When I see someone, either human or animal suffer, I feel a great sense of suffering as well. As a Buddhist, is this a normal reaction to such events??
OnePath wrote:When I see someone, either human or animal suffer, I feel a great sense of suffering as well. As a Buddhist, is this a normal reaction to such events??
lowlydog wrote:OnePath wrote:When I see someone, either human or animal suffer, I feel a great sense of suffering as well. As a Buddhist, is this a normal reaction to such events??
If you are asking what can I do to end suffering?
Practice the Noble 8-fold path and purify the mind.
.cicadasong wrote:I am strongly affected by this as well. When presented with suffering, I think the danger lies in the tendency to harden yourself to it. I live in a city where homelessness is a huge problem, and for years, I would cross the street just so I wouldn't have to look at the mentally ill poor begging for food. It made me (and still makes me) sick with pity and hopelessness.... I think the real struggle with that (for a novice like myself) is accepting that I can't alleviate anyone's suffering immediately
Until recently most philosophers and psychologists thought that babies and young children were profoundly amoral creatures. They also thought that children were irrational and egocentric -- unable to think logically or take the perspective of others. Jean Piaget and later Lawrence Kohlberg, the founders of the study of moral development, argued that children did not have truly moral concepts until adolescence. Instead, children simply thought that whatever other people told them to do was right.
In the last thirty years scientists have completely overturned this view. Even the youngest babies imitate the facial expressions of other people and take on their emotions -- a kind of empathy. This ability is NOT just the result of the much-hyped "mirror neurons" since, for one thing, mirror neurons have been found in monkeys who rarely imitate others. But it does show that human babies, in particular, are tuned in to other people in an especially close way.
By 18 months, babies have gone beyond empathy to genuine altruism, After all empathy just means I feel your pain, altruism means I try to make you feel better even when I don't feel that way myself.
I disagree with Lowlydog, and probably many others. Empathy is not some outgrowth of ignorance. Rather, it is the manifestation of our innate Buddhahood. In my understanding, ignorance can have a distorting effect on how this capacity manifests and cause it to be detrimental - but this is the same with all of our qualities.
The empathetic reaction we have is a natural function in most human beings. It is hardwired part of what we are.
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