Is compassion a prerequisite for enlightenment?

Question: Dear Sir,

I have gone through a couple of books. As I am traveling I have time in my hands.

I know what you meant when you said, the last stage is the absence of the thinker. “To study the way of the Buddha is to study oneself. To study oneself is to forget oneself. To forget oneself is to be enlightened by everything in the world. To be enlightened by everything is to surrender your body and mind.”

About Shoonyata, I found this: “All phenomena arise and disappear, all the time constantly changing. NO matter what the commonsense view is, there is no solidity. We have to be content with the realization that this astonishing phenomena is an appearance we can neither hold nor possess.”

I also read about Nagarjuna and the Madhyamika school(very much like Wittgenstein of the West), involving the rejection of language and words based on apparent contradictions. I also read about Zen Buddhism and how the concept of no-self is developed. Also about humor. I find it resound with Osho’s Naacho, Gao Dhum machao video.

Sir, I have a question though. I am pondering on it but would love to have your inputs about the same. Osho talks about, ‘Zorba- the Buddha’ and rejects renunciation. I can relate to that. There is another story in Buddhism about Rudra, a Vajrayana practitioner who was told by his teacher to go out in the world and use everything in it. So Rudra killed, pillaged etc.. and when he returned his master said that Rudra had done wrong.

My question is: does compassion for another human being ever become a pre-requisite for enlightenment? It is a silly question, perhaps, but has been puzzling me since compassion is something that even Buddha talks about. I would love a compassionate world but I am wondering how other than the tangentially related karma, can anything in Buddha’s teachings point towards ‘Ahimsa‘ or for that matter ‘compassion’ as a central tenet.

Answer: Does ‘compassion for another human being’ ever become a pre-requisite for enlightenment.

Enlightenment is such a thing in which even you are not there. Where is the space for the other in this phenomenon, even if in a compassionate way?

I understand that you say compassion in the meaning of love. Or is it in the meaning of pity? If it is in the meaning of love, then let us take love.

Love is expansion of the ego boundary to include the other, and ultimately the dissolution of the boundary. Love means the other is now within the boundary of the ego- within the boundary of the self- and hence the other is no more the other. The other has become me. There is no other.

This expansion and dissolution is the process of enlightenment. Enlightenment is love- the disappearance of the other.

Love(compassion) is not a pre-requisite. If love is already there, illumination to that extent too is there. Its an accompaniment rather than a pre-requisite.

Compassion is not a thing of practice. It is our nature, provided we are not obstructing it. I do not understand that one can focus on being compassionate. It would be just as absurd as focusing on enlightenment.

These questions, you would surely be finding qualitatively different from the ones that arise when you read philosophy- Marx or Kant or Nietzsche. Philosophy has reasonable answers. In the world of the Buddha, the reasoning entity is a dwarf. The answers come by seeing the questions closely.

Question: Dear Sir,

You are absolutely right when you say that I would be finding this qualitatively different from reading philosophy. Indeed, I do. I suppose, I am so used to the dialectical approach that I have been discussing and debating these questions in a very logical sort of way. I know the Buddha says that we are our thoughts. You will not believe this sir, but the last week, I have spent uncomfortably inside my head with these questions again and again. For instance:

“Compassion is our ‘nature’. But what is nature? Isn’t nature too a by product of evolutionary conditioning based on memes and genetics etc etc?”

As you can see from the italicized lines, I have been thinking myself to quite a frenzy and this is entirely based on how I am used to critically reading say, an argument by Emmanuel Kant…., almost to the point of utter frustration. I suppose I am asking questions and then looking for the answers. I suppose I am yet to learn how to look at the question closely the way you described…and I am getting nowhere with my approach, just confusing myself more and more.

Wish me luck.

-Based on my interactions on various e-forums.

Dated: 15th April,’11


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