Part 2 of 4, continued from Compassion and Developing Bodhichitta
We all want happiness, peace and serenity. No one wants to suffer. No one wants any suffering of any kind.
There was a time when I was going through a rough time in my life. I was definitely in a lot of emotional pain. I was having difficulties adjusting to living again in the Philippines.
I had one challenge after another. It felt like I wasn’t going to see the day when it would all end. I badly needed a compassionate spirit, a concerned friend. I talked to a close friend and poured out my grievances to her.
I would have preferred and needed for her to tell me, “Oh, I’m so sorry for what you’re going through and for how you’re feeling. It must be so tough for you and I can only imagine the culture shock that you’re experiencing.”
I wanted to hear her say that. I needed to hear those words. Words that convey honoring and respecting where I’m at in my journey.
Much to my dismay, she said, “You know this has been going on for such a long time already. It’s been a while since this [the challenging incident] happened and you still haven’t quite recovered. Why is it taking so long? I know you’re ultra-sensitive to energies, and I’m sure it’s a gift. But I’m also sure that there are ways to address the challenges you’re facing, and I really miss and wish for the jolly Nadine who I saw after she had just come back from the U.S., the one who was so happy and full of joy.”
There wasn’t anything she said that wasn’t true or inaccurate.
But the voice of wisdom tells us when certain things are to be articulated (or not), or what words to use to express them, and when the time is right.
A compassionate heart and a wise mind would also later add, “I know this may not be easy for you to see or to hear at this point, but I’m sure you know that there are lessons to learn from these experiences. I know how challenging they are for you but as you know, our difficulties eventually turn out to be our growth opportunities.”
It can be quite tricky because these situations require sensitivity to the feelings of the person in pain — to sense and to know if the person is ready to hear such words, if it will help them or will even make them feel worse.
Interestingly, I ended up telling her those exact words that I wanted and needed to hear. Words that would have uplifted and encouraged me and cheered me on.
I told her that when I heard what she said, instead of being alleviated of my suffering, I felt even more pain. It’s like someone had just come back from war, severely wounded, and is met with, “Well, why did you go to war to begin with, and why did you not make sure you had enough ammunitions?” That’s not only being insensitive. That’s being cruel.
Paradoxically, I was actually even the one who ended up extending compassion to her. I understood where she was coming from. It’s not easy to see someone suffering, especially when it’s been going on for quite sometime. We want the suffering to end. And we want it to end immediately.
Yet, how often do we truly want other people to be released from their suffering in order for them to be in peace and not merely to alleviate our discomfort?
True compassion is extended to everyone and everything, with no conditions, no limitations, and no restrictions
We all have a certain level of compassion already within us. Most of the time though, we are practicing compassion more for ourselves, and not so much for others. We certainly want the suffering to stop, but we want the suffering to be removed from our lives and not so much from others’.
Because we are not comfortable seeing someone in pain, we want them to recover as soon as possible. We want to be with them again when they are “more normal.”
This is being very selfish and self-centered. It is not the true meaning of compassion. When we are truly compassionate, we want others to be released from their suffering because we value and treasure them.
It isn’t easy. Compassion requires empathy, and it also goes hand in hand with wisdom.
Compassion. Empathy. Wisdom.
An enlightened mind, bodhichitta, requires all three.
And full enlightenment requires compassion that encompasses all things and beings, living and non-living, seen and unseen, without any conditions and without any limitations, “just as a loving mother feels compassion for all her children irrespective of whether they are behaving well or badly” ( p.175).
To be continued – Part 3 of 4 Be the hand that reaches out to the injured knee
Related article Part 1 of 4 Compassion and Developing Bodhichitta
Batchelor, S. (1997). Buddhism without beliefs: A contemporary guide to awakening. New York: Riverhead Books.
Gyatso, G.K. (2007). Transform your life: A blissful journey. New York: Tharpa Publications.
64 Ways in 64 Days Nonviolence Daily Reflections Day 46 – Mar. 16, 2012
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