I was at lunch the other day with my cousin when i asked what he thought compassion was. Him, being a priest, gave the typical answer, "love." Of course this was not satisfactory to me, cause it just traded one word for another. These words are generally used interchangeably anyway. So we went into it a bit.
Ive often wondered how it is that when a child does something such as hitting or crying when they dont get their way we, as adults, are not provoked to anger, but instead have a sense of understanding, or what some might consider compassion. Yet, when the same situation arises in an adult we are provoked. Most of us feel the need in situations like these, to execute justice upon that person, if we feel that they 'should have' learned this lesson. Theres a sense of pain inside and we feel the need to make the other feel this as well.
The child has nothing there to defend, unlike us, we have a feeling that we need to make others feel pain when we feel it. Its as if we are scared of feeling hurt, and so instead we feel anger, which is not necessarily a 'wrong' response, yet the desire to hurt the other in return can be the result of ones inability to feel pain (which is really their desires for happiness). The ego is competitive, we want to feel justice and satisfaction knowing that someone else is hurting worse or as bad as we are. I dont expect you to accept what i am saying. The question is, are you able to see this now, in your own life?
It can quite simply be stated that when we are able to 'eat bitter' , we are then able to feel that pain, that hurt. Im not talking of passivity. It is quite alive. Its not a matter of simply understanding that the child doesnt understand what he is doing; i can see that i may not understand exactly why the child is doing what he is doing. But when the child attacks its also not a matter of ones own sheer power, where his attack simply does not penetrate me cause i am so strong, that would simply mean that i am dull and insensitive. When the adult attacks, i meet that pain with all the 'shoulds' and 'should nots'. But what if i have no shoulds or should nots? What if i have no desire to control another? The adult attacks verbally, and there is nothing there to say whether he should, or should not; yet instead, there is an aliveness, a sensitivity that is able to listen to that without judgment.
Compassion, seems to not be something that we can strive for, because then we would be meeting that pain with a formula that we have so we still dont have to feel that pain. Maybe you have seen this or you yourself have done this; there is this idea of being "compassionate" but really there is no compassion, one is simply trying to be compassionate because they feel they should, or they are trying to ascribe or adhere to a certain philosophy or religious ideal. When the shoulds and should nots are gone, what else is left but a mind that is able to listen.... listen without judgment. So what is eating bitter? Is it something that we can strive for to meet our pain and suffering with? Or is it something that comes uninvited, as the result of seeing the whole workings of this process? Is it another formula that we are going to meet our pain with, so that in turn we really arent eating bitter.... much like the 'insensitive holy roller' who is simply associating himself to an ideal in hopes of gain, or power. Or is it something that is alive, sensitive, and without a goal, but with an awakening to our pain and discomfort? Are we able to feel the fire that is burning our hand? Or are we accumulating ideals in hopes of covering our pain?
Compassion is something that comes with a sensitive mind. A mind that is able to listen to another without our image that we may have of that person or group of people. And in that listening are we able to see our relationship with them? Are we able to see that we are that other person? The self is relationship. And in seeing this, is that not the end of the self? Is that not the ending of distance between you and me? We distance ourselves from others with images we have of them. We have our fear of being hurt, of being vulnerable, of being rejected, and so we look through images; we see through filters that we overlay in hopes of protecting ourselves. So when we look at our girlfriends, or our neighbors, or our enemies, we dont see them, but we see the images we have of them that we have placed there in order to 'protect' our 'selves' from seeing them, cause if i see them, then they may see me and all the weak and horrbileness that i believe i am. So i create this image of myself, and i try and build that image in others eyes. And then i have my image of them as well, and we go about meeting each other with these silly masks.
The whole working of it is quite simple really, but we choose to hide. We choose to 'be' happy, heh, as if we can. We choose to 'be' noble, or just, or righteous, or brave.... but it is clearly not possible to become these things because the becoming is the image that we are meeting others with. We are meeting others through these desires of what we want to appear like in their eyes. Can you see all of the workings of this; how the mind displays these images and then pretends as though it came from without instead of within? It must lie to itself to present itself as coherent because the mind demands wholeness. The conflict within is our reluctance to see, to feel... the mind feels pain and says, 'i dont want to feel that aweful thing again' and so it creates, it invents ideals, and associations with ideals and images it has, which are based on memories, of things that it believes are powerful, good, or noble, or whatever.... but it doesnt see that it is the past that it is really striving for; an invention it has created that is based upon memories of things it has experienced that it believes are good. So it is a dull mind, an imitating mind, not an alive, sensitive one.