06/21/2012 – 2012 and the Uselessness of Compassion

Shinzen Young: Genuine wisdom or ironic Zen nonsense? 

“Compassion is to share the pain without sharing the suffering.” ~Shinzen Young. 

How can one who claims to be a spiritual master be so oblivious of misguided nonsense that escapes from the depths of  their brainpan? And yet, acclaimed and renowned “mindfulness” teacher Shinzen Young seems unaware of the violence of his redefinition-mangling in service of his metaphysical  perspective. In his attempt to fuse “contemplative meditation” techniques of the East with the “scientific method” of the West, Shinzen Young has been lauded for his “innovative interactive, algorithmic approach to mindfulness.” “Mindfulness” refers to the Buddhist contemplative meditation techniques (Vipassanā) where the goal is to focus on the awareness of the mind and body and achieve knowledge of the nature of reality which then I suppose makes one a “Spiritual Master.”

But why do so many “Spiritual Masters” say such ridiculous, incomprehensible bullshit? Has their “mindfulness” meditation experiences left them with so much knowledge about the nature of reality that they can even see how far removed they’ve become from every-day common sense? Run through the above quote once more:

“Compassion is to share the pain without sharing the suffering.” 

What’s the takeaway point of this sentence? Well, the unintended point made by Shinzen reveals the uselessness of compassion, which is commonly described as an emotional response within a person to the misfortune and suffering of another and wanting to do something about it to remove the other’s plight. But to create a situation where one can safely  share one’s pain without sharing the other’s suffering is like having one’s cake and eating it too. Why would anyone want to share another’s suffering “out of compassion” without getting down into the dirty, painful and equality-based business of removing the suffering for everyone? Because nobody in their “right mind” would want to. It is the human design to avoid suffering at all costs, especially if one has enough money – and it takes money – to keep physical suffering at a manageable level.

But nobody, including Shinzen, would want to actually do something about the suffering of others in this world, or literally place their feet in the shoes of someone’s suffering.  Much better to “feel bad” about the plight of human trafficking or hearing about children starving to death in the media. A brief, cheap, momentary emotional investment called “compassion” is enough for most people.

But one doesn’t really “share the pain”  of others through compassion, do they? And this is where Shinzen misses the point. He could have said something more profound by revealing the uselessness of human compassion – where one could place the total amount of that human emotion one side of an equation against the totality of human suffering on the other side and see how effective emotions really are in dealing with the human condition of suffering. Or he could have gotten down into the shit with the misfortunate  others like Mother Teresa – who despite her existential doubts spent her life amid the suffering of others [1] and could only cope with her own metaphysical doubts by linking her own spiritual suffering and the suffering of others with the “suffering of Jesus.” But that doesn’t seem to be any more effective in dealing with the removal of suffering, does it?

Spouting religious and spiritual language and meditative exercises  to deal with human problems has simply never worked. Using human emotions like compassion, pity and sympathy to deal with human problems has simply never, ever worked in stopping the condition of human suffering. What statements like these do is allow the person who comes across them to become beguiled by the implied “wisdom” imparted. But it isn’t “wisdom.” It’s just ironic Zen-Buddhist bullshit.  It’s bullshit because all statements made from the starting point of projecting a religiously philosophical perspective can only fail in providing real insight to humanity. Buddhism has been around for nearly 3000 years and it’s failed in bringing “enlightenment” to the people. It’s ironic because Shinzen obviously believes in the power of compassion without sharing another’s suffering but he simply fails to understand that such a point reveals compassion to be nothing more than an illusion. Then again,  this is quite proper since all metaphysics deal with elevating illusions into meaningless life-long obsessions – while choosing to ignore and excuse real suffering and despair with pious blandishments and feel-good flowerhat philosophies And now you know what really matters to these spiritual shysters. Forget about trying to find a way to lift the peoples of this world out of an endemic of inequality. What is most important to these gurus is within the relation of their own knowledge and information about the nature of reality to others while making a buck. I can only hope against hope that people will wake up and reject that and choose equality for all and make it happen. But first, we have to stop listening and being bewitched by the deceptive spiritual nonsense these gurus love to share so much. 


[1]]”Now Father—since 49 or 50 this terrible sense of loss—this untold darkness—this loneliness—this continual longing for God—which gives me that pain deep down in my heart.—Darkness is such that I really do not see—neither with my mind nor with my reason.—The place of God in my soul is blank.—There is no God in me.—When the pain of longing is so great—I just long & long for God—and then it is that I feel—He does not want me—He is not there.—Heaven—souls—why these are just words—which mean nothing to me.—My very life seems so contradictory. I help souls—to go where?—Why all this? Where is the soul in my very being? God does not want me.—Sometimes—I just hear my own heart cry out—“My God” and nothing else comes.—The torture and pain I can’t explain.”

Letter to Father Joseph Neuner by Mother Teresa.


2 thoughts on “06/21/2012 – 2012 and the Uselessness of Compassion

  1. A comment from http://thingsgotoutofcontrol.tumblr.com/

    “Interesting article but far from being compelling mainly because fall quickly into ad hominem fallacy with a lot of unnecessary overgeneralizations, putting Buddhism almost on the same level with New Age beliefs and practices. Also there’s this instrumental vision about compassion seen as a mere tool to deal with our own and other’s pain/suffering. Buddhism on the contrary highlight the human necessity to face difficult times with a compassion attitude, not trying to stop pain but instead learning to accept it. That doesn’t necessarily means that people must accept injustice, inequality and other economical and social problems. First we must understand that buddhism is rooted more on a phenomenological ground hence its main focus is on perception, subjective experience, among other -let’s say- ‘individual topics’.”

    I will answer here since there’s no way to respond on the tumblr page.

    The author above claims that Buddhism highlights, “human necessity to face difficult times with a compassion attitude, not trying to stop pain but instead learning to accept it.”

    Okay, even if this is “true” (and I doubt such a characterization of Buddhism’s focus to “accept pain” is accurate), this is an assertion that is meaningless, vapid and downright incomprehensible. Why and how would someone find acceptance to pain an appropriate response? And why is such a response necessary? What does such acceptance imply about the one submitting to pain? This is emblematic of why Buddhism should be placed on par along with other discredited superstitious New Age balderdash. An exercise of futility undertaken in a maze of illusion. Spiritual masochism, anyone?

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