Anatta and Compassion

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Anatta and Compassion

Postby jackson » Mon Nov 05, 2012 7:37 pm

Hi everyone,
There`s something I`ve been pondering over for a while now, so I thought I`d attempt to formulate it into a question in order to get some input. If I recall something I read correctly, giving rise to self gives rise to others, giving rise to others gives rise to self, or something to that extent. So what I`m trying to understand, is that if no self is to be found in the five aggregates just where are we supposed to be directing our compassion? When we see another suffering are we supposed to look upon it as an impersonal process and say "there is suffering", without creating a being around it who is suffering? Thank you for taking the time to read and also thank you to anyone who can clear this up for me,
Jackson
"The heart of the path is quite easy. There’s no need to explain anything at length. Let go of love and hate and let things be. That’s all that I do in my own practice." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Anatta and Compassion

Postby DAWN » Mon Nov 05, 2012 7:49 pm

Anatta is ABSOLUTE Compassion.

Anatta let dhammas be what they are, without changing, without modifing, without Ego.
What is the most compassionate thing if it's not to let all dhammas be.

Help peoples when them suffer is relative compassion, let suffering be is absolute compassion.
Sabbe dhamma anatta
We are not concurents...
I'am sorry for my english
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Re: Anatta and Compassion

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Mon Nov 05, 2012 7:57 pm

jackson wrote:Hi everyone,
There`s something I`ve been pondering over for a while now, so I thought I`d attempt to formulate it into a question in order to get some input. If I recall something I read correctly, giving rise to self gives rise to others, giving rise to others gives rise to self, or something to that extent. So what I`m trying to understand, is that if no self is to be found in the five aggregates just where are we supposed to be directing our compassion? When we see another suffering are we supposed to look upon it as an impersonal process and say "there is suffering", without creating a being around it who is suffering? Thank you for taking the time to read and also thank you to anyone who can clear this up for me,
Jackson

You are just as self-less as everyone else, but you still desire happiness don't you? Even if beings are empty of essential self, they still long for freedom from suffering. Just cultivate feelings of compassion for yourself and then turn them in the same way towards others.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Anatta and Compassion

Postby equilibrium » Mon Nov 05, 2012 9:55 pm

jackson wrote:if no self is to be found in the five aggregates just where are we supposed to be directing our compassion?
If we cannot define who the burglar is then how can an entire police force find the burglar?.....so where do we direct the police officers?

When we see another suffering are we supposed to look upon it as an impersonal process and say "there is suffering", without creating a being around it who is suffering?
When we see another "suffering".....we need to clearly define the meaning so it can be effective and direct.....without it, the "impersonal" factor sounds great but only applies at face value, to impose a non-being to someone who is suffering is not the same.....one will not do if one cannot see.
The real suffering is when one sees that there actually in fact no suffering.....we can only guide others so they too can see!
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Re: Anatta and Compassion

Postby jackson » Mon Nov 05, 2012 9:59 pm

Thank you for your replies,
I've been having trouble writing a response, but if I understand what you're saying LonesomeYogurt, it's not the conception of a being that's the problem but the conception of a self in the being? Perhaps this is where I went astray, I'd appreciate any further thoughts.
Thanks,
Jackson
"The heart of the path is quite easy. There’s no need to explain anything at length. Let go of love and hate and let things be. That’s all that I do in my own practice." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Anatta and Compassion

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Nov 05, 2012 10:28 pm

jackson wrote:Hi everyone,
There`s something I`ve been pondering over for a while now, so I thought I`d attempt to formulate it into a question in order to get some input. If I recall something I read correctly, giving rise to self gives rise to others, giving rise to others gives rise to self, or something to that extent. So what I`m trying to understand, is that if no self is to be found in the five aggregates just where are we supposed to be directing our compassion? When we see another suffering are we supposed to look upon it as an impersonal process and say "there is suffering", without creating a being around it who is suffering? Thank you for taking the time to read and also thank you to anyone who can clear this up for me,
Jackson

I like to understand anatta as impersonal, and if things are not personal it allows room for making the most of every moment which by its very nature is unsure anicca, and stressful dukkha. and this making the most of every moment manifests as the Brahmaviharas to whatever is present in life.
when there is pain present we respond appropriately with altruism, when there is joy we respond with gladness, when there is interaction we are friendly and at all times balanced internally. these Brahmaviharas can be seen as the centre of balance shifting to meet the situation. so when there is pain there is friendliness and altruism at play one dealing with the individual and the other dealing with the pain.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Anatta and Compassion

Postby santa100 » Mon Nov 05, 2012 10:42 pm

We can pick an example, say your friend John Doe has no money and is very hungry. He could be a regular guy who knows nothing about the Dhamma or he could be some noble disciple who already penetrated Anatta. If he's the run-of-the-mill, he'd get the double pain of 2 arrows: physical hunger and the afflictive state of I/mine/myself who feels the hunger. If he's the noble one, he'd already rid himself of the second arrow but his aggregates would still experience that first arrow of physical hunger. So regardless of which case, the suffering is still there and your job as a disciple in training is to help alleviating whatever suffering there is. There're many different ways to help, but the highest and most noble gift is the gift of Dhamma for only thru penetrative insight that one'd be able to uproot the second arrow of self-conceit which is the most painful one..
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Re: Anatta and Compassion

Postby beeblebrox » Mon Nov 05, 2012 11:00 pm

jackson wrote:So what I`m trying to understand, is that if no self is to be found in the five aggregates just where are we supposed to be directing our compassion? When we see another suffering are we supposed to look upon it as an impersonal process and say "there is suffering", without creating a being around it who is suffering?


I think there just needs to be a slight tweak to the view of the question.

If you impose a view of self on others' problems, you're basically making these problems a personal thing (i.e., "it's YOUR problem, not mine;" or, "it's MY problem, not yours")... those are always unhelpful.

When you stop putting a self in these problems, that doesn't really make it "impersonal." (That's just an oddity of the language.) You just become more helpful to others by not viewing a self, or an "owner" of these problems.

Part of the practice is not to view a "self" in the problems (eternalism... or, "these problems will ALWAYS be yours"); or to view that there is a "self" in the problems to be annihilated (annihilationism... or, "if YOU stop being so sensitive, then there won't be problems"); or to see the problems as resolved if you stopped viewing a "self" in them (nihilism... or, "these are not problems at all... because there is NO SELF that is affected"). All of these are considered wrong views... because they revolve around the illusion of "self."
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Re: Anatta and Compassion

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Nov 06, 2012 12:00 am

Hi beeblebrox,

Those are great points. If one realises that there is just suffering then compassion will do something about it, not worrying about "I" or "mine". A simile I've heard is that if you dissolve the sense of self then helping others is as natural as using your right hand to bandage your injured left hand, instead of thinking "that's the left hand, it's not my problem...".

:anjali:
Mike
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Re: Anatta and Compassion

Postby jackson » Tue Nov 06, 2012 12:42 am

Thank you for your replies, they've been helpful.
Just to clarify, the question was not about whether or not we should help others who are suffering (which we almost certainly should), the question was about how to relate to suffering while keeping anatta in mind.
Jackson
"The heart of the path is quite easy. There’s no need to explain anything at length. Let go of love and hate and let things be. That’s all that I do in my own practice." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Anatta and Compassion

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Tue Nov 06, 2012 1:18 am

jackson wrote:Thank you for your replies, they've been helpful.
Just to clarify, the question was not about whether or not we should help others who are suffering (which we almost certainly should), the question was about how to relate to suffering while keeping anatta in mind.
Jackson

You might do well to read this verse from the Vajira Sutta, especially the last part:

Why now do you assume 'a being'?
Mara, have you grasped a view?
This is a heap of sheer constructions:
Here no being is found.

Just as, with an assemblage of parts,
The word 'chariot' is used,
So, when the aggregates are present,
There's the convention 'a being.'

It's only suffering that comes to be,
Suffering that stands and falls away.
Nothing but suffering comes to be,
Nothing but suffering ceases.


If you see someone filled with suffering, whether physical or mental, just remind yourself that nothing but suffering comes to be and nothing but suffering ceases; there's no "him" or "her" to help, just suffering that you can help arise and suffering that you can help cease. Those who exist with weakened bodies or tormented minds are just masses of suffering and you can help them out! Anatta breeds compassion to the fullest because it allows us to break down the division between "me" and "them." Instead, the wise person just sees, "Oh, there is some suffering arising, what can I do to stomp it out?"
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Anatta and Compassion

Postby jackson » Tue Nov 06, 2012 1:31 am

Thank you, that was a very helpful post and great sutta quote!
Best wishes,
Jackson
"The heart of the path is quite easy. There’s no need to explain anything at length. Let go of love and hate and let things be. That’s all that I do in my own practice." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Anatta and Compassion

Postby Yana » Tue Nov 06, 2012 4:00 am

Hi,

This is how i see existence. There is no "doer" there is "done to' all there is is a "doing". Life is like one big Verb.Walking,thinking,sleeping,eating..so if there is suffering then surely there must be loving,caring,helping etc. It's all about the action. The act of.

:anjali:
Life is preparing for Death
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Re: Anatta and Compassion

Postby thansz » Tue Nov 06, 2012 2:55 pm

Thank you LonesomeYogurt, that was a very helpful reply and sutta reference.
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Re: Anatta and Compassion

Postby SarathW » Wed Nov 07, 2012 1:08 am

Hi Jackson
You have raised a very important question. As you know once you fully understand this, a person will eliminate the first fetter. Lonsome has explained this well, but I wish to give some of my thoughts.
Look at a rock. Can you tell me what it is made of? This rock is made of many minerals such as iron and it also contains various other substances such as water and air, all combined. Now I am going to grind this rock. What happens to the rock? I have only a handful of sand in my hand. According to Buddhism there is nothing called a ‘rock’. We have given a name to an aggregate of matter. The same way so called I is a five aggregate, according to Buddhism.

Anatta does not mean to say that there are no objects. What it means is that all objects are continually changing to something else. Object and the observer both are changing so rapidly that you cannot find a fixed unchanging entity.
Having said that, we have a very small window of opportunity to grasp this change based on who you are. So the pain is real. You feel it. But not permanent. So is everything else. Once fully understand this, a person become non attached to objects. However he develops Sublime attitude ( Brahamaviharas)

The brahmavihāras (sublime attitudes, lit. "abodes of brahma") are a series of four Buddhist virtues and the meditation practices made to cultivate them. They are also known as the four immeasurables (Sanskrit: apramāṇa, Pāli: appamaññā).
According to the Metta Sutta, Shākyamuni Buddha held that cultivation of the four immeasurables has the power to cause the practitioner to be reborn into a Brahma realm (Pāli: Brahmaloka). The meditator is instructed to radiate out to all beings in all directions the mental states of:
• 1) loving-kindness or benevolence
• 2) compassion
• 3) empathetic joy
• 4) equanimity
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Re: Anatta and Compassion

Postby pegembara » Wed Nov 07, 2012 4:48 am

I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth. In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality. People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child--our own two eyes. All is a miracle.

-Thich Nhat Hanh


Tathata (suchness, thusness). "Merely thus," "just such": everything is such as it is and in no way different from that thusness. This is called "tathata." When tathata is seen, the three characteristics of anicca, dukkha, and anatta are seen, sunnata is seen, and idappaccayata is seen. Tathata is the summary of them all -- merely thus, only thus, not-otherness. There is nothing better than this, more than this, other than this, thusness. To intuitively realize tathata is to see the truth of all things, to see the reality of the things.

Bhikkhu Buddhadasa


Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. (Heart Sutra)

"The world in general, Kaccaayana, inclines to two views, to existence[2] or to non-existence.[3] But for him who, with the highest wisdom, sees the uprising of the world as it really is,[4] 'non-existence of the world' does not apply, and for him who, with highest wisdom, sees the passing away of the world as it really is, 'existence of the world' does not apply. (Kaccaayanagotta Sutta)
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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