure. It's an account written in the 5th century. So it is only of him, not by him.

    I can't pour you a tea as your cup is already full.

    As I said, your views are opinions. They are not facts. Do not present them as such. If this is what you believe, that's fine. But don't expound it as THE truth. It is merely YOUR truth.

  • Omar067Omar067 Veteran

    If the translation is fabricated or in error, why practice Buddhism in the first place. The first Buddhist council compiled all of the sutras shortly after the Buddha's death. The Buddha's disciples who were still alive shortly after his death, recited the verses of all the sutras aloud. As the sutra were being recited, the teachings were being written down.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Omar067 said:
    If the translation is fabricated or in error, why practice Buddhism in the first place.

    Because there is an older school than Nichiren. And there is more to Mahayana than Nichiren. You are a voice. You're not the only voice.

    The first Buddhist council compiled all of the sutras shortly after the Buddha's death.

    Yes, it was orchestrated by Theravada. Its objective was to preserve the Buddha's sayings (suttas) and the monastic discipline or rules (Vinaya).

    The Buddha's disciples who were still alive shortly after his death, recited the verses of all the sutras aloud. As the sutra were being recited, the teachings were being written down.

    Of that I have no doubt. But this was 2000 years ago. Do you honestly think everything that exists is still verbatim? I personally have my doubts, which is why I have am more confident in the teachings of Theravada than I am of anything else that followed...

  • Omar067Omar067 Veteran

    I don't know. There might be some errors, but I think the sutras can be trusted. I practice Buddhism because it makes sense. Faith in Buddhism is to have an expectation of the results that it claims it will give you. In order to know if something is true, it has to be proven. If you practice and you don't see any actual proof then practice doesn't work. I have practiced Nichiren's teachings and I have seen the results. I also like people who act as they speak. Nichiren was such a person.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    In order to know if something is true, it has to be proven. ... I have practiced Nichiren's teachings and I have seen the results. ...

    Precisely. You. YOU have seen the results, so that is YOUR truth. I have seen results in my practice, but that is not your truth, it is mine. Which is why I will always give opinion and view and permit room for change, should change come, and be more advantageous. I have my truth, but it is not fixed; it is not permanent and unmoveable. It is subject to scrutiny and critique from others, because, simply because I have known it as a truth, doe not entitle me to impose it upon others and insist they adopt it as their truth too.

  • Omar067Omar067 Veteran

    You guys are seriously rebellious. If you call yourself a Buddhist, that means you are taking refuge in the Buddha's knowledge. He is your teacher. If you come up with your own truths you will not be considered an obedient student. No other teaching explains why there are various Buddhist teachings. Not a single sutra before the Lotus Sutra contained any answer to this question. In order for something to be true, it has to be proven. The Lotus Sutra's answer to that question is true. If something is true, it is not flawed. If something is not flawed, then it is perfect. If something is proven then you know it is true and not an opinion. It is a fact. If you are going to argue that something isn't true than you must reveal its flaws. The Lotus Sutra says that it is the only sutra that can save human beings. There is only one truth.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    If you are going to argue that something isn't true than you must reveal its flaws.

    I'm revealing YOUR flaws. And your flaw is that you are too rigid in your insistence. That's not a healthy way to travel.

    The Lotus Sutra says that it is the only sutra that can save human beings. There is only one truth.

    The Lotus Sutra was written by men interpreting the Buddha's teachings according to their understanding, just as others wrote down other suttas according to their understanding. They may have written things verbatim, but we do not know whether these messages have been changed along the way. Have you read Christ's Gospels? Do you think they are a true and verifiable account of Christ's Life?
    Anything touched by Man, is flawed, because men are flawed.

  • Omar067Omar067 Veteran
    edited June 2021

    If you think it is flawed then why do you practice Buddhism. I don't know about any of you, but I will never follow a liar. If it turns that Buddhism isn't true then we are all just wasting our time. Compared to you guys I am a beginner in the Buddhist teachings. It is hard for me to understand difficult Buddhist concepts but I have changed. When I'm studying Buddhism I don't understand everything I'm reading, but I try my best to learn something. Right now I am in tears as I am writing this. I was abused as a child. Because I was around people like that it poisoned my mind. I always walked with my head down. No one would talk to me. People hated me. But I decided to read the writings of Nichiren Daishonin. I never thought it would work but I see a difference. People talk to me now. They say hello when they see me. I've began speak more positive words and my confidence has improved. You guys are guys have so much potential and your wasting it by following erroneous teachings. I can tell just by reading the responses that I have been getting that all of you have weak faith. Any Buddhist that would say that there is more than one truth is a Buddhist only in theory. When you become a Buddhist your goal should be to become enlightened. This is not just some game. This not just some nice philosophy. If any of us are going to become Buddha then we must start to take this religion seriously. That is all I have to say.

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited June 2021

    @Omar067, if you know you are less experienced in the dharma than many here, how can you possibly be sure you have the correct interpretation?

    Are you sure?

    The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings were born in a sea of fire in 1966 in Vietnam. The situation of the war was extremely hot. And we know how hot the fire of fanaticism can be. That is why the very first precept is about nonattachment to views, openness, and tolerance, because we see that attachment to views, narrowness, and fanaticism is the ground of a lot of suffering. As members of the core or the extended community, we know that we have to learn about and gain the insight of interbeing. We should not be dogmatic, we should not be attached to any kind of ideology or views. That is the basic teaching of the Buddha and that is the first precept of the Order of Interbeing.

    https://plumvillage.org/articles/openness/

    I would recommend reading Opening the Heart of the Lotus - Insights Into the Lotus Sutra (also Thich Nhat Hanh) and see if it resonates.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I believe Omar67 "has left the building". Probably a wise move in the long - and short - run.

This discussion has been closed.