If 'anatta', then why compassion?

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tilakkhana
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If 'anatta', then why compassion?

Postby tilakkhana » Thu Aug 05, 2010 7:27 pm

I know this is probably a common question but I can't think of where to look up the answer.

Is there anywhere in the Suttas where Buddha explains why realisation of anatta leads to compassion? If there is no self, and one realises this, wouldn't they more like stop treating everybody else as individual selves too?

And, I speak with the most humble respect for the Sangha, but how do bhikkhus act compassionately for the good of all beings if they are away from the mundane world within the monastic setting? Is the effects of their compassion limited merely to the lay followers that reach out to them?

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m0rl0ck
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Re: If 'anatta', then why compassion?

Postby m0rl0ck » Thu Aug 05, 2010 7:58 pm

No one thing is "your self" so in a sense everything and everyone is ones self, so you treat them with that respect. As if all selves were but limbs on the same body. Thus compassion arises, you could no more harm another than you could cut the limb from your own body. Thats the theory as i understand it anyway. :)
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
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Re: If 'anatta', then why compassion?

Postby Kenshou » Thu Aug 05, 2010 8:31 pm

Because there are beings, bundles of khandhas, that are suffering, we have compassion.

The fact of not-self doesn't negate the fact that there is suffering happening (though understanding it helps ease suffering), and it also doesn't say that the individual is an illusion and that we are all the same or that we are all part of one big self. There is no substantial constant nugget of self-essence within a being, but that does not change the fact that beings exist and that they suffer. I think.

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Re: If 'anatta', then why compassion?

Postby rowyourboat » Thu Aug 05, 2010 9:15 pm

I agree with the above two posts. I might add- the purpose of the dhamma is not compassion, as noble a goal that is. Compassion is only part of the solution to the problem of suffering. Cessation of suffering is the goal and everything else is in aid of that. You might find other disciplines who are better at compassion than Buddhists. That is not our main concern, even though we are compassionate. I think many people confuse this issue.

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Re: If 'anatta', then why compassion?

Postby Monkey Mind » Fri Aug 06, 2010 12:06 am

tilakkhana wrote:And, I speak with the most humble respect for the Sangha, but how do bhikkhus act compassionately for the good of all beings if they are away from the mundane world within the monastic setting? Is the effects of their compassion limited merely to the lay followers that reach out to them?


Because I was very skeptical about this, too, I challenged myself to participate in dana meals at a monastery recently. I don't know what the official Pali Cannon answer is to this, but my personal answer: I was very inspired by the incredible amount of gratitude, humility, and cherrfulness/metta displayed by the monks.
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710

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AdvaitaJ
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Re: If 'anatta', then why compassion?

Postby AdvaitaJ » Fri Aug 06, 2010 1:11 am

tilakkhana wrote:If there is no self, and one realises this, wouldn't they more like stop treating everybody else as individual selves too?

... but how do bhikkhus act compassionately for the good of all beings if they are away from the mundane world within the monastic setting? Is the effects of their compassion limited merely to the lay followers that reach out to them?

Tilakhana,

I know you asked for sutta quotes, but I wanted to convey a bit of personal experience instead. As I've started to grasp the reality of anatta, I've realized how much of my own personal suffering I had generated by trying to bolster and maintain that all-important self-image. Once you begin to detect it in yourself, you can sometimes see it in others, too. When you see how much pain some people inflict on themselves in support of their "self", it's hard not to feel compassion for them.

As for your second question, I've had only one real meeting with a monk but even that was enough to reveal the tremendous benefits available to all of us by their maintenance of the teachings and the example they set. Had I never met a monk, I would still feel I have benefitted greatly by their chosen existence.

Regards: Jim
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Re: If 'anatta', then why compassion?

Postby Shonin » Fri Aug 06, 2010 8:32 am

No quotes from me either right now, sorry. However...

If 'anatta', then why compassion?


Because self-centredness falls away, the walls between us fall away.

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Re: If 'anatta', then why compassion?

Postby PeterB » Fri Aug 06, 2010 9:13 am

Kenshou wrote:Because there are beings, bundles of khandhas, that are suffering, we have compassion.

The fact of not-self doesn't negate the fact that there is suffering happening (though understanding it helps ease suffering), and it also doesn't say that the individual is an illusion and that we are all the same or that we are all part of one big self. There is no substantial constant nugget of self-essence within a being, but that does not change the fact that beings exist and that they suffer. I think.

:goodpost:
The idea that we are all one being and should somehow merge into an boundary free integrated whole is good Hinduism.
And very bad Buddhism.

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Re: If 'anatta', then why compassion?

Postby Rui Sousa » Fri Aug 06, 2010 9:43 am

The object of compassion is not other beings "soul". The object of compassion is suffering.

Following the Noble Eightfold Path is an act of compassion towards one's own mind, compassion is the desire to eliminate suffering. No need for a self.
With Metta

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Re: If 'anatta', then why compassion?

Postby shjohnk » Fri Aug 06, 2010 10:16 am

Great posts by everyone! Thanks for helping me understand this concept :toast:

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tilakkhana
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Re: If 'anatta', then why compassion?

Postby tilakkhana » Sun Aug 08, 2010 11:56 pm

Wonderful. Many helpful responses. Thank you, all. Metta.


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