Editorial: The complexities of compassion
April 15, 2012
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I want to address the idea of compassion. By definition it means “sympathetic concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” In Buddhism, it is called bodhichitta, which is the action of wanting others to be free from suffering, according to viewonbuddhism.org. Compassion isn’t just being nice; it’s genuinely feeling bad for someone, feeling their pain, and wanting to help spare them more hurt. In high school, a lot of us are really selfish, I’ll admit that I am too. We think all the time about our grades, our friends, our relationships, our prom dresses, our weekend plans. So think about our own tendencies and intentions, and how our actions reflect that. Do we help strangers or give advice to friends to really help them, or because it might make us look good to others?
There are students who are nice and virtuous in class where teachers can see, or who act like angels when parents are around. But, when there are no adults to be found, they are a bully to others or do things to get ahead that hurt other people. A lot of times, teachers can see right through these people; but every once in a while they are fooled and we see those people get rewarded when, as classmates we know they aren’t deserving.
Recently, I spent a weekend at a Buddhist retreat in Georgia. The focus of the weekend was on Avalokiteshvara, which is the embodied Buddha of compassion. I heard monks speak for two days on having sympathy for others while putting ourselves aside. They emphasized that having compassion for others is something that benefits the flow of society, and can even promote personal inner happiness. I feel like all high school students in the country could benefit from hearing these teachings because of the whirlwind of business in their lives that causes them to be self-centered.
As teenagers, time is distorted. Two months to us is what two years feels like to adults. Everything is magnified, so our problems seem more crucial than they actually are. It’s a simple idea that people our age cannot wrap their heads around. This sense of time and mentality that our personal problems are so important is the cause for our lack of compassion for the people around us.
Try to ignore the green monster of jealousy and be truly happy for people when they have success, and sad for them in tragedy. It is not only a more pure way to live, but it really does mean for a happier existence. Life is more simple without the drama. After all, it’s just high school, one small part of our whole lives.