Levels of Compassion?

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Levels of Compassion?

Postby AdvaitaJ » Fri Feb 13, 2009 12:38 am

It occurred to me a few weeks ago reading a thread Retro started, that I probably have a compassion problem. Then again tonight, I was confronted with a situation that has made clear to me that I have more compassion for small animals than adult human strangers. Children? I'm there, how can I help. Small animals? What's needed. But adult human-type people I don't know? Forget about it. Everybody gets what they deserve. As you sow, so shall ye reap, etc. If something bad happened to them, they probably did something (stupid or otherwise) to deserve it.

More and more, I'm thinking this is going to be perhaps the most challenging area for my practice. On the other hand, if I feel I know you, even a little, I'm likely to be on your side. We'll work it out, find an answer, etc. There are people I know that I've written off for a variety of reasons, but generally, if I get to know you, there's some compassion there if needed. Is this the problem I think it is or am I making a mountain out of a mole-hill?

AdvaitaJ
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Re: Levels of Compassion?

Postby mountain » Fri Feb 13, 2009 1:03 am

Friend,
I take karuna to be linked with prajna. Each one supports the other. I would like people to extend compassion towards me when mistakes I make show I am influenced by the three poisons and so would extend the same to others. On a very personal note I have always had distaste for social conformity. I live in a small town which is quite rigid in its reaction to social independence. So that is my challange. Hope this may help.
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Re: Levels of Compassion?

Postby genkaku » Fri Feb 13, 2009 1:08 am

Dear AdvaitaJ -- Would you say a little about what you -- you personally -- think compassion is?
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Re: Levels of Compassion?

Postby Ben » Fri Feb 13, 2009 1:58 am

Hi AdvaitaJ

Compassion, like wisdom, needs to be cultivated!
Do you practice Metta Bhavana on a daily basis? If not, I recommend making it part of your practice. One method I heard about from a friend was an instruction from a monk who said that when you start practicing Metta Bhavana, as your object, start to focus on a small cuddly furry animal like a puppy or a kitten. Then, follow the formula of your choice. For a lot of people it is to focus on oneself then those closest and dearest and thn moving outwards to those who we don't know but are indifferent and those we know but have aversion towards.
When you practce Metta Bhavana, be sure to try and generate all of the four qualities of metta (loving kindness), karuna (compassion), upekka (equanimity) and mudita (sympathetic joy).
All the best with your practice AdvaitaJ, please let us know how you go.
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Re: Levels of Compassion?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Feb 13, 2009 3:21 am

Greetings,

I wholeheartedly concur with Ben's recommendation.

Another thing I have found useful is to contemplate that my happiness is no more important than anyone else's happiness... it's merely self-interest that makes it seem so. Understanding this it's easier to have empathy for others and to realise that everyone prefers happiness to sadness, anger or frustration.

Metta,
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Re: Levels of Compassion?

Postby Annapurna » Fri Feb 13, 2009 12:42 pm

AdvaitaJ wrote:It occurred to me a few weeks ago reading a thread Retro started, that I probably have a compassion problem. Then again tonight, I was confronted with a situation that has made clear to me that I have more compassion for small animals than adult human strangers. Children? I'm there, how can I help. Small animals? What's needed. But adult human-type people I don't know? Forget about it. Everybody gets what they deserve. As you sow, so shall ye reap, etc. If something bad happened to them, they probably did something (stupid or otherwise) to deserve it.

More and more, I'm thinking this is going to be perhaps the most challenging area for my practice. On the other hand, if I feel I know you, even a little, I'm likely to be on your side. We'll work it out, find an answer, etc. There are people I know that I've written off for a variety of reasons, but generally, if I get to know you, there's some compassion there if needed. Is this the problem I think it is or am I making a mountain out of a mole-hill?

AdvaitaJ


Hi, Advaita,

I think most of us feel different levels of compassion.

Just look at how some pamper their pet and buy ground beef and caviar for them.

Compassion for the cattle or the fish is not really very present in the awareness.

I'm not a bit better.

I would never eat a cat, unless I was starving.

It 's a bit different with chicken and fish.

On the other hand I rescue blackbirds out of the chimney, and am happy about that.

Sometimes, when somebody gets a tough lesson in life, I think about the learning that will arise from this, on the other hand, I am sorry it has to be through pain as the teacher, and not through insight.

Even when somebody messes with me, I think, in my lucid moments: This was your mother before.

I just don't always have lucid moments.
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Re: Levels of Compassion?

Postby AdvaitaJ » Sat Feb 14, 2009 1:11 am

genkaku wrote:Dear AdvaitaJ -- Would you say a little about what you -- you personally -- think compassion is?

Genkaku,

That's tough. I think my compassion gets really confused with my ego. I honestly don't know how much of my "caring" for helpless creatures comes from genuine compassion and how much comes from an ego-based desire to be "the hero". And, let's not forget the near-enemy, pity. That's an easy trap for me as well. In many ways, I suspect I only know this is an issue at all because of my practice over the last months, so this is progress. (Ya gotta know it's broke...) To answer your question, my definition of compassion is feeling a genuine caring sensation for someone experiencing difficulty.

Ben, Retro,

Thanks guys, logged and noted. I have only just incorporated a small bit of Metta into my daily routine, but as with all elements of my practice, I do my very best to make it a quality effort. I really do try to connect with the feeling. Too soon to tell if there's any progress.

Annabel,
Sometimes, when somebody gets a tough lesson in life, I think about the learning that will arise from this, on the other hand, I am sorry it has to be through pain as the teacher, and not through insight.
This is very close to my default mode except that I don't usually go on to the "sorry about the pain" part unless I know the person.

On a lighter note, the good news now is that, if somebody messes with me, I'm more and more inclined to mindfulness.

Thanks again to all.

AdvaitaJ
The birds have vanished down the sky. Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.
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Re: Levels of Compassion?

Postby Annapurna » Sat Feb 14, 2009 7:05 am

You're welcome, Advaita.

A thought that arose upon reading your reply to me was:

Is a slight touch of anger at humans the soil from which your sentiments arise ?

Like, let's say, you felt wronged, somehow, by some humans, whilst small animals never hurt you but made you happy?

Then I think your emotions are very understandable. :hug:

Of course I'm just speculating and you may not wish to share privacy.

Then just ignore this..... :namaste:

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Re: Levels of Compassion?

Postby genkaku » Sat Feb 14, 2009 1:36 pm

That's tough. I think my compassion gets really confused with my ego. I honestly don't know how much of my "caring" for helpless creatures comes from genuine compassion and how much comes from an ego-based desire to be "the hero". And, let's not forget the near-enemy, pity. That's an easy trap for me as well. In many ways, I suspect I only know this is an issue at all because of my practice over the last months, so this is progress. (Ya gotta know it's broke...) To answer your question, my definition of compassion is feeling a genuine caring sensation for someone experiencing difficulty.


Hi AdvaitaJ -- Nice stuff. Thanks. And I agree -- ya gotta know it's broke before you can fix it. So feeling a 'genuine caring sensation for someone experiencing difficulty' is a hell of a lot better than a calloused indifference.

But sometime you may notice this: You are walking down a crowded sidewalk and two or three feet in front of you an elderly person stumbles and falls. And even before you rouse up anything like a "genuine caring sensation," you move to where the person has fallen and bend down to lend a hand. It's all as natural as scratching a mosquito bite. No 'goodness' necessary. Later, you might tell a friend about the incident and that friend might congratulate your 'compassion.'

But was it 'compassion' in the moment? Wouldn't 'compassion' just get in the way of your natural compassion? Do feelings really enter here?

No criticism from here. Just asking if it might be true in your life or mine.
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Re: Levels of Compassion?

Postby termite » Sat Feb 14, 2009 9:07 pm

genkaku wrote:But was it 'compassion' in the moment? Wouldn't 'compassion' just get in the way of your natural compassion? Do feelings really enter here?


Small animals make it easy. They don't put any feelings in the way, or expect any in return.

I got "buzzed" by a flying squirrel last night, on the back deck. I'm hoping it was as good for him as it was for me. :)
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Re: Levels of Compassion?

Postby genkaku » Sat Feb 14, 2009 9:59 pm

termite wrote:
genkaku wrote:But was it 'compassion' in the moment? Wouldn't 'compassion' just get in the way of your natural compassion? Do feelings really enter here?


Small animals make it easy. They don't put any feelings in the way, or expect any in return.

I got "buzzed" by a flying squirrel last night, on the back deck. I'm hoping it was as good for him as it was for me. :)


Did you both kick back with a cigarette? :)
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Re: Levels of Compassion?

Postby Ben » Sat Feb 14, 2009 11:34 pm

genkaku wrote:Do feelings really enter here?


Hi Genkaku, AdvaitaJ

Good point. My point of view is that we often confuse the psycho-somatic experience of 'feelings'/'sensations' with a particular mental quality such as 'compassion' or 'loving kindness'. We may not need to feel compassionate to be compassionate.
Metta

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Re: Levels of Compassion?

Postby Will » Sun Feb 15, 2009 1:37 am

Maybe this point of view would help? All creatures, in some lifetime, have been close to us.

Samyutta Nikaya XV.14-19

Mata Sutta Mother

At Savatthi. There the Blessed One said: "From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. A being who has not been your mother at one time in the past is not easy to find...A being who has not been your father...your brother...your sister...your son...your daughter at one time in the past is not easy to find.
"Why is that? From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on.
This noble eightfold path is the ancient path traveled by all the Buddhas of eons past. Nagara Sutta
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Re: Levels of Compassion?

Postby termite » Sun Feb 15, 2009 5:04 am

genkaku wrote:Did you both kick back with a cigarette? :)


I can't speak for the squirrel. I went back in the house and had a cup of tea. :)
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Re: Levels of Compassion?

Postby AdvaitaJ » Sun Feb 15, 2009 2:49 pm

genkaku wrote:But sometime you may notice this: You are walking down a crowded sidewalk and two or three feet in front of you an elderly person stumbles and falls. And even before you rouse up anything like a "genuine caring sensation," you move to where the person has fallen and bend down to lend a hand.

Genkaku,

Very thought-provoking, thanks! But here's the rub, if you substitute "disheveled old guy" for "elderly person", my auto-pilot response is probably going to be the guy never took care of himself or is a drunk. If you substitute "elderly neatly dressed lady" for "elderly person", I was probably already looking out for her and making sure no bad guys were nearby. Clearly, the perceptions are fully engaged here and potentially obscuring the truth.

Ben,
We may not need to feel compassionate to be compassionate.
Don't go giving me hope, now... ;)

Annabel,
Like, let's say, you felt wronged, somehow, by some humans, whilst small animals never hurt you but made you happy?
That's probably a big factor. Parental alcoholism was the major factor in my factor in my childhood and, as a consequence, trusting an adult is very difficult if not downright impossible for me.

The good news is that there is every reason to believe that continuing to work on constant mindfulness will continue leading to improvements.

Thanks all!

AdavaitaJ
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We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.
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Re: Levels of Compassion?

Postby clw_uk » Sun Feb 15, 2009 3:18 pm

Ben wrote:
genkaku wrote:Do feelings really enter here?


Hi Genkaku, AdvaitaJ

Good point. My point of view is that we often confuse the psycho-somatic experience of 'feelings'/'sensations' with a particular mental quality such as 'compassion' or 'loving kindness'. We may not need to feel compassionate to be compassionate.
Metta

Ben


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