Sunday, July 25, 2010

Compassion & Anger

Jordan asks in his last blog [here] "Is my intention kindness, love, compassion like that which one might have for a small child?"

I wonder if it useful to be clear that there is a difference from feeling and action. And, given that clarity (if it is there) where does "intention" fall? Is an action "compassionate" because of some intrinsic nature of the action, or is it "compassionate" because of the feeling in the person undertaking the action? This may be some tricky ground. I think one can judge an action, but perhaps not along strict moralistic lines. Something like, did the action help in the moment? Did the action move the situation along so that all benefited as much as was understandable in the moment?

Therefore, I guess I don' believe in compassionate actions. Compassion is far too complicated an idea. It is not immediate. It is thought out and pondered over. What may have been an action taken for a whole variety of emotional impetus, including anger, can be judged as compassionate even if there was no such forethought in the actor.

We can, I think, also speak of true compassion. True compassion, it is said, is like a hand reaching back in the night for a pillow. I still haven't gotten to the bottom of that explanation, but it seems to me it is saying compassion has no thought. It does what is needed for "the good" in the moment, and it is never quite clear.

I think I as a Buddhist cannot, and should not encourage people to have any particular type of feeling. I should not care what emotion a person may be under when they take action. My focus should be on the effect of the action. I should learn to practice seeing how what I do, including what I speak, or write, impacts the world, did things improve or did things go wrong? Did the wheel turn?

If I can learn to see what I am doing, I can help the world along even in a fit of anger.


Jordan said...

Hi Lauren,

This is an interesting post.

I think that feelings are a bit different than intentions though.
Feelings are (to me) categorized as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.
Whereas I think the realm of intention is exactly the realm of action. Whether or not our intentions turn out the way we want them or not, they come from the action of the mind. And the mind is the forerunner of all things.

The hand reaching back to adjust the pillow in the night as compassionate action without intention might not be it, because there was movement in the mind before there was movement in the hand, and that movement started off as an intention, albeit perhaps an unconscious/ subconscious one.

Now I do think that it is possible to close the gap between stimulus and response, but I think this takes training. And for me, part of this training is examining my own intentions. I do not think that all of our daily actions and interactions can be so easy as reaching back to adjust a pillow in the night. And sometimes we just can't avoid the response to a stimulus, like when the doctor taps that spot on your knee with the little rubber mallet.

But if our day to day actions and reactions are just like when the doctor taps that spot on your knee with the little rubber mallet than, it might be impossible to look at our intentions or motivations if you will, and in my mind we are in the animal realm of just responding to whatever stimulus presents itself.

So for me, I think looking deeply at my intentions is an important part of my practice at the moment, because I still haven't closed that gap.

Or at least, that is how I see it right now.

Yours in practice,

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

在你一無所有的時候 是誰在陪伴你 他便是你最重要的人......................................................................