Turning selfishness into compassion

Been reading a considerable amount about the Buddhist precepts, particularly related to the precepts taken in the process of becoming a Buddhist layperson.

Since deciding to take this step of becoming a Buddhist layperson, I had sensed alot of struggling with the type of moral code which allowed a person to be so focused on themselves, that they could “let go” of things which in most Christian persons minds, would be considered of prime importance. Likely most of this struggle was between the Christian principles of “loving others first”, with what seemed to be a more selfish concepts in the Buddhist traditions.

There seemed to be a lack of loving compassion…. yet, in reading about the practice of Metta, it seemed to be there….. but it did not seem to be a natural outcome of my meditation practice. The focus seemed to be on awakening…. attaining the original nature…. I knew there must be a basic misunderstanding on my part, but it was seeming to be a “hard nut to crack”.

In struggling with this push/pull inside of me, a new clarity has begun to happen. The story goes something like this:

To make the story manageable, lets suppose that there are two persons inside….. there is a needy person, and there is a person who is at peace. The peace is oneness with our original nature… (“Nirvana is already here”) Neediness is anywhere where there perfect peace is lacking or limited.

Now I know that I am rolling alot of  human frailties into this one ball of neediness, but I am doing this to simplify and get to a point, and not in order to oversimplify a complicated group of issues.

When a person is “at peace”, there is a lack of “I need this”, no “I need this situation to change so I can be at peace”, no “That person pissed me off, they need to stop that so I can be at peace”.

When a struggle arises, it generally is due to something not being per our likes or wishes, and it carries a “if this would just stop, I could be at peace again” with it.

This struggle pulls us “off our peace place” and into a “unpeaceful place” where we have some need that must be met.

As long as this “I need something” ME is “awake”, there is no peace to be had.

So we do our best to get rid of this unpeaceful feeling, and as soon as we try to do that, the beast grows another head, and then another… and instead of fixing the situation, we have just dug a very deep hole where we are upset, perhaps other people involved in it are also upset…. and not the unpeaceful feeling has grown into a full blown storm.

So dealing with this neediness seemed for many years to be an “unfixable” item in my list of “things I want to fix about myself”.

I have seen this today:
As long as one is “in a place” of neediness, where the clinging mind is sticking to some “condition” which needs to be met, in order for peace to return, there is no medicine that can cure this sickness.

Only when one lets go of the clinging mind which is forever looking for something to stick to, can we return to peace.
Some folks seem to be able to drop the clinging mind in certain situations: at the zendo, at church, with like-minded friends, at the mosque, at the temple. In these situations they can find the peace (or satisfied happiness) they are seeking.


This means, while one is abiding in peace, the “me” does not need to arise. And while one is abiding in peace, compassion automatically arises.

It is almost like compassion arises in the absence of “me”.

The only method of creating an absence of “me” which I have found, is to abide in peace.

The only way to abide in peace which I have found, is to let go of all need.

I have a story to relate.

When I was a youngster….. roughly 26 years old, I was practicing meditation.. mostly Zen, but also some new age concepts, and was still attending church… Free Methodist to be exact.
Often, in our Sunday school classes, we got embroiled in heated debates about the way people were understanding what they believed. (and I thought I knew alot…. so I was often the iconoclast). In fact, in those days, I was convinced that what a person believed was the major factor in being able to really create meaningful change in a their life.

At that time, I was practicing a “safe harbour” meditation, where one visualized oneself in a completely safe place…. I was thinking that it might subdue my self-defense mechanism (which seemed to be alive and well, despite my work to subdue it). I was also beginning a  minimalistic yoga practice, stretching muscles that had been tense for a number of years by then……  as well, I was studying “Focusing”, a book on how to resolve deep personal conflicts within myself.

Suddenly, one day after I finished my meditation, I noticed that all my antagonism towards the church people I was often involved with had simply disappeared. In fact, no matter how I tried to re-institute the feeling, I just simply couldn’t find it.
For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why this antagonism so suddenly disappeared. As I mentioned, at the time, I believed that all change in attitude or in actions, was due to some sort of “reason”…. some kind of precipitating factor. I thought that the practices I was working on might have brought this change about, but there was also something which accompanied this disappearance of antagonism, and that was a deep sense of compassion for the same folks I had been so antagonistic towards.

Very strange…… and confusing……….

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