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Required compassion, and blame for “not enough”?
December 17th, 2015

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

Required compassion, and blame for "not enough"?
   « It has always been done from ancient times. They blame one who is silent, they blame one who speaks much, they blame one who speaks little. There is no one in this world who is not blamed. »
   — Dhammapada (227),

   Sometimes people ask you for some help… They might later reject it (e.g. repeatedly saying that they don't need you right now) but, as it happens, once  they asked. They might even have given you some info as to why they needed it.
   And then, one day, they feel like they have a right to demand an explanation as to why  you didn't deliver the help when they felt they needed it the most.
   At its worst, it can even come with some attempt for a guilt-trip « Where is your compassion? Beyond mere nice words, I mean: where? »

   In some places, Christmas proves an opportunity for people not to rejoice but instead to criticise others… for not doing enough, not visiting enough, not calling enough, not caring enough, etc. A happy reunion might become a litany of complaints (which obviously will not help solve the situation, with so much aversion pouring in and likely defensiveness co-arising).

   It would be nice if critics started with « Hi! How are you? » but no, apparently, some people have rights, they can make demands… Who cares if you're busy? Or sick? Or helping someone with greater need? Or even helping many not to jeopardise peace (e.g. by politically supporting mass surveillance, various discriminations, or even war), which would lead to long-lasting and dramatic suffering…
   They asked, so they deserve priority. And if they do not get it, they can blame or blackmail you for "lack of compassion".

   And of course, maybe it's "others" doing this to "us"… or it's the other way round! It might appear (relatively) simple to refrain from criticising others, but we cannot so easily stop others from criticising us, so what to cultivate? A constructive response is unlikely to be "indifference"; then, what?

   There isn't much to do in response: just look again, and see what the situation now  requires!

   Blaming people, for the ignorance of believing they ought to be the center of the world just because they asked, will not help. Blaming people, for the ignorance of believing others should read their mind as to when help isn't necessary and when it is, will not help. Blaming people, for the ignorance of believing that the compassion of others lies in conforming with one's wishes or demands or rules, will not help. Victims of ignorance are victims, and blaming victims isn't constructive. Their blame isn't wholesome or constructive, yours in return wouldn't be so either!

   If anything, it could potentially be a good time to have a serious conversation about expectations, about mind-reading, and about the samsaric arch-delusion that the world should comply with one's desires, aversions and views! Hopefully, a better way to communicate in the future might be established.

   Beyond this, maybe the 'demands' are a poor way to ask for help right now, so it might be a good time to manifest compassion indeed… Not out of a guilt-trip, not out of some habitual and socially-defined 'duty', not out of clinging to some funky self-image of the "compassionate one", but out of a need that may be (partially or fully) answered in the present circumstances.
   This requires cultivating equanimity to the manifested self-centredness, so that it is treated as a signal, as an information, and not related to in terms of like/dislike. And if nothing wholesome may in fact be done in the present conditions, then equanimity rather than fear or pain is again one's ally (to engage constructively once the conditions will evolve and allow for a causal intervention).
   Equanimity is as much an immeasurable as loving-kindness, compassion and sympathetic joy. It is in fact what allows not to drown in the cries and the tears of the world, doing one's best but without blaming oneself for not being able to do more just yet, acting out of loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy indeed rather than out of worldly winds (such as reputation or praise) and erroneous views (such as righteousness).

   People might ask « I need to know if you can commit to permanent [something] ». Even if it came from a loving intention, there'd be no wisdom in pretending that one can  commit in advance to anything permanent, regardless of changing circumstances. People die. People age. People fall sick. Saṃsāra. People even make mistakes, good intentions aren't enough to prevent mistakes! You can try your best, certainly, but this gives no right to blame if you cannot deliver. The initial intention only means you'll try again, pick yourself up where you fell (you cannot do so anywhere else!) and try again.

   One of the classic "identity views" that are unwholesome is the one of 'victim' (of whatever circumstances / events). It just doesn't help moving forward.
   Such an assessment is obviously not about denying the past, nor its unfolding consequences in the present… but reifying the past into "who one is" is transforming this past  (or rather the view of the past) into a never-ending, self-perpetuating present!
   Others of the classic "identity views" that are unwholesome are the ones of the "good samaritan" and, in buddhist circles, of the "awakened". They often co-arise with the victim identity: one projects "victim" on oneself and "reliable good samaritan" on someone else. Some people project "reliable good samaritan" or "saint" on themselves, clinging to 'being' a good person. Victimhood becomes a bargaining chip, to make a "saint" do what the victim wants. This is helping no one in the long run though.
   Circumstances and processes might require responses, but identification is a root-cause of unsatisfactoriness: one day, the good samaritain will not respond the way the victim preconceived (s)he "should". One day, one's victimhood will not be acknowledged as gaining priority over everything else. People create pain out of expectations, about themselves and about others.

   Compassion cannot be "required": it is wilfully given.
   And it is given freely to whatever requires the most urgent response, not necessarily to some preconceived or expected beneficiary.
   Sure, we can all cultivate compassion to make it an immeasurable! When compassion is infinite, this doesn't make available resources infinite though (life in the world is still subject to conditioning), nor does it make the subsequently needed prioritisation irrelevant. Moreover, just as much, we can all cultivate equanimity to make it an immeasurable too, and equanimity implies that beneficiaries are decided based on needs and available resources, not on preconceptions!

   We don't ask others to be compassionate, in particular neither with measures tied to some unrealistic standard, nor selectively ("compassionate towards me first"); instead, we lead by example, to inspire others.
   We don't even make it a "moral imperative" for ourselves to be compassionate, for the goal is to cultivate 'appropriate' responses: the goal is for compassion to naturally arise as a wise response to the situation at hand, not to 'force' it out of a righteous preconception that one "should" be compassionate. The cultivation of compassion is therefore more about intention (real / causal intention, i.e. with a practical unfolding / execution to follow), than about showing off, forcing, demonstrating… Wishing to force your 'compassion' onto others would clearly miss the point! 
   We work on ourselves, leveraging opportunities (incl. the help / guidance / criticism we can receive) but not  demanding from others to be responsible for supporting us or for providing us with opportunities! This works both ways: when we think others are better off, we're unwholesomely dualistic and blind to their difficulties or their suffering, so making demands is inappropriate. But when we think we are better off, we're also unwholesomely dualistic: we feed our ego with conceit, and we might unconsciously want others to remain worse off (so that we can keep feeding the ego, playing the 'compassionate' or the 'generous' one, etc.), so making demands is inappropriate. Compassion is about situations and processes, not about fictitious entities ('permanent' persons…): a given situation might require a compassionate response, indeed, but it's not about "who's in which role?"

   We do our best and we train our mind not  to be affected when ourself, or others, think "this 'best' isn't good enough (for me, myself and I, who is the supreme measure of everything!)".

   Reflecting on such views, may you all meet friends and family over Christmas with loving kindness, compassion and sympathetic joy… supportiveness rather than criticalness (supported by defensiveness)! Even if they are critical, lead by example!

   Buddhism has its own version of Jesus' "speck in a brother's eye and log in one's own" teaching:
   « It's easy to see the errors of others, but hard to see your own. You winnow like chaff the errors of others, but conceal your own —like a cheat, an unlucky throw.
   « If you focus on the errors of others, constantly finding fault, your effluents flourish. You're far from their ending. »
   — Dhammapada (252–253),
   a.k.a. "Dwelling on your brother's faults multiplies your own; being free includes being free from resentful thoughts."

#Buddhism   #Dharma   #compassion   #equanimity