What's the difference between sympathy and compassion?
Anger, ill-will and ill-feelings might co-exist with sympathy and empathy. While anger or any forms of ill-will or ill-feelings are absent in compassion.
One might be able to feel empathy for other's sorrow and suffering, or show sympathy
towards others who are less fortunate or are suffering, but it's not
necessarily that one is also compassionate. One who doesn't have
compassion might not be able to show sympathy or empathy towards other's
suffering when oneself is under difficult condition or critical
situation. Out of self-righteousness, one might show sympathy or empathy towards others whom one thinks and believes are
'the victim' of suffering, but at the same time, one can be disturbed by
others' suffering and be angry with the cause of suffering and 'the
one' who is responsible for the suffering, and one might generate
actions and speech that would hurt oneself and others out of anger. One also might not show sympathy or empathy towards others whom one thinks and believes that they don't deserve sympathy or empathy from others.
If compassion is present, there's neither suffering nor the cause of
suffering in oneself. It's knowing the truth of suffering. It's not about feeling sorry or feeling bad for others whom our minds think and believe they are experiencing something terribly bad or sad. It's nothing
to do with self-righteousness which based on what the mind believes what
is good and bad, what is right and wrong, what is should and
shouldn't, and who deserve or don't deserve non-discrimination and loving kindness. One who has compassion will be able to show sympathy or
empathy towards others' suffering even when oneself is under difficult
condition or critical situation. One is undetermined, undisturbed or
uninfluenced by the presence of suffering or the cause of suffering in
others, and will not generate actions and speech that would hurt others,
whether intentionally or unintentionally. One is free from anger,
hatred, ill-thinking, ill-will and ill-feelings.
If compassion is absent, there will be perception of suffering, the victim who suffers, the cause of suffering, and the one who is to be blamed, who is responsible for the cause of suffering. There will be anger and hatred towards something that is contradicted with one's social, cultural and religious thinking and belief. There will be expectation or anticipation that others should react with sympathy and empathy towards the existence of suffering and the victim of suffering.
For example -
Conflict broke up between A and B, and B generated actions and speech that were hurtful towards A, while C came to know about this.
A might or might not be hurt or suffered because of B's behavior. While C might think that A should or shouldn't feel hurt by such behavior, or C might assume that A was or wasn't hurt by B's behavior.
In worldly conditioned thinking and reaction - A is a victim, B is responsible for inflicting suffering onto A, while C should get involve by either showing sympathy, or empathy, out of humanity. Or else C is selfish or inhuman, if C choose to be care less and not getting involve at all.
Out of worldly conditioned thinking and
reaction, A might feel itself as a victim of other's bad behavior and
feels sympathy towards oneself, and also expects sympathy and empathy
from others. Or, out of compassion, A didn't feel hurt by B and wasn't angry with B's
behavior, and didn't think itself as a victim of other's bad behavior, knowing that B is also a victim of the ignorance and suffering in oneself to behave in such way.
Meanwhile, B might be aware or unaware of it's behavior could be hurtful and cause suffering onto others. B might be regretful and apologetic, or not. But A and C have the freedom on whether they want to react, or not, and how they would react if they chose to react.
Everyone is free to act and react in their own way. Everyone also takes responsibility for the consequences of their own actions and reactions.
If compassion is absent in C, C might feel empathy for A, or show
sympathy towards A standing from the point of view of a third party
thinking that A is a victim and deserves empathy and sympathy from
others, and C might be disturbed and angry with B's behavior, even when A
wasn't disturbed or didn't feel hurt by B's behavior, not to say if A
was disturbed and felt hurt by B's behavior. Or, C might ignore the
situation and be care less and not getting involve at all, thinking that
'It's not my problem." There's nothing wrong in either these reactions.
But, neither these reactions have anything to do with compassion.
If compassion exists in C, C is aware of the truth. C is aware of A's reaction, whether sympathy from others is needed or not, coming from A's reaction and it's not coming from C's assumption of how A should react. A is also under the influence of ignorance if A feels disturbed and hurt by B's behavior and expects sympathy or empathy coming from others. C is also aware of B's behavior is out of ignorance and is also a victim of suffering. There's no need to be angry with B or B's behavior at all.
All are the victims of ignorance and suffering except the one who is compassionate.
Buddha didn't go around trying to change other people's thinking and behavior to be the way that he thought it should be, nor did he has intention trying to make the world a better place or to save the world from destruction.
He went around to disseminate the teachings and practice of Buddhism and allowed people to take up the practice, or not, through their own free-will, awareness and responsibility.
He didn't criticize or condemn any kind of thinking and behavior that was under the influence of ignorance. He respected all beings as they were. He didn't tell other people - The teachings of Buddhism was true and all the other teachings were false. He allowed everyone to realize the truth by themselves.
Buddha transformed and liberated himself. He didn't try to transform or liberate other beings. He allowed everyone to transform and liberate themselves, or not.
Look into our own thinking and behavior - are we truly practicing the teachings of yoga or Buddhism?
It's needless to identify oneself as a yogi or Buddhist if one truly practice the teachings of yoga or Buddhism.
It's pointless to identify oneself as a yogi or Buddhist if one doesn't practice the teachings of yoga or Buddhism.
A journalist interviewed us with this question recently - What do the guests gain from attending our yoga retreats?
Firstly - Yoga is not about gain and loss, but it's going beyond gain and loss. It's performing all actions without attachment and renouncing the fruit of actions. There's neither gain nor loss.
Secondly - Commercialized yoga retreats are mostly about selling yoga
and spa treatment packages targeting for self-pampering in physical and
mental indulgence, such like - "Pampering getaway to cleanse, de-stress,
rejuvenate and revitalize." Though there's nothing wrong with that, but a
retreat is not about pampering one's body and mind through receiving
pleasurable physical and mental enjoyments.
Thirdly – Everyone has different personality and mentality, and each
has different speed of learning and level of understanding towards the
teachings and practice of yoga. It depends on each individual on how,
what and where they are looking in a yoga retreat. In most yoga retreats
that are available in the world, it’s about looking out at the
appearance of the retreat centre, the management and professionalism of the people running the retreat centre and programs, the facilities and services provided, the
surrounding environment, social interaction and activities to make the
clients feel good, satisfy and happy. In traditional yoga and meditation
practice, it’s about looking within one’s mind, find out and eliminate the cause of
unhappiness or suffering, be free from ignorance and egoism, and realize
unconditional love and peace that is beyond qualities of names and
forms, and it’s not about looking out in search for some qualities of
names and forms that will make them feel good, satisfy and happy.
Yoga retreats run by Yoga Now Malaysia are catering for those who
want to learn about yoga and to have the opportunity to immerse into
traditional yoga and meditation practice while retreating or moving away
from worldly habitual behavior, senses inputs and social activities.
It’s about purifying and quieting the mind to perform self-inquiry to
know about the mind and the cause of suffering, to go beyond names and
forms, and be free from all sorts of mind impurities that derived from
egoism, ignorance, attachment, identification, and desires of craving
One learns about one’s mind and takes responsibility for one’s mind
reactions towards all the names and forms that they like and dislike,
agree and disagree with, want and don’t want.
One learns to be the teacher of oneself by developing self-awareness,
self-reliance, self-control and self-discipline. It’s allowing one to
realize the greatest teacher from within and seeing the teachers in all
and everything that one’s mind comes in contact with, learning from
one’s mind behavior and from everyone and everything that one comes in
contact with. Everyone and everything has no intention to teach anyone
anything, but one learns from everyone and everything once one becomes
one’s own teacher.
One learns to go beyond conditioned worldly thinking and beliefs that
generate duality of good and bad, positive and negative, happiness and
unhappiness, right and wrong, success and failure, gain and loss, praise
and condemn. One learns to see the truth of names and forms as it is.
One learns about patience, forbearance, tolerance, acceptance, adjustment, adaptation and accommodation.
One learns to love and be kind to oneself and others not through gratifying the desires of craving and aversion of oneself or others, but through disciplining and purifying one's mind, be free from ignorance, egoism, attachment, identification, desires and all sorts of impurities, stop hurting oneself and others under the influence of ignorance, egoism and impurities.
It's not about gratifying the worldly desires of craving and aversion by pampering oneself in worldly indulgence of the senses, or getting some pleasurable physical and mental inputs and enjoyments. But, it's limiting and restricting the desires of craving and aversion towards all the perceptions of names and forms of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations and thoughts.
It's not about expecting to receive different types of spa treatment or energy healing from some other people, to feel good by escaping what they don't like and don't want, and getting something that they like and want. But, it's learning how to deal with the impurities in their own minds by knowing what is the real cause of all kinds of tension, unhappiness and suffering, and through one's self-realization one goes beyond all kinds of names and forms, and stop generating or accumulating tension or unhappiness in one's body and mind.
It's not just about performing yoga exercises to relax the body and mind, or to release physical and mental tension, but it's to learn how to stop generating or accumulating tension or unhappiness in one's body and mind in the first place by practicing letting go of the ego, attachment, identification, and the desires of craving and aversion. There's no need to relax or release any tension as there is minimal or no tension building up, when one knows about the truth of one's mind and the cause of suffering.
It's not about gaining or improving one's physical condition and ability of strength and flexibility through the yoga asana practice, but it's allowing the effects of the practice to be there as they are. It's accepting the present physical condition and ability as it is, while being aware of the impermanent changes in the body and the mind and allowing the changes to be what they are, as they are, without attachment or identification with the physical body or the mind to be who 'I' am.
It's not about getting high or pleasant sensations from meditation practice or doing some yoga stretches and poses, but it's to learn how to not attach or associate with the impermanent physical conditions and abilities, the states of mind and thought activities. The calming and centering effect of the yoga asana practice is to prepare the mind for meditation, to reflect upon the truth or the nature of names and forms. It's not about getting some benefits or good feelings.
It's not about expecting the environment to be pleasant and all good to make us feel good and happy by expecting the world or the environment to be the way that we like it to be, but it's learning how to maintain equanimous, stay calm and be in peace under any circumstances, conditions and situations.
It's not about performing actions and expect something in return the way that we think it should be, but it's about performing all actions, duties and responsibilities, and allow the result to be what it is, as it is.
It's not about running away or pushing away the reality that we don't
like or don't want, but it's learning how to be undisturbed or
undetermined by the reality that the mind likes and dislikes, wants and
doesn't want. One learns to be aware of the reality and allowing the
reality to be what it is, while knowing that it's impermanent. One
learns to stop generate craving towards the reality that is the way that
we like it to be, and stop generate aversion towards the reality that
is not the way that we like it to be.
It's not about creating a pleasant condition for one to feel most comfortable and enjoyable physically and mentally, but it's allowing one to learn how not to rely on pleasant condition, or physical and mental comforts and enjoyment to feel good about oneself and life existence, or to be happy.
There's no guarantee that everyone will be learning or experiencing the same thing. One might not learn anything at all. It's is up to each individual of their own will, effort and practice.
If people want to join a yoga retreat but they don't want to learn and practice yoga and meditation, but they are more interested in worldly social interaction and self-pampering treatments and enjoyments, then there are many other yoga retreats around the world that will deliver or serve them with what they want.
My husband and I run ongoing yoga retreats in Langkawi Malaysia.
We teach traditional Hatha Yoga - a combination of Asanas (postures) and Pranayama (breathing techniques) and relaxation, that has given benefit to millions of practitioners over thousands of years.
Our yoga studio is situated in Langkawi.
We also run yoga retreats in Europe and India.