Monday, August 20, 2007


Wisdom is only one wing of the Buddhist bird. The other wing (which I haven't talked about much) is Compassion. Unconditional compassion for all sentient beings (including "oneself"). And one-winged birds, as you can imagine, don't fly well.

The reason I haven't spoken about compassion as much as wisdom, is that cultivating compassion has not been easy for me. I've spent much in my life in environments where I didn't think compassion would be feesible.

A bad-tempered abusive Father
I know readers of this blog have commented about what a cool Dad I have. Yeah, he has been cool, but in my High School years he wasn't so cool. For starters he treats my mother like trash. Still does. Never one moment of affection, just shout, scream, fight 24/7 - 365. In order to carve out my own values I had to be hard and tough in my youth.

The army
When I was 18, 2 years of military conscription was compulsory for every white male in South Africa. I tried my best to escape. A friend and I got ourselves jobs as crew on a yacht that was leaving SA for a round-the-world trip. With 500 Rand in my pocket, I said Bye to family and sailed off into the Indian Ocean. What transpired is a whole other story, but the-long-and-the-short of it is that the yacht never got past Cape Town. So a year later I was in an Infantry camp in Bloemfontein.

Man, that is one place where you gotta look out for yourself, otherwise you won't make it. "Compassion" is exactly what the Sergeant Majors, Captains and Colonels were entrusted with exterminating. Well, I looked out for myself, and survived the first year pretty well. But not through compassion. In fact, up until army I was a much more fluid, non-harming, anti-materialistic and creative soul (and probably wayy too idealistic). But it was whilst lying in the trenches of Angola staring up at black sky above that I determined to go into the business world when I left army. Yeah, the whole of life was a battlefield, a dog-eat-dog place where if you didn't defeat the other guy, you would be defeated yourself.

The Corporate world.
The insight from the Angolan trenches prevailed and I've spent most of my adult life in a very competitive, aggressive and back-stabbing financial environment. Any sign of "weakness" and you'll be slaughtered for morning tea. Even in my University Commerce studies the manta was "EXPLOIT opportunities!"


So yeah, compassion does not come easy to me. Also, unlike wisdom, you cannot kind of rationalize your way into compassion. It can't be forced. It comes from the heart not the brain.

But I've detected a change the last 6 months. And that change has sprung largely from daily meditation. I've reached the stage in my meditation where I often connect with this incredible feeling of well-being. My whole body tingles with this beautiful and peaceful feeling of low-grade bliss. Don't get me wrong, I don't achieve this state every meditation session, and even when I do, I cannot hold it for that long.

But it is powerful enough that it is slowly imprinting itself on my daily life. I'm calmer. More accepting of everything. More At-Peace. And in this state, particlualry after a "bliss meditation", it is virtually impossible to feel aggression towards anyone. A strong feeling of goodwill pervades. And I can see now how Buddhist monks who spend hours every day in the blissful state of goodness are walking bodies of compassion. They cannot help but be.

I've still got a lot of work to do though. Selfishness is my second name (just count the "I s" in the writings above). And when it comes to tight financial situations, the hard nosed approach still surfaces. But hopefully, very slowly, I'm moving in the right direction.


  1. you know this complex of being smart(er) than a dungbeetle is hindering your spiritual development, dontcha?

    watch forest gump or something.

  2. "Life is like a box of chocolates. You don't know what you going to get."

    Well, if you look inside the box you will find some nice pictures with descriptions.

    You will know what you are going to get in life when you look outside the box.


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