Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wisdom and Compassion

Buddhists are known for their compassion and understanding. They even have a name for this: Bodhisattva Practice. A Bodhisattva, quite simply put, is a being of great compassion, who has dismissed an opportunity to live in Nirvana and continue to live in the earthly realm to help others attain Buddhahood.

Sounds lofty. Impossible, even. Still, compassionate practice, as a Buddhist, is something to strive for.

It is an ideal that I have reached for, and often failed miserably at the task.

Recently, I have experienced an odd phenomenon. Young people have come to me seeking advice for their problems and I have dispensed said advice, reminding them that the advice came from my own experience, which may not be their experience. Advice dispensed, I sat back feeling a little smug that I was a) asked and b) all the problems in the world had been solved.

Yet, the next day, they came back for more advice on the same situation, which I could see was disastrous. I dispensed my advice. I did not feel so smug. I had been in the same situation as these young ladies and I so wanted to snatch them away from the grim abyss that awaited them if they continued down that path. I knew that path. I had walked it and had seen the sights.

I related all of this to a wise friend. She pondered the dilemma a moment and reminded me that compassion and wisdom went hand in hand. "Even the Dalai Lama is a man," she said, "He has to meditate on things first."

Sometimes being compassionate is simply not doing anything at all, respecting someone else's journey and allowing their karmic lessons to unfold. I cannot prevent another person from putting their hand into the fire, no matter how much I tell them it will burn and scar. They can see that it is fire. By being adament about the path someone SHOULD take is being disrespectful of their karma and life path. (And I am all about people respecting my journey, yet here I was disrespecting someone else's.)

So I step back. I honour and respect their journey by honouring and respecting mine. Compassion sometimes means allowing others to make mistakes so that they may grow instead of taking those opportunities from them and preventing them from growth.

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