And where does compassion end?
Is there a limit on either end of the spectrum for compassion? Is a fly so insignificant that we should kill it with no thought of harming that creature? And if your life were in danger, can you justify killing them to protect yourself? Where are the boundaries, and do you think there should be boundaries.
Can we truly be compassionate beings if we have limits to our compassion and we sit in judgement over life and death?
I hope you can see this as a powerful question that we ask ourselves. And I am not sure I can offer an answer for you. I think this is something that each of us has to examine with our own hearts and minds. But I will tell you that I am of the conviction and practice to do no harm (avihiṃsā). Avihiṃsā is the Pali word meaning kindness and non-violence towards all living things including animals; it respects living beings as a unity, the belief that all living things are connected. And to be clear, I was not always this way. It has only been through practice and observance that I have arrived at this place. And it is one which is still evolving and awakening.
I no longer make judgements on others who do not think or live the way I do. I have learned, ever so gradually, that my practice is greatly about acceptance and cultivation of loving kindness. And still, I have not reached perfections in my practice either. Only offering myself compassion first so that I may have a greater understanding of it, and more to offer others. I have begun to see that this kindness and compassion toward myself is reflected always in the lives of other beings, both great and small.
So where do I draw the lines for too much or not enough compassion? I don’t see them, I don’t see any lines that exist. I only see varying degrees of awareness that we all reach in our own time.
I encourage your thoughts and feedback on this, and as always I wish each of you peace.
“May I become at all times, both now and forever
A protector for those without protection
A guide for those have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A bridge for those with rivers to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter
And a servant to all in need.”
“Compassion is the third skillful thought the Buddha encouraged us to
cultivate. Compassion is a melting of the heart at the thought of
another’s suffering. It is a spontaneous, wholesome reaction,
coupled with a wish to alleviate another’s pain.
“Compassion requires an object. In order to cultivate compassion,
you must reflect on the suffering you have personally experienced,
notice the suffering of others, and make the intuitive connection
between your own painful experiences and theirs . . .
“Compassion and loving-friendliness are mutually supportive. When
you are full of loving-friendliness, your heart is open and your mind
is clear enough to see the suffering of others . . .
“Some of you may wonder why you have to practice compassion for
yourself . . . compassion for ourselves is the basis for our practice
of compassion towards others . . . It is a mistake to think that it
is more refined or ‘spiritual’ to think harshly about yourself or to
view yourself as unworthy. The Buddha found through his own
experience that self-mortification does not lead to enlightenment.
Of course, we need to cultivate self-restraint, but we do so out of
the determination to actin our own best interests. Seen rightly,
kind and gentle self-discipline is actually an aspect of compassion
Excerpted from “Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness: Walking the
Buddha’s Path” ~ Bhante Henepola Gunaratana
Wisdom Publications, 2001 www.wisdompubs.org
May you be well, happy and peaceful.