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Thread: Compassion

  1. #1


    Hi everyone,
    I'd like to discuss compassion for a bit if everyone doesn't mind. I placed this topic in the "Zazen, Zen, ..." and not the All Life thread because, well it's both and I always post in the All Life thread... I believe compassion lies somewhere around the lungs of our practice, being that Zazen is the heart of it, and really they are the same thing. It's all practice and what not...

    I have a problem with Compassion, not in the sense that I think there is something wrong with it. There is more likely something "wrong" with me. Yes, yes, I know there is nothing wrong and there is no me... Now that we got that out of the way.

    I actually find myself to be a very compassionate person, in regards to the wife, the kid, the immediate family and so on...
    I also find myself to be quite compassionate, in my modest opinion towards the general populace. I try to stay informed on Social Issues and injustices and make modest attempts and doing what I can in my community, blah blah blah... I generally make an attempt, every day I try. I think that is very important. I really try to be courteous and polite in social situations, smile, say good morning, etc. It's the little things that count.

    But this is the problem. Co-workers and acquaintances generally feel my wrath. I have little to no compassion, sympathy, empathy with/for them, and when I recognize that I am behaving like this, like an absolute asshole, I do attempt to take a step back. I try to analyze each person and situation and try to develop some sort of compassion for them and their situation. Let's just say it never lasts long.
    And upon further examination I also tend to have very little compassion for myself. I am my hardest and most extreme critic. I beat myself up like I beat them up, for the littlest infraction. If most of you met me in my work environment, I promise you wouldn't like me much.

    So, does anyone else find themselves doing this same thing. Having a lack of compassion for the ones that are near you daily, even friends? Am I alone as the harsh asshole? Just wanted to hear/read peoples thoughts on the subject of daily compassion, we don't specifically talk about it enough I don't think. I am using the word "we" in the worldly sense, not in the "treeleaf" sense so to speak. Or maybe I just mean "I" don't talk about it enough. Anyway.

    It's all good practice, right.

    Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day.


  2. #2

    Re: Compassion

    Hi Rob,

    Thank you for your post. The very fact you see how unpleasant you can be is already an amazing realization. The workplace is the most difficult one. It is easy to forgive and have compassion for the beloved ones or complete strangers. For collegues and fellow workers: it is sooooo hard. Unless...
    I would highly recommand that you do some of what is called THe Work, created by Byron Katie. You'll find a lot of vids on Youtube.
    Have compassion for this aspect of yourself. See how much you see yourself in others, you see your own unbearable flaws and how it triggers anger.
    You may also train yourself to notice anger before you identify with it, and once noticed, you may thank anger for showing up but decline the invitation, and use this energy to generate more positive work. The practice of the mantra "it is Ok to have anger in me" could be helpful. Come back to shikantaza everytime you can.
    Make this acceptance of anger without acting on it your daily bread.
    And please, have more compassion for yourself, somehow the seed of it all has to do with the way you look at yourself, deep down, and see yourself a unworthy, unkind, un-whatever.

    Take great care of yourself



  3. #3

    Re: Compassion

    Hi Rob,

    I found your post interesting because I have found somewhat the opposite in my life. I am hardest on the ones closest to me. People at work and general acquaintances seem to get my good side but friends and family have, over time, push my buttons and draw out my anger. Part of it for me is personality I feel. I am a peace-keeper and generally avoid conflict. But the more comfortable I am with someone the more I show my true self, even if sometimes it's not the "best" self.

    In relation to anger, specifically, I do not struggle to much anymore with it however. In my younger days I had quite a temper and lacked much compassion, however as I've grown older and possibly *gasp* wiser I find I have a higher tolerance for such things. I attribute it to my practice (filling the tank for the ride between sittings) , my matured understanding (recognizing and dealing with my anger before it becomes externalized) and, honestly, a bit of complacency. Things maybe just don't matter as much anymore and so I don't let them eat me up.

    However, nothing is absolute so I can safely say it is (and most likely always be) a work in progress. Just have found ways that work for me *most* of the time.



  4. #4

    Re: Compassion

    Hellos to all posting here and Rob, thank you for such an intriguing post
    I caught a glimpse of what might be a recognition of my own reflection in your words...

    However, I am not sure I know what 'compassion' is. I mean, I think I know what I think it means. I experience something in interactions with people I care about and also people I don't particularly care for, I do what needs doing in situations with others regardless of whether I 'like' them or not. With some I am one way, with others another, this isn't about inconsistency, this is about living responsiveness: every combination of personalities, every situation unique. I don't set about in my contact with another thinking "I'm gonna be compassionate with them" but I may find (for example) that while I am speaking with a person, I move from where I am standing and speaking with them so that the sunlight is not in their eyes. Let's say in my exchange with them they think I've been abrupt with my what was I-- compassionate with them or not? Was I both compassionate and not compassionate? Was I neither compassionate nor not compassionate?
    Who is the one holding the compassion meter and measuring? you? or those you interact with? or those who witness your interaction with another?

    situations, interactions, responses

    If you are a hangman and I am on the gallows, the length and kind of knot you tie around my neck to break it quickest---that is compassion. I don't want you to leave me hanging so to speak.

    Teachers sometimes give answers and sometimes let students puzzle over it

    which one is the example of compassion?

    I think I understand compassion, kindness...but in the moment in which those qualities may very well be the pivot of my behavior, I don't experience "I am being kind, I am being compassionate..." I just am...

    This is a truly beautiful and compelling post of yours, Rob. Thank you.

  5. #5

    Re: Compassion

    Quote Originally Posted by shards
    I am hardest on the ones closest to me.
    Me too, and that's one reason I practice.

  6. #6

    Re: Compassion

    Not being perfectly compassionate is the normal state.

    Compassion is being present for others.

    Compassion is a natural function of wisdom or prajna.

    Just sitting is an expression of compassion.

    Forgiveness is closely related to compassion.

    Compassion doesn't mean always doing what others want you to do.

    Compassion is never what you think it is, it's expressed in what you do and how you do it.

    Just thinking.

  7. #7

    Re: Compassion

    Taigu, Rich,
    Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Perspective is what I tend to need sometimes, and I greatly appreciate both of your posts. Thank you again.

    This is also where I was hoping this topic would lead. I wanted to see an open discussion about Compassion and what it means to people individually, specific examples and so forth. I sorta feel like I just have it all wrong, like I'm going about the concept of compassion with an ill advised definition. Does that make sense? I feel as though I take issue with examples in my life, but maybe I shouldn't be taking issue at all, or maybe as Taigu spoke of it really is me that should be taking issue with me. Do I have the correct definition? Am I contemplating these "issues" to take focus off of my own deep seated "issues?" Anyway, I realize I might not be making sense or I'm being vague...sorry. I still have severe jet lag and I still need to go and sit before I pass out for the day.

    Thanks again to everyone for the insight and perspective.. It is so very much appreciated.



  8. #8

    Re: Compassion

    Rob, spending a year or better in a place where disputes are settled by young, adrenaline pumped men carrying large, automatic weapons, and where day-to-day business is war, compassion is hard to come by, both from within and from outside. I know a little about that. Emotions run high in the military and in a military environment to begin with, being in a combat zone totally magnifies it. Don't be tough on yourself, the fact that you're recognizing it and WANT it to be different IS, in itself, compassion manifesting itself... the "real" person climbing out from the inside even as your outer self says or does things you internally think are mean. Extremes of emotion are NORMAL there... think about it. Laugh too much, react too easily, get all cranked up over stupid things, and certainly, INSTANT rage. Compassion? You're talking about a place where everything- the weather, the water, the bugs, the dust, the animals, and the locals CAN and WILL kill you if they have the opportunity. Give yourself a break if you snap at people. It will get better, because you obviously want it to.

  9. #9

    Re: Compassion

    Hi all,

    Being blunt (once more) and direct I shall say this: compassion is never aware of itself. Something does stuff for yourself or people. Totally unoticed. And then, suddenly,we may become aware of it...extra. Extra thought. Extra imput. we could leave it as it is. We add to it. We turn it unto glorious narrative, a story. Pointless story but gooooooooooooooooooooooooooood to our wounded heart...
    The point( is there a point?) I would like to make is that compassion, true compassion is razor blade like...Nobody, nothing can hang around and own it.
    As is.

    It is what irritates me about the perception of Ryokan in the West... Sweet monk, begging endlessly, playing with kids, never pissed by anything...
    Lies. Lies of the ego. Endless narrative projected on reality.
    Ryokan? Just as is. Nothing romantic or idealistic about the guy.
    Pretty much you and me.
    Actually very much like you.

    Add something extra ( as I often do) and you find yourself on the road of "see how great it is to be compassionate"...




  10. #10

    Re: Compassion

    Thanks for putting this out there, Rob. I saw a lot of myself in your description. Thank you to everyone for teaching me in reply.

    From one asshole to another, gassho.


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