Re: compassion (was: Re: [humanism-174] Aha!)

From: ken
Sent on: Wednesday, August 8, 2007 12:32 PM
Todd,

I'd agree with most of what you said, especially the part about trust.
People who are trustworthy are so rare that, if you find such a person,
you certainly don't want to be the one to mess up.  This is especially
true in a marriage.  And Buddhism does counsel not to break up a
marriage.  But in most of the marriages I've seen, the trust is already
gone.  Many are little more than a formality, a legal agreement that
would be so expensive to get out of that the couple simply continues the
charade.  That the divorce rate has held at about 55% for decades should
add to our skepticism of that institution.

I have to admire, though, your noble sentiments and hope that they
continue to be warranted for a long time.


On 08/08/[masked]:10 AM somebody named Todd Maher wrote:
> I believe that infidelity is a breach of trust and creates a path toward
> a mistrustful life. This is not compassionate, lying and living a lie.
> It is deceitful and shouldn't be encouraged, in my humble opinion. I
> don't believe people should be jailed for it, since it's none of my
> business, but I'd hate to live with cheating actions on my conscience.
> I'd also hate it if my wife lived the same way.
> 
> -----Original Message-----
>> From: ken <[address removed]>
>> Sent: Aug 7,[masked]:19 PM
>> To: [address removed]
>> Subject: Re: compassion (was: Re: [humanism-174] Aha!)
>>
>>
>> Hi, Maude,
>>
>> Just about everything you say resonates with me.  I've familiarized
>> myself with Tibetan Buddhism only though, hope to have a good look at
>> Zen before too long.  And you'll get no argument with me over what you
>> said about taxes.
>>
>> And you're correct of course about compassion being a fundamental
>> principle in Buddhism... and it's very much key to karma and so too
>> escaping samsara, though very occasionally I find a clue that it's not
>> the sole effector.  Maybe I'm just overly suspicious, but sometimes I
>> get the feeling that the head Buddhist honchos know of a few backdoors
>> into nirvana (or at least a favorable rebirth) that they're not telling
>> the rest of us about.  Well, I guess if I knew, I wouldn't blab it to
>> just anyone either.
>>
>> BTW, I guess you missed the funny in my previous email about Buddhism
>> teachers making me "suffer through endless talk about compassion."
>>
>> Your example about sleeping with your friend's husband....  I wonder if
>> it wouldn't be considered compassionate to go ahead and rock the guy.
>> Maybe your friend isn't doing it for him anymore and you'd be relieving
>> his suffering.  (I think we all know that guys need more than gals.)  As
>> long as your friend didn't find out, would you actually be causing her
>> any pain or suffering?  In fact, you could in the end be helping them
>> keep their marriage together?!  In reality Protestant guilt might make
>> it tough to pull off, so it's more an academic question: Does adultery
>> in itself-- like the tree in the woods which doesn't make a sound--
>> affect one's karma?
>>
>> It's interesting too that the notion of atonement (besides following the
>> above topic) is found in Christianity and Buddhism and in pagan practice
>> as well.  Because I wasn't sure (sometimes you just don't know if an
>> idea is whacky or not), when Elaine Pagels (Princeton professor of
>> religion and author of several books on Christianity) came to Berea to
>> give a series of lectures, I asked her and she agreed that Christ's
>> willing crucifixion was in a sense a tonglen practice.  (She's hip to
>> Buddhism of course, so tonglen required no explanation.)  This kind of
>> commonality in the small details of disparate religions often gives me
>> to wonder whether there may be, after all, a spiritual dimension to what
>> we call human nature.  In this case, however, we know that as a teenager
>> Christ traveled to India and studied with Hindus and Buddhists and so
>> may well have learned of tonglen while there.  (Back then, it seems,
>> they didn't practice the academic courtesy of citing sources, so I guess
>> that's not a constituent of human nature. :)
>>
>>
>> Best,
>> ken
>> On 08/07/[masked]:11 AM somebody named Maude wrote:
>>> Hi Ken,
>>>  
>>> I agree, that compassion is an inherent quality. I also very much feel
>>> that rule-based guidelines don't work very well. Having practiced two
>>> types of buddhism, I found that I am a MUCH more threatening judge of
>>> myself-much harder on myself-than anyone else's rules.Also, there is
>>> something sad about being a good person because you are afraid of what
>>> might happen if you aren't. We have enough of that in government. I have
>>> fear that if I don't pay my taxes I will go to jail so I pay even though
>>> I disagree with how my money is being spent. I would find it sad if the
>>> only reason I don't sleep with my friend's husband is fear of some kind
>>> of divine judgement and damnation. In fact, to not do it out of fear
>>> would just cause me frustration and because the fear of eternal hell is
>>> so far out, I would probably do it anyway. I find it much more
>>> fulfilling to not sleep with my friend's husband simply because that is
>>> not being a friend, it is wrong to participate in screwing up a family,
>>> and it would cause a lot of damage to a lot of people and that is not
>>> the compassionate person I want to be-therefore I am most unlikely to do
>>> it. The fear-based concept would probably make it more likely that I do bad.
>>>  
>>>  I think the reason in beginner buddhist classes they emphasize
>>> compassion is that a majority of buddhist practice involves an
>>> incredible amount of "work" with the concept of compassion. One
>>> seriously puts compassion as the first thought of every action, thought,
>>> or behavior of every single day if one is bringing the buddhist
>>> principles into daily life and it's almost impossible not to if you are
>>> practicing it.
>>>  
>>> In the Mahayana and Vajrayana schools particularly (in the US mostly
>>> Ch'an, Zen, and Tibetan lineages) the entire goal is to better yourself
>>> in order to free yourself from attachments so that by bettering yourself
>>> and training your mind, you may be of benefit to other sentient
>>> beings-that is the primary goal-everybody else.
>>>  
>>> When I say "work" I mean something one might expect in intense couples
>>> therapy except just with yourself.
>>> This is where the psychology that Charles mentioned comes in.
>>>  
>>> For example, let's say you have a problem and you feel bad, anything
>>> from you were unjustly fired today to your spouse took off with your
>>> children and you had no indication of trouble so you are stunned. One
>>> (among tons) of things to do in such a situation is a meditation
>>> practice called tonglen, which is in the Tibetan tradition. What you do
>>> though is, when you meditate, you think of alllllllllllll the other
>>> people in the world who right now have a very similar situation with the
>>> accompanying bad feelings and instead of just concentrating on your
>>> breathing as in a basic meditation, every time you inhale you imagine
>>> you are taking upon yourself the emotional pain of those people with the
>>> similar feelings. Every time you exhale you imagine you are sending out
>>> to them your compassionate feelings.
>>>  
>>> It is immensely cathartic. You get over your anger/jealousy/rage/­
>>> resentment/insecurit­y/whatever faster and you also develop a tendency to
>>> consider others first. It sort of reminds me of my great grandmother's
>>> wisdon: "You think you have problems? Don't be so fixated on your
>>> problems! Go call a friend who has worse problems and really listen to
>>> them tell about their problems and then you will feel MUCH better," is
>>> what she used to say.
>>>  
>>> But they emphasize compassion so much not to convince you that you
>>> should have it-they know you have it-but to indicate that many of the
>>> practices aim to bring it into and work with it every minute of every
>>> day. And that is easier said than done.
>>>  
>>> Maude
>>>
>>>
>>>
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>>
>>
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> 
> 
> Chair, Lake County Libertarian Party
> Asst. Organizer, Cleveland Ron Paul 2008 Meetup
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>[masked]
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> "In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot."   -Mark Twain, 1904
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