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17 June 2007 @ 09:06 pm
On the nature of sympathy and Oneness as a self-defensive measure  
On the nature of sympathy and Oneness as a self-defensive measure

In recent times, the notion of sympathy has become tinged with negativity, synonymous with self-pity and possibly quite useless. On the other hand, empathy is a skill or quality whose necessity is indisputable. Take into account: a swaying, violently rocking boat, going up-down, rolling upon wave after wave as your head becomes tossed back and forth. You begin to feel quite ill and announce your intentions to heave your breakfast over the side of the boat.

The sympath, witnessing your gastrointestinal prowess, feels your pain and also becomes sick. The empath instead identifies your queasiness and seeks a remedy (a can of Sprite, a paper bag) to address your immediate needs.

Given this example, the empath is the person whose results achieve a practical effect. There are countless instances where sympathy is an outright hindrance towards getting anything done- possibly bordering on irresponsibility. Imagine that your pediatrician could not give an immunization injection (with big scary needle) to your child because he/she sympathized with your child’s impending pain.

However, as children, we are often taught to be sympathetic, to share with others, to be considerate of others(“How would you feel if he did that to you?”), or even the oft-repeated Golden Rule, “Do unto others as they would unto you.” And acting upon feelings of sympathy brings about an immediate emotional gratification.

In Zen Buddhism, with the negation of the Self(Void) and its often-brutal approach to reality, one is directed to perform whatever act is necessary to achieve enlightenment.
”Whenever anyone asked him about Zen, the great master Gutei would quietly raise one finger into the air. A boy in the village began to imitate this behavior. Whenever he heard people talking about Gutei's teachings, he would interrupt the discussion and raise his finger. Gutei heard about the boy's mischief. When he saw him in the street, he seized him and cut off his finger. The boy cried and began to run off, but Gutei called out to him. When the boy turned to look, Gutei raised his finger into the air. At that moment the boy became enlightened.”

This is not to say that Gutei had a penchant for cutting off the fingers of little boys. But it did achieve its desired effect.

From the perspective of ‘Oneness’, quite polar to the nothingness that is ‘Void’, if Gutei had wholly identified with the child as an aspect of his own being, then the cutting off of the child’s finger was an act of ultimate compassion and was just as necessary for Gutei’s enlightenment as it was for the child’s. Self-sacrifice, as it were. Likewise, a ‘compassionate assassin’ could see his victims as shadows of his own soul to eliminate, thus purifying his soul and eliminating his self-pitying ego. If that sounds just a little bit pathological, you’re probably correct.

However, the sympath who identifies all people as being parts of his own being, if his love and compassion was strong enough, might actually achieve something. By appealing to the sympathy of others with his own sympathy, the Sympath would be protected from(or discourage) intentional harm because his would-be attacker would be hurting himself as well as his intended victim. The doctrine of ‘turning the other cheek’ thus invokes feelings of guilt and remorse in the other. Thus one blocks not the attack itself, but the intention behind the attack(The Sympath could not kill the attacker to spare him the feelings of remorse and regret because he would then feel the pain of death in sympathy). Did Mother Theresa save a handful of orphans in an Israeli-Palestinian warzone by brandishing an AK-47? I think not. A truce had to be brokered between the warring sides through her intervention.

This being said, from multiple angles, sympathy still appears to be an immature attitude to maintain, but perhaps there’s something to it that remains to be seen if it goes 'full-circle'(an ascending spiral in 3D appears to be a circle in 2D).
 
 
 
H o l l o w_A t a r a x i a: claesjakeexperience on June 18th, 2007 02:54 pm (UTC)
I found your post very interesting. Zen teachers are often quite brutal in their teachings, but after a period of being beaten down, his student should be able to get over himself and transcend the normal emotional limits.