The Path To Bodhichitta

You start where you are, the practice will meet you there.

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Compassion Begins At Home

He wasn't good for me. Not as a partner, not as a dangerous liaison and as much as it pained me to admit it, not even as a friend. Perhaps he could have found his way onto my Facebook if what happened never happened. But it was too late for that now. It was time for me to move on and to heal. And so, I decided it was finally time to let him go. There was only one problem - I didn't know how to do the dirty deed.

I'm a peace-loving person - ahem! - which essentially means that I'm a complete mess when it comes to confrontations and the like. If I took a polygraph test, the results would clearly show that I didn't really want to do this. I felt bad. I knew it would hurt him, wound his ego, spark bewilderment. I didn't want to be responsible for that. I wanted to act in a compassionate manner and at that time, the most compassionate act I could think of was to not make even a bleat.

If Chogyam Trungpa was still alive to hear me say this, he would have given me a good hard shake and said, "that's idiot compassion". According to him, idiot compassion is the idea that you want to do good. Of ocurse there's nothing wrong with this, but he points out that your gentleness should have heart and strength.

"In order that your compassion doesn't become idiot compassion, you have to use your intelligence. Otherwise, there could be self-indulgence of thinking that you are creating a compassionate situation when in fact you are feeding the other person's aggression. If you go to a shop and the shopkeeper cheats you and you go back and let him cheat you again, that doesn't seem to be a very healthy thing to do for others."

Would I be feeding his 'aggression' if I continued this friendship?

One of my favoruite spiritual teachers Thich Nhat Hanh, says that love is the capacity to take care, to protect, to nourish. If we are not capable of generating that kind of energy toward ourself- if we are not capable of taking care of ourself, of nourishing ourself, of protecting ourself- it is very difficult to take care of another person.

Would I be taking care of, protecting and nourishing my inner self if I continued this friendship?

And just in case I still didn't get it, Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, explains that 'a big part of compassion is being honest with yourself, not shielding yourself from your mistakes as if nothing had happened. And the other big component is being gentle.'

Was I being honest with myself in seeing the mistakes I made in this friendship?

It was only then that I saw what others had seen all along. That this friendship wasn't much of a friendship after all. He couldn't give me what I valued in a friend and vice versa. To carry on as though we could would be akin to boiling a pot of water over the flame of a matchstick. In this case, the greatest act of compassion would be to save both of us from that long, painful process.

And so, last week I said goodbye. It was still difficult. He was angry. But today, I feel lighter, freer. Which tells me that I did the right thing.


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