Posts Tagged ‘suffering’

What Say the Elves about the question ‘Does one need to suffer to learn compassion?’

June 17, 2018
compassion_blog “. . . as Tolkien pointed out about we elven, the answer is both yes and no and perhaps, maybe, , , . the answer seems to be, so typically elven, that it depends upon the individual and their level of spiritual development.”

It is clear that there are individuals who don’t seem to evidence any understanding or compassion for others until they have suffered as those individuals have, have ‘walked a mile in their shoes,’ so to speak, and experienced what they have experienced and thus, in doing so, gained real insight in the predicaments and situations of others. But the question here is, is it always necessary, as some folks seem to think, to suffer in order to be compassionate?

But before we answer that directly, let us come about it around the long way, as elves are often prone to do, taking the scenic route as we will, and say that suffering does not in itself make one compassionate. It should be quite clear that there are many who have suffered, who are suffering, who feel no compassion for others at all. They may complain about their own suffering, but they don’t extend that unto others in similar situations. Prisons and the experience they provide is surely an example of this. So, certainly, suffering, in and of itself, doesn’t automatically develop compassion in an individual. The Nazis, for instance, who had suffered greatly due to economic sanctions after the First World War, didn’t have compassion for Jewish people even though the Jewish had suffered at the hands of others for over two thousand years. Instead, the suffering the Nazis experienced made them even less compassionate. As the old InBerlinMonumentZardoa_Silversaying goes, misery loves company and those who suffer often only want to have others do so as well, not to have them become compassionate but to make them suffer, too. (Although we must add that in a recent trip to Berlin we witnessed that Germany has evolved far past this lack of compassion and have dedicated monuments in Berlin to their holocaust victims to show some restitution, see photo to the left.)

On the other hand, Siddhārtha Gautama was raised as a Prince and was kept as free as possible from every hardship and any suffering. In fact, those who suffered were actively kept from his sight, and yet when he did encounter the suffering, quite by accident, he felt the impact of the suffering of others (or we might say he suffered seeing the suffering of others because he already had compassion upon birth, perhaps he had suffered in a past life and learned compassion with that suffering) and became curious about Life, about suffering and its causes, and that led him on his quest for enlightenment and in time helped develop the compassion that had already stirred in him to greater depths of understanding and the pronouncement of that realization into principles that could help one overcome and escape from suffering.

So, beloved elfin kindred, the answer is quite clearly that one doesn’t necessarily need to suffer to learn compassion, at least not in the present lifetime they are living. However, at the same time, it seems that there are individuals who simply won’t learn compassion without suffering as others have, and some who have no compassion for anyone but themselves.

Thus, as Tolkien pointed out about we elven, the answer is both yes and no and perhaps, maybe. Some folks can learn compassion without suffering. Leaders of revolutions are often the children of the upper classes who have compassion for the suffering of those less fortunate in their genetic privilege, while other folks when confronted with the most terrible suffering simply hide themselves away from it, doing the exact opposite of the Buddha who sought it out in order to understand it. So the answer seems to be, so typically elven, that it depends upon the individual and their level of spiritual development.

Fost Tae Lodver (Touch the truth),
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