Get PJ Media on your Apple

PJM Lifestyle

Compassion and Idiot Compassion

When is helping actually hurting?

by
Charlie Martin

Bio

August 25, 2013 - 10:00 am
Page 1 of 3  Next ->   View as Single Page

Sally LPF 110908

About eight years ago, I had to take my 18 year old Siamese, Vashti, to the vet for what I knew was her last time. She had lymphoma, and I’d been taking care of her as she failed slowly, until finally I was feeding her baby food with an irrigation syringe. Still, she’d always seemed grateful; she purred, however faintly, when I petted her, and she woulld sleep for hours on her special sheepskin rug, which I kept in my lap. But one morning I looked at her, and I heard her say, as clearly as if she’d spoken in words, that she was ready. So we went to the vet, and I held her, and as the vet was putting the needle into her vein, she died peacefully, before the vet even gave the injection.

Afterward, there were people who scolded me for waiting so long; and there were people, New Age hipsters, who said that as a Buddhist I should not have taken her to the vet, shouldn’t have participated in killing another sentient being. And I wondered myself if I’d waited too long, out of selfishness — but Vashti wasn’t just my cat, she was like my familiar, and you could make a good case that she’d been the only really successful relationship with a female of any species I’d ever had.

In any case, I was no longer uncertain after she’d died, because I was sure that I’d done as Vashti had wanted.

So last week we talked about metta, “good will” or “lovingkindness”, one of the virtues exhibited by the Buddha that we try to learn to recognize in ourselves through metta practice. If you’ll remember, in metta practice, you try to invoke that feeling of metta in yourself, and then direct it toward yourself and toward others, even people toward whom you feel hatred and anger.

Metta has another virtue, karuna or “compassion”, with which it is paired. Metta is wishing good to others; karuna is understanding the suffering of others. Buddha, when he was Enlightened, could have chosen simply to reside in nirvana, but because of his feelings of metta and karuna chose to teach the Way of Liberation instead. The two things together are really the basis of Buddhist notions of morals: your good will to others goes along with your recognition that the other person is really, at heart, another person like yourself, and so you try to avoid causing suffering and try to help them also avoid suffering.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
"... especially Boulder Buddhists..."

That cracks me up. I haven't heard anybody else use that term. Boulder Buddhists are about the most self centered lot I've ever met.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (10)
All Comments   (10)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
What a beautiful cat. It was time to go and you were there, she loves you still.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
That's a stock photo of a lilac-point kitten, not Vashti, but it definitely looks like her when she was a kitten.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"... especially Boulder Buddhists..."

That cracks me up. I haven't heard anybody else use that term. Boulder Buddhists are about the most self centered lot I've ever met.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And yet some of them turn out pretty well. My old acquaintance Deidre -- now more widely known as Acharya Pema Chödron -- writes excellent stuff and has helped many students.

Although I will say I kind of enjoy watching them twitch when I refer to Sakham Mipham Rinpoche as "Trungpa's kid".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hi Charlie,

I think the real question is...How can a Buddhist be a Democrat? The answer is they can't, and some of the reasons are:

A country's true wealth comes from the merit of the people and too many of our citizens seem to be involved in that which destroys their merit and by association, that of the country.

Start with abortion....killing a human being is considered among the worst karma and killing one's child, is even worse.

Voting oneself other people's money is stealing......

Class warfare and dividing the country against itself.....more bad karma...

Lying........

Drugs....destroys oneself and others.....

Sexual perversions.....

Generosity is essential for wealth and merit to increase, when a culture of dependency is created, it robs the dependents of an opportunity to be generous, they are taking, not giving, and they exhaust their store of merit....the traditional example being the god realm where they live off their merit till it is used up, then they fall to lower realms.

A lot of new age Buddhist threw karma out the window......as they are too sophisticated to believe it. And without karma, the Dharma doesn't make sense.

Zopa

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Mmmph. I see what you're thinking but I think you may be going a little overboard. To start with, you're using "bad karma" as if it means "sin" and that's not correct. Karma is just volitional action, and all volitional actions have consequences. Not good, not bad, just causes have effects. This goes for abortion too: there's no special magic about killing a human except that sometimes the consequences can be more severe -- like having the human's family come gunning for you. Similarly, the precepts say "don't misuse sex" and "don't misuse intoxicants" -- but the whole notion of "sexual perversion" doesn't come into it. How do you know you're misusing sex? If the consequences lead to suffering.

At the same time, I agree with you on a lot of these points: I end up being pretty firmly libertarian just precisely because forcing other people to behave according to what *I* think they should do leads to suffering.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What I really meant to say was that the dharma has been "baby boomed"
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Oh yeah. A column title in my notes waiting for a column is "Hipster Buddhism, Boulder Buddhism, and Buddhism"
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There are many things that can modify ones actions, and I was trying to be general. Precepts are the guidelines, we are making our own future and it is best to be careful. When we drive a car, it is good to use the breaks once and awhile.

Lets see.."sexual perversion".....send pics on u-tube then you can run for mayor of NY.......it would seem to be far better to be mindful, careful and aware....

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yeah, we're on the same page. Weiner strikes me as the nerdy obnoxious kid who got picked last for every team, finding himself now attractive because of his political standing, and looking for safe validation.

That should be "safe", I suppose.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
View All