Compassion toward self

Discussion in 'Buddhism' started by Netti-Netti, Oct 8, 2008.

  1. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2008
    Messages:
    2,571
    Likes Received:
    0
    Discussions of the Buddhist idea of compassion tend to focus on loving kindness toward others and being helpful toward others. It is true that in Buddhism compassion is the Great Challenge. Makes sense.

    We understand about altruism. Accordingly, the focus of discourse will gravitate toward the business of looking for opportunities to be compassionate toward others. That's ok but it can be a bit misleading, as you can see when you realize that compassion toward self and toward others are actually very related in terms of learning what it is to be compassionate.

    Basic question: How can one be compassionate toward others and not be compassionate toward oneself ? Well, it's theoretically possible. But in practice it may not be workable.

    The loving energy of compassion mobilizes right action when the person is no longer concerned with self. That happens with self-acceptance.

    Real progress toward self-acceptance would seem crucial to learning compassion for others. How's that? My answer: Invariably, real progress toward self-acceptance will lead to ongoing mindfulness and ongoing efforts to purify intention. For one thing, we may discover that what we think is 'compassion' is really a glorified version of our usual egoic modalities - a fancy dressup for the same old attachment to self and desire to interfere and control the world around us with the same old heavy-handedness.

    It seems a negative self concept can be maintained by the recurrence negative self-centered feelings like private shame (some Buddhists believe that public shame is a good thing because it connects us to humanity and the people we've betrayed, and it helps refine commitment).

    Private shame is unwholesome because of its effect: it maintains negative self-cognitions and negative self-concept. And so it follows that letting go of shame would help the process toward self-acceptance. I would say it's one way to be "one's own helper," like the Buddha says.

    The Buddha noted that "a certain individual is a tormentor of self, is addicted to the practice of self-torment." The Buddha does not approve. Who does he approve of? The Buddha approves of one who does not torment self or others. See the Kandaraka Sutta.

    Developing genuine self acceptance is part of what it is to develop a fully functioning, compassionate mind. It is not contrived. It is not something we talk ourselves into. It is not something we try to earn by self-propelled perfectionist strivings and enacting a faulty idea of personal competence or moral superiority. And it is not based on the approval of others. It is based on recognizing one's essential Buddha nature.
     
  2. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2005
    Messages:
    6,862
    Likes Received:
    260
    I would agree that true compassion is spontaneous, and not contrived. It is freeing, rather than binding. True compassion for others will dispel the kleshas we cling to. {Just my own observations, for what it might be worth.}
     
  3. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2008
    Messages:
    2,571
    Likes Received:
    0
    Without compassion toward self we are unlikely to do anything about the defilements or "obscurations."

    Even if we intellectually recognize greed, hate, and delusion for what they are - the roots of suffering - we won't be motivated to work them out without a sufficient level of self-love.

    It is because I care about myself that I want to be pure of mind and heart.
     
  4. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2005
    Messages:
    6,862
    Likes Received:
    260
    This is where the interconnectedness of everything comes in, imo. For me, recognizing how my greed, hate, and delusion might cause suffering in others, the compassion I feel for others basically cuts through those negative feelings within my mind. *shrugs*
     
  5. Dream

    Dream Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2008
    Messages:
    3,677
    Likes Received:
    1
    Watched this informative video YouTube - Cognitive Neuroscience of Mindfulness Meditation
    The technical video was interesting, and had statistics about the effects of meditation and explained how it is used in clinical settings.

    Also watched an intro to Lovingkindness meditation by Bhante Vimalaran on Veoh's web site. It was very easy to understand what he was saying. Tried about 5 minutes or so of meditation and noticed an improvement in attitude for the next few days -- much easier to be flexible and love everyone, etc! Lovingkindness is something that can be applied throughout the day without 'Meditation', but the meditation seems to help magnify the effect.
     
  6. Snoopy

    Snoopy zennish

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2006
    Messages:
    5,317
    Likes Received:
    45
    Is it me, or are you a virtual sponge, sg?!:D

    s.
     
  7. Zenda71

    Zenda71 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2004
    Messages:
    184
    Likes Received:
    0
    Whenever I've heard teachings on compassion or lovingkindness practices, it's always taught that we first generate compassion or lovingkindness to ourselves then extend it out to others. (I'm thinking about maitri practice, I guess, although in certain ways of practicing tonglen, this happens too). We wish to free sentient beings throughout limitless space, which includes us.

    If you still see separate "you" and "others," then it's impossible to extend compassion without limit because there's still duality. So naturally it makes sense to include yourself in generating and practicing compassion. Otherwise, it's just martyrdom, right? The real compassion, IMHO, is letting go of duality. That's when compassion is really spontaneous.
     
  8. Snoopy

    Snoopy zennish

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2006
    Messages:
    5,317
    Likes Received:
    45
    Damn fine post there Zenda! (I know, I know good and bad is dualistic but I just can't live in the absolute every minute!). While we're in the relative one could also reiterate that one cannot love others if one does not love one self.

    s.
     
  9. Snoopy

    Snoopy zennish

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2006
    Messages:
    5,317
    Likes Received:
    45
    In the Chödrön book that I'm reading she speaks of the difference between what she calls positive and negative shame. The latter only results in guilt and self-denigration, whereas the former can come from our realisation of the causing of suffering to others and using the feeling of shame to learn from it compassionately.


    ...and expressing it in the reality of action in the present.

    s.
     
  10. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2008
    Messages:
    2,571
    Likes Received:
    0
    From a Buddhist Glossary:
    Metta, in Buddhist Doctrine is the feeling one must first have towards the self; not in a narcissistic sense but in a sense of being content with who and what one is and assured that every effort has been made to exercise love and compassion towards all fellow beings. Then, and only then, can one spread the feeling towards all other beings in the universe.

    Buddhism Depot: Buddhist Glossary








     
  11. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2005
    Messages:
    6,862
    Likes Received:
    260
    Something to balance out having a mind like a pot with a hole in the bottom of it.
     
  12. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2005
    Messages:
    6,862
    Likes Received:
    260
    I thought the Pali word for compassion was karuna. :confused:
    Isn't metta the Pali word for loving-kindness?
    {The other two sublime states being sympathetic joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkha)?} :confused:
    The Four Sublime States
     
  13. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2008
    Messages:
    2,571
    Likes Received:
    0
    The passage I cited from the glossary illustrates the point I was making about the developmental aspect - i.e., how self-acceptance and genuine caring for self forms the basis for a broader caring. Hope that helps. :)
     
  14. dailogue is the best

    dailogue is the best New member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2005
    Messages:
    527
    Likes Received:
    1
    Thank you very much for the thread, Netti- Netti. I am really interested. Would please explain how one can achieve self-acceptance if he/she is aware of his/her incompletness.
     
  15. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2005
    Messages:
    6,862
    Likes Received:
    260
    Are you referring to equanimity?

    From the above link: The Four Sublime States:

    IV. Equanimity (Upekkha)

    Equanimity is a perfect, unshakable balance of mind, rooted in insight.
    Looking at the world around us, and looking into our own heart, we see clearly how difficult it is to attain and maintain balance of mind.
    Looking into life we notice how it continually moves between contrasts: rise and fall, success and failure, loss and gain, honor and blame. We feel how our heart responds to all this with happiness and sorrow, delight and despair, disappointment and satisfaction, hope and fear. These waves of emotion carry us up and fling us down; and no sooner do we find rest, than we are in the power of a new wave again. How can we expect to get a footing on the crest of the waves? How can we erect the building of our lives in the midst of this ever restless ocean of existence, if not on the Island of Equanimity.
    A world where that little share of happiness allotted to beings is mostly secured after many disappointments, failures and defeats;
    a world where only the courage to start anew, again and again, promises success;
    a world where scanty joy grows amidst sickness, separation and death;
    a world where beings who were a short while ago connected with us by sympathetic joy, are at the next moment in want of our compassion — such a world needs equanimity.
    But the kind of equanimity required has to be based on vigilant presence of mind, not on indifferent dullness. It has to be the result of hard, deliberate training, not the casual outcome of a passing mood. But equanimity would not deserve its name if it had to be produced by exertion again and again. In such a case it would surely be weakened and finally defeated by the vicissitudes of life. True equanimity, however, should be able to meet all these severe tests and to regenerate its strength from sources within. It will possess this power of resistance and self-renewal only if it is rooted in insight.
    What, now, is the nature of that insight? It is the clear understanding of how all these vicissitudes of life originate, and of our own true nature. We have to understand that the various experiences we undergo result from our kamma — our actions in thought, word and deed — performed in this life and in earlier lives. Kamma is the womb from which we spring (kamma-yoni), and whether we like it or not, we are the inalienable "owners" of our deeds (kamma-ssaka). But as soon as we have performed any action, our control over it is lost: it forever remains with us and inevitably returns to us as our due heritage (kamma-dayada). Nothing that happens to us comes from an "outer" hostile world foreign to ourselves; everything is the outcome of our own mind and deeds. Because this knowledge frees us from fear, it is the first basis of equanimity. When, in everything that befalls us we only meet ourselves, why should we fear?
    If, however, fear or uncertainty should arise, we know the refuge where it can be allayed: our good deeds (kamma-patisarana). By taking this refuge, confidence and courage will grow within us — confidence in the protecting power of our good deeds done in the past; courage to perform more good deeds right now, despite the discouraging hardships of our present life. For we know that noble and selfless deeds provide the best defense against the hard blows of destiny, that it is never too late but always the right time for good actions. If that refuge, in doing good and avoiding evil, becomes firmly established within us, one day we shall feel assured: "More and more ceases the misery and evil rooted in the past. And this present life — I try to make it spotless and pure. What else can the future bring than increase of the good?" And from that certainty our minds will become serene, and we shall gain the strength of patience and equanimity to bear with all our present adversities. Then our deeds will be our friends (kamma-bandhu).
    Likewise, all the various events of our lives, being the result of our deeds, will also be our friends, even if they bring us sorrow and pain. Our deeds return to us in a guise that often makes them unrecognizable. Sometimes our actions return to us in the way that others treat us, sometimes as a thorough upheaval in our lives; often the results are against our expectations or contrary to our wills. Such experiences point out to us consequences of our deeds we did not foresee; they render visible half-conscious motives of our former actions which we tried to hide even from ourselves, covering them up with various pretexts. If we learn to see things from this angle, and to read the message conveyed by our own experience, then suffering, too, will be our friend. It will be a stern friend, but a truthful and well-meaning one who teaches us the most difficult subject, knowledge about ourselves, and warns us against abysses towards which we are moving blindly. By looking at suffering as our teacher and friend, we shall better succeed in enduring it with equanimity. Consequently, the teaching of kamma will give us a powerful impulse for freeing ourselves from kamma, from those deeds which again and again throw us into the suffering of repeated births. Disgust will arise at our own craving, at our own delusion, at our own propensity to create situations which try our strength, our resistance and our equanimity.
    The second insight on which equanimity should be based is the Buddha's teaching of no-self (anatta). This doctrine shows that in the ultimate sense deeds are not performed by any self, nor do their results affect any self. Further, it shows that if there is no self, we cannot speak of "my own." It is the delusion of a self that creates suffering and hinders or disturbs equanimity. If this or that quality of ours is blamed, one thinks: "I am blamed" and equanimity is shaken. If this or that work does not succeed, one thinks: "My work has failed" and equanimity is shaken. If wealth or loved ones are lost, one thinks: "What is mine has gone" and equanimity is shaken.
    To establish equanimity as an unshakable state of mind, one has to give up all possessive thoughts of "mine," beginning with little things from which it is easy to detach oneself, and gradually working up to possessions and aims to which one's whole heart clings. One also has to give up the counterpart to such thoughts, all egoistic thoughts of "self," beginning with a small section of one's personality, with qualities of minor importance, with small weaknesses one clearly sees, and gradually working up to those emotions and aversions which one regards as the center of one's being. Thus detachment should be practiced.
    To the degree we forsake thoughts of "mine" or "self" equanimity will enter our hearts. For how can anything we realize to be foreign and void of a self cause us agitation due to lust, hatred or grief? Thus the teaching of no-self will be our guide on the path to deliverance, to perfect equanimity.
    Equanimity is the crown and culmination of the four sublime states. But this should not be understood to mean that equanimity is the negation of love, compassion and sympathetic joy, or that it leaves them behind as inferior. Far from that, equanimity includes and pervades them fully, just as they fully pervade perfect equanimity.
    {You might also want to compare the section about Buddha Ratnasambhava here.} :)
     
  16. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2008
    Messages:
    2,571
    Likes Received:
    0
    I think self-acceptance would help achieve and maintain equanimity.

    Thank you for your reply and good question.

    My immediate response: To be human is to be incomplete and imperfect. It makes no sense logically to fault anyone for being human.

    I have a more wordy answer for you. Later.
     
  17. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2008
    Messages:
    2,571
    Likes Received:
    0
    I think there are actually two kinds of incompleteness: (1) alienation from G-d and (2) alienation from self. I think a religious view would suggest that we are incomplete by virtue of being separated from G-d. In particular, the Christian view of redemption promises fullness of being that includes a heavenly afterlife.

    Buddhism does not deal with G-d directly. It seems mainly concerned with the second type of alienation - alienation from self. As it turns out, our adjustment to the second state of alienation helps remedy the first, but we'll save that for another time.

    Buddhism is a psychology of incompleteness. It explains the incompleteness in terms of mental fabrications that keep us seeing ourselves as we really are because we tend to substitute our own imagery for reality.

    Some the Buddhism doctrine appears to reflect Hindu doctrine of mind (According to the old Hindu tradition - called Saivism - we are trapped in Prakriti by by lower nature impurities (the malas), mental limitations (the pasas), and by the illusionary world of forms itself (Maya). Buddhism seems to have reframed Hindu ontology as psychological doctrine.

    Buddhism is a psychology of incompleteness and also offers suggestions for how to work with it. It identifies blockages, their causes, and the operative mechanisms by which they're maintained. Based on these understandings, Buddhism explains how one can reduce the influence of the blockages or obscurations that keep us in a state of psychological bondage.

    The Buddhists say that our condition is essentially a product of mind and the choices we make based on choices that fall along an ignorance-enlightenment continuum. A lack of self-acceptance is based on faulty idea that I should somehow be different from what and who I am. It can involve an internal split that involves judging oneself. This split reflects attachment to ideal self (Karen Horney says this is the single most important inner conflict because it creates an "inner rift".)

    Some of this is pure illusion. Like we often judge ourselves by the world's standards only to find that the world just wants to humiliate us (as a means of control) and take our self acceptance away from us just to remind us that we are supposed to look to the world to feel good about ourselves. This is an illusion. Obviously life has value that is not dependent on conditioned views.

    It seems to me that a way to remedy feelings of inadequacy is to accept the incompleteness of self as a wrong view that is influenced by cultural upbringing and also by the usual limits of the mind. The incompleteness of self can be accepted as an aspect of the process of change that is ongoing and universal. In this process we are both actor and observer. As actor, one seems to be responsible for things - including the need to turn into an ideal self-image. As observers, we recognize a transcendent intelligence that is evolving through us.

    Attachment to an unreal idea of who we are leads to lack of self acceptance. Personally, I think the process of "overcoming" this and other attachments is really more a process of acceptance than anything else. But it is not blind acceptance. Like I said in the OP, it is based on recognizing one's Buddha nature.

    Example: I have an attachment to beautiful things and allocate energy and resources toward surrounding myself with these things. Rather than fight it and wish it would go away, I'm learning to make friends with it and work with it.

    D.T. Zuzuki woud say that being attached to beauty is "itself Buddha's activity" and should be accepted as such. He suggests our aversion to ugly things is also ok: "That we do not care for weeds is also Buddha's activity. If you know that, it is all right to attach to something. If it is Buddha's attachment, that is non-attachment."

    The same way we can let go of attachment to the idea of becoming a perfect ideal self, which one might foolishly expect to be an everlasting memorial attesting to my commitment to my superlative (but thoroughly misguided) efforts to become a perfect being. As foolish as this may seem, it is Buddha's activity to provide a backdrop for accepting this fragile and everchanging state of affairs that is life.

    We are all constantly changing. You stop changing only when you stop growing as a person. The very notion of perfectability reflects an understanding that negative traits can be a source of positive motivation in ongoing strivings to become a better person.

    Things are in constant flux, constantly changing, and that is why I'm incomplete and that is why trying to become some idea of a perfect self will never work.

    From this perspective, recognizing and accepting one's incompleteness becomes a basis for self-acceptance.
     
  18. dailogue is the best

    dailogue is the best New member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2005
    Messages:
    527
    Likes Received:
    1
    Interesting....


    Interesting again.........

    Yes, Netti. That's true and experienced. We judge ourselves because we have that model image in mind. Yet, the question is : how can we stop associating ourselves with this image? and another important question: wouldnt self- acceptance prevent us from improvement and development?!


    people-pleasing situation is meant. Some people tend to please others in order to feel satisfied about themselves by others' satisfaction about them.


    interesting again and again....
     
  19. Snoopy

    Snoopy zennish

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2006
    Messages:
    5,317
    Likes Received:
    45

    Self acceptance need not prevent us from improvement and development. If we wish to, we could mis-understand it and use it as an excuse not to improve or develop. But acceptance does not mean resignation to the way we are, it is honest perception of the way we are. Armed with this, we may then see where we wish to “improve”. It’s a balancing act, between self acceptance of our true nature and understanding that, as all things are in constant flux, we can be constantly “improving”. Buddha nature is all, it is “me” and it is “everything else” (to use an inappropriate dualistic distinction there for a minute!). So more broadly speaking, we should be looking to develop the insight that allows clear understanding and acceptance of us and the world. The fantasies that we create, whether about “us” (inadequate, ugly), or “the world” (unfair, cruel) are the source of the mis-match that leads to suffering. Reality consist of me and everything else all in one unity, that was never divided, except by our minds.

    s.
     
  20. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2008
    Messages:
    2,571
    Likes Received:
    0
    As it turns out, some things can't be totally subjectivized. The fact is, the world is cruel and this cruelty is to a large degree institutionalized.

    The cruelty can be seen at the level of interpersonal dukkha, in a relationship that is structured around purely self-serving ends, and where the reverence and adoration dies out with every selfish act.

    The fact that the mind generates various entanglements does not rule out interpersonal dukkha. Nor does it rule out pervasive social/cultural dukkha.

    A Buddhist analysis of contemporary civilization is actually very workable. There is structural and systemic kilesa. Accordingly, we can include the primary defilements in a framework for analyzing social problems:

    • Greed (lobha): Capitalism & Consumerism
    • Anger (kodha):Militarism & Injustice
    • Hatred (dosa): Racism, Classism, & Exclusivism
    • Lust (raga): Prostitution In Entertainment, Tourism, & Business
    • Delusion (moha): Education & The Media
    • Competition: Capitalism, Sports, & A Way Of Life
    • Fear (bhaya): Medicine & Religion
    • Sexism: All Kinds Of Kilesa
    The Four Noble Truths of Dhammic Socialism


    Briefly: by identifying with the Essential Self that includes spiritual power and is not just a basis for judging one's imperfections.

    If self-acceptance is grounded in the Essential Self, then there are no limits on personal power except practical ones, and sometimes even those can be transcended.
     

Share This Page