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On compassion - From The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

anuraag - Wed, 25 May 2005 22:33:00 +0530
I don't know much about karuna, but I guess it would be a genuine sense of compassion, and to know what 't is to pity and be pitied.

Namaste all.
I like to share the message sent to me:

A few excerpts from a good book called
'The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying':

Compassion is a far greater and nobler thing than pity. Pity has its
roots in fear, and a sense of arrogance and condescension, sometimes
even a smug feeling of "I'm glad it's not me." As Stephen Levine says:
"When your fear touches someone's pain it becomes pity;
when your love touches someone's pain, it becomes compassion."

To train in compassion, then, is to know all beings are the same and
suffer in similar ways, to honor all those who suffer, and to know
you are neither separate from nor superior to anyone.

So your first response on seeing someone suffer becomes not mere pity,
but deep compassion. You feel for that person respect and even
gratitude, because you now know that whoever prompts you to develop
compassion by their suffering is in fact giving you one of the
greatest gifts of all, because they are helping you to develop that
very quality you need most in your progress toward enlightenment. That
is why we say in Tibet that the beggar who is asking you for money, or
the sick old woman wringing your heart, may be the buddhas in
disguise, manifesting on your path to help you grow in compassion and
so move towards buddhahood.


Working with Changes

Let's try an experiment. Pick up a coin. Imagine that
it represents the object at which you are grasping.
Hold it tightly clutched in your fist and extend your
arm, with the palm of your hand facing the ground. Now
if you let go or relax your grip, you will lose what
you are clinging onto. That's why you hold on.

But there's another possibility: You can let go and
yet keep hold of it. With your arm still outstretched,
turn your hand over so that it faces the sky. Release
your hand and the coin still rests on your open palm.
You let go. And the coin is still yours, even with all
this space around it.

So there is a way in which we can accept impermanence
and still relish life, at one and the same time,
without grasping.

Let us now think of what frequently happens in
relationships. So often it is only when people
suddenly feel they are losing their partner that they
realize that they love them. Then they cling on even
tighter. But the more they grasp, the more the other
person escapes them, and the more fragile their
relationship becomes.

So often we want happiness, but the very way we pursue
it is so clumsy and unskillful that it brings only
more sorrow. Usually we assume we must grasp in order
to have that something that will ensure our happiness.
We ask ourselves: How can we possibly enjoy anything
if we cannot own it? How often attachment is mistaken
for love! Even when the relationship is a good one,
love is spoiled by attachment, with its insecurity,
possessiveness, and pride; and then when love is gone,
all you are left to show for it are the "souvenirs" of
love, the scars of attachment.

How, then, can we work to overcome attachment? Only by
realizing its impermanent nature; this realization
slowly releases us from its grip. We come to glimpse
what the masters say the true attitude to change can
be: as if we were the sky looking at the clouds
passing by, or as free as mercury. When mercury is
dropped on the ground, its very nature is to remain
intact; it never mixes with the dust. As we try to
follow the masters' advice and are slowly released
from attachment, a great compassion is released in us.
The clouds of grasping part and disperse, and the sun
of our true compassionate heart shines out. It is then
that we begin, in our deepest self, to taste the
elating truth of these words by William Blake:

He who binds to himself a Joy,
Does the winged life destroy;
He who kisses the Joy as it flies,
Lives in Eternity's sunrise.

One point I'd like to add to that. If we indeed do notice a burning lack of a certain quality, or perhaps even a lack of a good many qualities, how do we undertake their cultivation? While the details of how exactly one cultivates such qualities may also be an interesting topic, what's of the utmost importance is understanding why one wishes to pay attention to their development.