Compassion and Detachment

Compassion is a key skill of a bodhisattva, but the bodhisattva's compassion comes from a place of true detachment. We can compare the actions of the enlightened ones to a person who is trying to save a drowning person. Only the expert swimmers can do it and the first thing that they teach you as a life guard is that you have to hold the person at the neck and securely bring him to the shore because that person's first tendency is to cling to you and if you allow it, then there is a great possibility of both of you drowning. If the one who is doing the rescue is on a boat, that person throws a raft but does not go with the raft. They throw the raft and it is tugged peacefully to the shore. These are special situations, but how do we deal with the every day task of trying to be of help to someone who is a part of your life when they are in anguish over a loss be it a loved one or a means of living?

Compassion in a true sense does not entitle sympathy or empathy. It is becoming solid like a rock, allowing the other person to sit on it until he or she decides to move on. No matter what we do or say which we think will make the other feel better can not compare to allowing the person to make the decisions on their own. If a person is hungry, he or she has to make the decision to eat or not. After the decision is made, that person actually has to eat the food to alleviate the hunger. The same is true of every emotion. It is so much easier for us to offer solutions as that is our first impulse. When we do then we become part of that person's drama. We think that we are helping the other person when we do so and our egos become inflated with the thought that we helped someone but that is a conditioned reflex. Our egos want the "Thank you for helping me" part. It makes us happy because we "helped" another person.

We can not really help another human being, just as we can not really "teach" another person. We can show them the means to find their way but we can not really point to it. It is much harder to empower another human being that it is to offer food, money, advise of all sorts. When situations arise, we can simply listen and let be. No judgments necessary.