May 16, 2013
In his book, Living Ethically: Advice from Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland, Sangharakshita has some advice for those who feel guilty about wanting to be happy. I have to confess that I’d forgotten that it was possible to feel this way…
“How can we wish for the happiness of others if we are alienated from our own desire for happiness?
“Unfortunately, many of us in the West were given to understand when we were young that it is selfish to want happiness for onself, and we therefore feel unnecessarily guilty about wanting it. As a result, we can feel guilty even about BEING happy. ‘After all,’ the perverse logic goes, ‘with all my
May 15, 2013
After 34 days of blogging on mindfulness and compassion I’m getting a little tired of the sound of my own voice, so I’m plucked some sayings from the Pali canon. The Pali canon is part of the oldest strata of teachings that we have available to us. It comprises of teachings that were memorized and passed down orally for several hundred years before being written down. The Pali canon was just one of many such bodies of teachings, which existed in numerous languages. Sadly, the Muslim invasions of India resulted in the destruction of the bulk of these other canons, and the Pali canon is the only complete collection …
May 14, 2013
Chogyam Trungpa borrowed from Gurdjieff the very useful notion of “idiot compassion.” Gurdjieff, a rather fascinating spiritual teacher of the early to mid-20th century, had said that we are all idiots of one kind or another, and his extensive lists of the various types of idiots included “the compassionate idiot.”
Compassion is wishing that beings be free from suffering. Idiot compassion is avoiding conflict, letting people walk all over you, not giving people a hard time when actually they need to be given a hard time. It’s “being nice,” or “being good.”
It’s not compassion at all. It ends up causing us pain, and it ends up causing others …
May 13, 2013
So far I’ve just been advising people to do the metta bhavana (development of lovingkindness) practice while bearing in mind the sufferings of others, but karuna bhavana (the development of compassion) is a practice in its own right. I thought I’d take an opportunity to geek out by looking at an early source of instruction on this practice.
The “Path of Liberation” (Vimuttimagga) by Upatissa is the oldest meditation manual that I know about. It was probably written in the 1st century, several hundred years after the Buddha’s death. It’s from India, but the text has only survived in Chinese translation.
The scriptures of the Pali canon, which contain records …
Wildmind Meditation News
May 12, 2013
Like many Westerners, Mary Bennett turned to Buddhism when the faith of her childhood stopped working for her.
She still wanted a spiritual practice, but one that valued questioning.
“Buddhism encourages you to investigate every piece of information you’re given, and that really appealed to me,” said Bennett, who works in Madison in the field of health care advocacy. “All of us want to be good people, but how? Buddhism provides a path and instruction on how to gain wisdom and compassion.”
It’s a big week for Buddhism in Madison — one of many in the last four decades because of the…
May 12, 2013
In cultivating compassion we’re responding, with kindness, to the suffering we encounter in life — especially others’ suffering. And the essence of compassion is wishing that beings be free from suffering.
But what do we mean by suffering?
There’s an unfortunate tendency for us to think of suffering in grand terms: the person with terminal cancer or a broken leg, the refugee, the starving child in a third world country. So suffering seems to be a special event. But actually, all beings suffer. We all suffer, every day.
- When you’re worrying what people think about you, you’re suffering.
- When you feel resentful, you’re suffering.
- When you’re impatient, you’re suffering.
- When you’re embarrassed, you’re suffering.
May 11, 2013
Yesterday I wrote about the complexities of the “near enemy” of compassion, which is the grief that arises from attachment. So we might feel bad when we see someone suffering, but not actually have any empathy for them. That’s not compassion. It’s “grief” at having our normal experience disrupted by someone who’s inconsiderate enough to suffer. Or we may spiral into despair and sorrow (which is called “failed compassion”) because we’re unable to bear the discomfort of knowing someone is suffering. This is all rather tricky for people to get hold of, sometimes, and it’s potentially undermining because we can end up doubting, in an unhelpful, self-hating kind of …
Wildmind Meditation News
May 10, 2013
Jonathan Pitts, The Baltimore Sun: He pulled on a Terps visor, to the crowd’s delight. He rubbed noses with Gov. Martin O’Malley. And the Dalai Lama was met Tuesday with rounds of applause from a crowd of 15,000 at the University of Maryland, College Park’s Comcast Center.
“Sit down,” the 78-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader said in a firm but friendly voice when he approached the podium and the crowd rose to its feet. “No formality! We are [the] same. … The way we are born, the way we die: no formality.”
Clad in red robes and his trademark spectacles, the Dalai Lama appeared…
May 09, 2013
I’ve had more people asking me about the “near enemy” of compassion. So here goes…
The “near enemy” is, by definition, something you might confuse with compassion. You might think you were cultivating compassion but were actually cultivating something else, in the same way that you might water and care for a weed, thinking it’s a useful plant. The “far enemy” is quite straightforward. It’s cruelty, or indifference to suffering, which is just the direct opposite of compassion. That’s easy to understand. But what is compassion’s “near enemy”?
People often use the word “pity” to describe the near enemy, but the traditional commentaries use the word “grief.” Compassion is also …
May 08, 2013
Talking about cultivating or developing compassion can have the unfortunate side-effect of giving us the idea that compassion is something we don’t have, and need to create. Actually, the words cultivate and develop are meant to imply that we already have compassion as a natural attribute, and that what we need to do is to connect with this innate compassion and make it stronger. Really, karuna bhavana is “strengthening compassion.”
Compassion is part of our genetically inherited mental tool-kit. Other animals show compassion: primatologist Frans de Waal (one of my personal heroes) points out that chimpanzees take care of the sick and elderly, for example by bringing water …