COMPASSION AND WISDOM
(From “Where Is The True Happiness?”)
In Buddhism, we often hear the people talk about compassion and wisdom. What is compassion? What is wisdom? How should we live with the wisdom and how should we behave as compassionate? Buddhism is a religion of enlightenment, which means a discernment of the truth. A person should have wisdom in order to discern the truth. Therefore, all of us, especially who are Buddhist practitioners, should use wisdom as the foundation. Here, I classify wisdom into two categories: Mortal wisdom and Immortal wisdom. First, let me talk about mortal wisdom in Buddhist sense. It is a discernment base on the Law of Cause and Effect. A Buddhist practitioner, before making a deed, should realize its cause and effect. Who could see clearly the cause and effect is a person with wisdom. It stated in a suttra, “Bodhisattvas are afraid of the causes, while sentient beings are afraid of the effects.” Bodhisattvas are enlightened ones. An enlightened being will be afraid of the bad cause, while an ignorant being will be afraid of the bad effect. Both have fear, but they are two different types of fear. Who is afraid of the cause is enlightened and who is afraid of the effect is ignorant. Even though the wisdom of the practitioners is a mortal wisdom, it is still the wisdom of Bodhisattvas. The person, who knows the cause of each action, each word, or each thought would lead to sufferings, would never act, say, or think about it. This is the person who knows how to live with the wisdom. If one thinks, says, or acts regardless of the outcome, then the result will be a suffering. Then, they pray to the Buddha or Gods to help them. This is a common behavior. Are most of us living with the wisdom or ignorance? I can give some small examples about our life such as eating and drinking. The purpose of eating and drinking is to maintain the healthy condition of the body longer. Thus, eating and drinking are the cause, and the maintenance of the body is the effect. However, there’re people who would eat or drink things that would destroy their life. So, are they wise or ignorant? For example, they drink alcohol, even though, they know that it would damage their stomach, cause the cancer of liver, etc…but they still drink. Knowing the foods that they eat are not appropriate for their health, they still eat. When they are real ill, they rush to see the doctors, but reluctant to avoid making the cause. These are the ignorant people who are called mortal humans. The people with wisdom will know which types of foods would cause health problems and they would never eat those. Instead, they eat those that would improve their health. How about smoking? Is it good or bad for the health? It causes lung cancer, but people still smoke. Marijuana would cause a destruction in the body, but they still smoke it. These are the most ignorant people as they are destroying themselves in a way that is illogical and dangerous. The moderate ignorant people will destroy themselves at a moderate level. The less ignorant people will destroy themselves at a small level. The disaster of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana have been proven by the scientists and they have adviced everyone not to use them. Knowing that, they still do it. How pitiful! As human, everyone has a right to choose good foods for the body and to avoid those that would cause ailments. It’s because when we are healthy are happy and when we are sick, we are suffered. When we practice Buddhism, we practice the Way of enlightenment. Therefore, whatever makes us infactuated, we have to be conscious to give it up. This is a way to progress on the path of enlightenment and relieve our suffering in this life. For instance, a person who is addicted to alcohol and smoking earns $50 each day. But he spends $20 for alcohol, $10 for smoking. He has only $20 left for foods, which is not enough for him on other expenses. Therefore, he is in debt. His life is filled with suffering and deficiency. Now that he realizes that drinking and smoking are harmful, he quits. His daily earning is good enough for foods. He becomes healthier and happier. He is a person who is awakened by the mortal wisdom. There are some types of medicines that are quite bitter or spicy, but people still take them bcause they know that those type of medicines could treat their illnesses, improve their health and longivity. This is because people have mortal wisdom to analyze which cause is good to make no matter how hard it is, they still try to do it and which cause is bad, they would never do no matter how attactrive it is. Who could live as so is a practitioner. Those who attend the temples often pray exertively, but keep drinking, make bad deeds and speeches, are not practitioners. Living a normal life to avoid creating bad causes of suffering to ourselves, our family and society, we already know the practice. A person with wisdom is a person who is determined not to do any wrong doing in any circumstance. On the other hand, a normal person, who would do whatever others ask him/her to do even though he/she knows that it’s a wrong doing, is the person without wisdom. Being with awakened people, he/she is awakened. Being with ignorant people, he/she is ignorant. Thus, as practitioners, we should be awakened to determine our actions so that they could be justified and better. Our speech is the same. Do people love us when we curse or shout at them? For sure, the answer is no. For all of you who are here today, does any of you want others to hate you? For sure, it’s a no. Since you don’t want others to hate you, should you continue the harsh speeches or terminate them? Of course, you should terminate them. That’s because those harsh speeches will make the listeners feel uncomfortable, therefore, the hatred in them arises. In life, it is a suffering when others hate you because they can make fun of you or hurt you. Contrarily, a lovable person will get all the help from others. Thus, who would be so silly to make the cause that would provoke people’s hatred? In this life, what do people hate each other the most? Mostly, the mouth. So, you should remember to practice your speech or practice your speech karma. Each time you speak, try to find the right words. Doing so, you will bring the happiness to yourselves and other people. The harsh speech will be the cause of suffering that you can’t evade. Another angle to look at is the people who chant a lot, but whenever people make them mad, they curse. If they chant for an hour, but curse at people for 10 minutes, their blessing from the chanting is gone. In practice, a person with wisdom will know what to say and not say, what to do and not do. This is a person who is clear about the truth. You should not act or say in a mystical way without understanding the Law of Cause and Effect. In Buddhism, we believe that happiness or suffering in one’s life is coming from a good or bad cause. A good action or good speech means a good karma, while a bad action or bad speech means a bad karma. It’s an ignorance to desire for happiness from a evil cause. Therefore, to attain happiness we have to make good cause as we console and help others physically and mentally so that they could attain the happiness. Whoever can do it is a person with mortal wisdom. The following is the immortal wisdom. The immortal wisdom is a knowing of the truth knowing what is unreal and what is real. Perceive unreal things as real or not knowing what is real is also ignorant. A person that knows what is fake and what is real is a person with immortal wisdom. This wisdom has a potential of seeing the truth thoroughly. When looking people, we know which is real and which is unreal. It’s typical that people perceive the body is real. However, the person with immortal wisdom will perceive as the way that Buddha had said: “This body is a formation of different elements. When all of them are there, it’s maintained. When some are missing, it decays. The union of earth, water, air, and fire has made this body. The concrete elements such as hair, nails, teeth, bones are said to be the earth. The liquid such as blood, enzyme, sweat are said to be the water. The temperature is the fire. The respiration is the air. Together, they make up this body. If one is missing, the boby decays. They are the main factors to maintain the body. But, they always oppose each other as the water puts out by fire and the earth is shaken by the air….Despite the facts, they still have to work together to maintain the body. If there’s a conflict, a surplus, or a deficiency in any of them, the body is unhealhy. For instance, more fire would cause fever. Therefore, we have to take medication to cool the temperature down. Less fire will cause a cold. Therefore, we have to take medication to increase the temperature. When there’s too much of water, water retention occurs. We need to take medication to excrete it out. Less water would cause dehydration. More air would cause achings. These situations occur contantly within the body. If one of the elements is too excessive or too deficient, the body is terminated right away. We have seen that the union of those four aggregates is temporal because when they get along, the body exists, and when they oppose each other, the body decays. There’s no guarantee. Only one missing breath would terminate one’s life. Who could see that way is the person with wisdom. Contrarily, whoever thinks this body is real or permanent is ignorant. But we should not feel negatively when knowing that our body is temporal. In each moment that we still breathe or are healthy, we make good deeds right away or else, we won’t be able to do them when we are dead. It’s the same for practicing. We practice in any moment that we are still breathing. How can we practice when we are dead? By knowing that the body is temporal, we should exert to practice, make good deeds, instead of letting go of everything and wait for death. This is a wrong perception. The person with wisdom is always aware to practice when knowing that the body is temporal. This is the first stage by knowing that the body is unreal. The second stage is the stage of acknowledging the true nature that is formless, permanent, and always shines. The person with wisdom would discern it and live with it. For instance, in this room, up here is the Buddha’s altar. We say it exists because it’s visible to us. The space is empty, therefore, most people say it’s nothing. But it’s not nothing because if it’s nothing, then we die because the lack of air. This empty space is not visible like the table or the Buddha’s statue, but it contains air and dust. Because we can’t see it with our typical human eyes, we say it’s nothing. We have denied the existence of whatever beyond our eyesight. This proves that we say things exist because they are visible. In the space, there are hidden things that our typical eyes can’t see, not that it contains nothing. It’s the same that human body is visible because it is comprised of four aggregates, while the mind is hidden. The visible matter is a material factor while the hidden matter is a spiritual factor. When spiritual factor exists, the material factor exists, and vice versa. They support each other to create this life. Because spiritual factor exists, it’s unchanged even though the material factor decays. The person who could perceive which is real and unreal is the person with immortal wisdom. Let me remind you that the Buddhist studiers should have that type of wisdom. First, he/she should attain the mortal wisdom or learning wisdom from their master’s teachings, then attain the immortal wisdom through a self practice. It’s not worthwhile to become Buddhists if our learning is not well defined. Now, let’s discuss about the compassion. Where does compassion come from and how to attain it? How can we love other people? Is there a difference between love and compassion? Love is an affection between parents, siblings, spouses, children, peers, etc…There are also some types of love that are illogical and immoral. On the other hand, compassion is a noble feeling without an gain from all beings. It’s not coming from a self. To have compassion, first we have to observe the sufferings of humans. In the first discourse that the Buddha expounded to Five Kondanna brothers at the Deer Park, he talked about the Four Noble Truths. Suffering (Dukka) was mentioned first to prove to the people that it is a truth that no one can’t disagree. The purpose is to help mankind to emancipate from sufferings. By seeing human being suffers, we arise compassion to help each other, to take each other out of sufferings, instead of being submissive to accept the sufferings and cry for our fate. It’s typical that people can easily understand each other when they are in the same situation of suffering. But in the positive circumstances (with wealth or high power), it’s difficult to do that. Therefore, to arise compassion, we need to identify the sufferings. We should see thoroughly that our body is comprised of four aggregates that are always in conflict. And other bodies are the same. If those four aggregates oppose each other, the result is 404 types of illnesses. Thus, the body is a place of all illnesses. It’s an upmost suffering. No one can say that they are healthy forever. It’s obvious that we carry a body of illnesses. Since everyone’s body carries illnesses, everyone is in suffering. Since all of us are in suffering, we need to love, help, and console each other to relieve these sufferings. There are many people, who look normal, but internally suffered with several types of illnesses. These illnesses cause them pain, scolding, or moaning. We need to forgive them for their inappropriate behaviors. Practitioners are people with compassion, therefore, we should not elevate the sufferings in other people. This act reflects a lacking of compassion and so we are not deserved to be Buddhist practitioners. In addition, we need to observe the ignorance of sentient beings to arise the compassion. Because they are ignorant, they can easily identify what are unreal, and forget what are real. As they misperceive what unreal to be real, they are controlled by it to commit many sinful acts and to carry this body of suffering from this life to the next without ending. When seeing people submerge in ignorance, we should immediately use all methods to encourage and remind them so that they can be awakened. Even if they are not totally awakened, it still helps to clear part of it. Less ignorance means less suffering. This is the compassion that arises when seeing the ignorance of other people. Thus, as Buddhists, we should have wisdom and compassion. Having compassion means first, we should love and help others when they’re in sufferings. Secondly, We should love and find ways to diminish people’s ignorance when they’re suffering in retribution. The Buddha had said that the best way of showing compassion is nothing other than giving Giving things by helping the poor and disabled people with materials. Giving dharmas by teaching or reminding people the ways to diminish ignorance. Our responsibility as practitioners is first to attain the wisdom so that we could terminate our suffering. Then, we arise the compassion to help all beings to terminate their sufferings. We need to be able to detach from the negative things and habits so that we can terminate our sufferings and help others to terminate theirs. This is a practice, a practice with wisdom and compassion.