Guest Article: Empathy and exchanging self with others

Below is an article written by dear Dharma friend.  Enjoy.

The one thing the majority of humans crave, whether they know it or not, is understanding. How can I understand the other person? What am I assuming about their reality? What beliefs do I hold that distort my view of their suffering?

Each living being is in their own samsaric nightmare. No one can experience the very personal world of another, and all that encompasses.

When a person experiences intense suffering their needs and wants vary. What we need when we are suffering is very different than what someone else needs when they are suffering. We might mistakenly believe our suffering is like their suffering and provide evidence to support our experience which a person can relate to but it is still worlds apart and very different.

True healing can take place through a genuine exchange of self and other through a profound empathy. This transcends mistaken appearance and conception. When we do this we heal the ‘other’, the part of our mind that appears as other. We have a compassion not for other, but for self because self is seen as all others. Their suffering is our suffering.

Our mind creates separation. We have abandoned ‘others’ in sake of self-cherishing. Abandonment is what all living beings experience in varying degrees. It is a mistakenly perceived distance or lack of connection from others. On a deeper level, we have abandoned our self.

Sometimes, the best way of helping another person is finding out what they need and want. Some people want to draw you into an argument to assert their self. Some people want you to give them the answers. Some people just want you so they can push you away. Some people just want to vent. The appearing gross wants and needs are rarely what the person wants or needs. The underlying stuff is more accurate.

But of course, we think we know what is best. We don’t. Even if we have all the dharma answers, we are still a million miles off.

1. ‘Be’ in their shoes
2. What do ‘I’ as other, specifically want or need?

3 thoughts on “Guest Article: Empathy and exchanging self with others

  1. If i were in their shoes i would suffer exactly the same way…dukkha/suffering is no different than other physical laws.

    Buddha wants us to handle our suffering by focussing on doing good acts, no matter what. One slowly becomes the good (pure land)…and goes beyond. The focus is not necessarily on the suffering (dukkha)…it is rather on how we “act”.

    Empathy is important, as it is the only way we can perceive(wisdom) the dukkha at hand, but the more important thing is to focus on “being good”(bodhisattva state) then everything handles itself (even if we missed, or cant comprehend/experience the true depth of suffering).

    One of my favorite parable,

    “Monks, even if bandits were to savagely sever you, limb by limb, with a double-handled saw, even then, whoever of you harbors ill will at heart would not be upholding my Teaching. Monks, even in such a situation you should train yourselves thus: ‘Neither shall our minds be affected by this, nor for this matter shall we give vent to evil words, but we shall remain full of concern and pity, with a mind of love, and we shall not give in to hatred. On the contrary, we shall live projecting thoughts of universal love to those very persons, making them as well as the whole world the object of our thoughts of universal love — thoughts that have grown great, exalted and measureless. We shall dwell radiating these thoughts which are void of hostility and ill will.”

  2. Why people that receive true love in their family; do not share with other people, and why people that are seeking for love give everything sometimes with other people
    Greetings from mexico, friend of gympa

    • I think it is because those closest to us provoke deeper delusions within our mind than our superficial relationships do. As a result, we blame those closest to us for our suffering, when in reality they are just making us confront deeper delusions.

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