"When understood, the Buddha’s universe..is anything but alien and inhibiting. It is a world full of hope, where everything we need to do can be done and everything that matters is within human reach. It is a world where kindness, unselfishness, non-violence, and compassion achieve what self-interest and arrogance cannot. It is a world where any human can be happy in goodness and the fullness of giving." ❦ Eknath Easwara

September 26, 2011

The Major Purpose of Compassion is Not to Reduce Hurt but Lead to Truth

"Let's talk a little more about what compassion means.  Usually, compassion is seen as the desire to alleviate someone else's pain; compassion is experienced as the desire to help.  We feel compassionate when we see somebody hurt.  Rarely do we feel compassionate when someone is not hurting. So we connect compassion with pain and hurt.  However, this is only the elementary level of compassion—emotional compassion...but [telling the truth] is the real function of compassion.  The point of compassion is not to eliminate suffering but to lead the person to the truth so that she will be able to live the life of truth.

This is an important fact that we tend not to see because our ideas about compassion are not accurate. Look for yourself.   What kind of compassion have you believed in and acted from? For most of us, it's obvious where our prejudice lies.  Our compassion has not been on the side of truth; it has been on the side of feeling good. That is not the compassion of Essence; it is the compassion of emotions. It is understandable that it hurts to see someone hurting.   You may also feel compassionate towards yourself when you are hurting; this compassion helps.  So what  is the relationship between hurt,  truth, and compassion?

Compassion is a kind of healing agent that helps us tolerate the hurt of seeing the truth.  The function of compassion in the Work is not to reduce hurt; its function is to lead to truth. Much of the time truth is painful or scary. Compassion makes it possible to tolerate that hurt and fear. It helps us persist in our search for truth.  Truth ultimately will dissolve the hurt, but this is a by-product and not the major purpose of compassion.

In fact, it is only when compassion is present that people allow themselves to see the truth.  Where there is no compassion, there is not trust.  If someone is compassionate toward you, you trust him enough to allow yourself to be vulnerable, to see the truth rather than reject it.  The compassion doesn't alleviate the pain; it makes the pain meaningful, make it part of the truth, makes it tolerable.

This way of viewing compassion makes a tremendous difference in our lives. Seeing compassion as a guide to the truth rather than as something to alleviate hurt can change the way we behave toward ourselves, our friends, everyone.  It may seem like a subtle difference, but one perspective will take you away from truth, and the other will take you toward it. One will keep you unconscious, and the other will help you learn the truth."

A. H. Almaas, Diamond Heart, Book One, "Truth and Compassion"

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