Monthly Archives: October 2014

10-26-14-Generosity or Idiot Compassion?

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Generosity or Idiot Compassion?

By Sharon Salzberg
The cultivation of generosity is the beginning of spiritual awakening. Generosity has tremendous force because it arises from an inner quality of letting go. Generosity is the beginning of the path. When the Buddha taught, he always began with generosity.

The Buddha said that a true spiritual life is not possible without a generous heart. Generosity is the very first parami, or quality of an awakened mind.

Think about what it’s like when the mind feels brittle, narrow, confined and dark. At that point, you feel on edge, uneasy, and you don’t like yourself very much. With all that going on, how easy is it to accept calmly a painful or difficult experience? How easy is it to be with the experience without judging it—to accept it as it is, to allow it to be there? It’s not very easy because of the narrowness of the mind that is receiving it. By contrast, a vast and spacious mind doesn’t feel so bound, contracted and self-denigrating.

Conversely, when a pleasant experience arises, we don’t lunge at it with desperation, because we don’t really need it. We don’t have that sense of needing it to feel good about ourselves.
The first aim of generosity is to free our minds from the conditioned forces that bind and limit us. Craving, clinging and attachment bring confinement and lack of self-esteem. If we’re always looking for some person or thing to complete us, we miss the degree to which we are complete in every moment. It’s a bit like leaning on a mirage only to find that it can’t hold us; there’s nothing there.

There’s a quotation from the Tao Te Ching that says, “One who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.” It’s an inner sense. One of the great joys that comes from generosity is the understanding that no matter how much or how little we have by the world’s standards, if we know we have enough, we can always give something.

We also experience the third Brahma Vihara, sympathetic joy. That means we rejoice in the happiness of someone else rather than feeling what we can so easily feel—envy, jealousy and wanting them to be just a little bit less happy so we can feel a little more happy about our own state
We will develop a generosity of spirit so when painful states arise within us, like depression or anger or desire or jealousy, we can let them go. We are happier with their passing, so we allow them to follow their natural path of coming and going. We are not served or made happier by their staying.

If I were to ask you to think for the next few minutes about what you’ve really done well, when you’ve really been generous, and to appreciate yourself for having done that, it might be hard for you. It’s kind of embarrassing to sit and think about that. It’s so much easier to think about the time I almost gave something, but then I decided not to.
(We can almost revel in the un-kind things we have done, to feel sorry for ourselves. Be generous and compassionate towards yourself first, know you are not perfect, the same as everyone else, and feel generous towards yourself, which will permit you to be generous to others in a healthy manner.)

Pema: Idiot compassion is a great expression, which was actually coined by Trungpa Rinpoche. It refers to something we all do a lot of and call it compassion. In some ways, it’s whats called enabling. It’s the general tendency to give people what they want because you can’t bear to see them suffering. Basically, you’re not giving them what they need. You’re trying to get away from your feeling of I can’t bear to see them suffering. In other words, you’re doing it for yourself. You’re not really doing it for them.

When you get clear on this kind of thing, setting good boundaries and so forth, you know that if someone is violent, for instance, and is being violent towards you —to use that as the example— it’s not the compassionate thing to keep allowing that to happen, allowing someone to keep being able to feed their violence and their aggression. So of course, they’re going to freak out and be extremely upset. And it will be quite difficult for you to go through the process of actually leaving the situation. But that’s the compassionate thing to do.
They will certainly not thank you for it, and they will certainly not be glad. They’ll go through a lot. But if there’s any chance for them to wake up or start to work on their side of the problem, their abusive behavior or whatever it might be, that’s the only chance, is for you to actually draw the line and get out of there.

We all know a lot of stories of people who had to hit that kind of bottom, where the people that they loved stopped giving them the wrong kind of compassion and just walked out. Then sometimes that wakes a person up and they start to do what they need to do.
In my addiction I had little compassion for others or myself, and not much I can think of that I did had any sense of generosity to it. I was caught up in amazingly selfish behavior and in amazing ways to rationalize it. It takes time for me to realize the need to let go of those selfish things I held so dearly that were killing me and harming others. I now practice generosity, in a very imperfect manner, but I am learning, and most importantly, I want to and will, continue to move forward. That is a choice I make, and with the help of others we will all continue growing.
Very importantly I have learned that the generosity and compassion I feel and show, must be in balance between myself and others, as in reality there is no difference.
I aspire to love others as I love myself, I aspire to love myself as I love others.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
How do you fill your bucket? One drop at a time.
“The great arises out of small things that are honored and cared for.”
Heart Of Recovery web site –