“你的怜悯心有多深?” / “How Deep is Your Compassion?”

“你的怜悯心有多深?”

佛曰:“教众生三法:善心、正言、怜悯助人,方得涅磐。

 

我一直在思考“怜悯之心”,特别是当下“怜悯之心”相对缺失的状况。其实它和全球水资源匮乏有些类似,不同的是,科学家可以举证缺水的程度和严重性,但我们却无法衡量“怜悯之心”缺失的程度和直接影响。

让我觉得值得一书的是,英语“怜悯之心”(compassion)一词包含了“指南针”(compass)。

指南针的发明及最终在航海上的应用是一个突破,对人类具有广泛的影响。自此,人类得以探索更加遥远的地平线,而且无论是在陆地或者海上都能找到回家的路。

有证据表明,指南针的使用最早起源于中国汉朝(约公元前200年)。但有趣的是,最初它的用途并非是导航,而是占卜或测评风水,直到好几个世纪后的宋朝才被用于航海。

人类在拥有指南针后近1,000多年才将其用于航海,想起来有点难以置信。今天,又过了1,000多年后,我们已经对诸如GPS、北斗等高科技导航设备产生了高度依赖。的确,无论是徒步、骑车、飞行、驾车还是使用其他交通工具,这类技术已经越来越无孔不入,出现在我们的手机、手表和汽车等物品上。

古代的航海家,不管是维京人还是南太平洋岛民,都会携带天文仪出海,以观天象和地标。而我们大都丧失了这种能力,因为出现了精密可靠、便于携带的导航工具。

我没有研究过英语“怜悯之心”(compassion)和“指南针”(compass)两词之间的语源学关系,但我猜应该有某种共同的本源,而不仅是七个英文字母“c o m p a s s”的简单重合。

虽然携带指南针的人越来越少,但它仍具有实用价值。怜悯之心也是人的重要品质之一,尽管在社会中已经越来越少见。

这篇博客的题目其实存在一定的误导。好比你问“这条河有多深”,除非是人工运河,否则其深度会因地点和时间变化而不同。由于很多自然(和人为)的原因,一条河的深度可能出现较大的变化。

每个人的怜悯之心也是如此,有起有伏。工作、家庭、健康、物质需求和希冀、贪婪、对权力的渴望及其他很多影响都会让我们分心,让我们更多关注自己的欲望,而不是他人的需求。

某些宗教在教义中强调对他人要慈悲为怀,信徒也可能会从“修慈悲心”的适时提醒中获益。

但其他人怎么办?特别是那些从未亲历过苦难、饥饿、悲伤与仇恨的人。他们很容易沾沾自喜、理所应当、自私自利,也很容易忘记为什么怜悯之心是每个人都应该具备的重要品质。

对自己都没有慈悲心的人怎么可能对别人慈悲?怜悯之心是长期友谊和合作关系的基石,可以说也是人生幸福和满足的基石。

我是吉姆•柯林斯的死忠粉。他在《巨人如何倒下》一书中描述了某些红极一时的大公司最终如何垮掉,总结分析出导致这些企业落败的5个阶段。

第一阶段是“骄傲生自满”,第二阶段是柯林斯口中的“贪多无节制”。另外三个阶段我就不赘述了,因为这本书主要针对的还是企业。

根据我的理解,上述两个阶段同样适用于个人。你周围有多少人表现出“骄傲自满”和“盲目贪多”?我不知道你那儿的情况如何,但我身边每天都能看到很多人摆出这幅样子。虽然没有科学数据,但直觉上这种行为要比20年前普遍得多。

而这种人貌似也是我们所认识的最欠缺怜悯之心的人,我以为这绝非偶然。

个人和企业一样,都会学习并纠正自己的道路,边前进边调整。但这样做需要他们对什么是重要的、忽略它会有什么长期后果有个清醒的认识。

无论是否信教,忽略慈悲心的重要性就像丢失了指南针,区别在于没有GPS能够代替。如果弄丢了它,就可能永远找不到回家的路。

曾经身陷大洋、深山、密林、迷雾却没有指南针的人可以理解这该有多么恐怖和冒险。

对我们大家来说,一生坚持修炼慈悲心是明智的。因为我们会为此感到更加幸福,世界最终也会因此变得更加美好。

另外还有两件事与怜悯之心有关:一是它可以传染,二是怜悯可以超越物种,延及动物及自然环境。

套用一句上个时代的口号,让我们“深挖洞,广积怜悯心。”

 

“How Deep is Your Compassion?”

Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.

– Buddha

 

I’ve been thinking about compassion — specifically how it seems to be in relatively short supply these days. I suppose it’s a bit like the global water situation. The difference is that scientists can demonstrate the extent and severity of the water crisis, but we can’t readily measure the degree or direct impact of the compassion shortage.

It struck me as noteworthy that contained within the English word “compassion” is the word “compass.”

The invention of the compass, and eventually, its application in navigation, were breakthroughs of immense importance for mankind. People were able to explore far-away new horizons, and still find their way home on land or sea.

The earliest historical evidence of the use of the compass comes from China, during the Han Dynasty (roughly 200 B.C.). Interestingly, however, the earliest applications of the compass were not for navigation, but for geomancy, or feng shui. It wasn’t until many centuries later, during the Song dynasty, that the compass was adapted for use in navigation.

It’s mind-boggling to think that mankind had the compass for roughly 1,000 years before applying it to navigation. Today, following the passage of roughly another 1,000 years, we have become highly dependent on high-tech navigation aids like GPS, Beidou, etc.. That’s true whether we’re walking, bicycling, flying, driving or taking other forms of transport. This technology is increasingly everywhere — in our phones, watches, cars, etc.

Ancient mariners, whether they be Vikings or South Sea Islanders, would navigate with astronomical bearings by reading the celestial bodies as well as landmarks. We’ve generally lost that ability, since we now have sophisticated, reliable, and portable tools to guide us.

I haven’t researched the etymological connection between the words “compass” and “compassion”, but I’d guess there is some kind of common root, beyond the simple overlap of seven letters of the English alphabet: c_o_m_p_a_s_s.

Compasses are still very useful, even if fewer and fewer people carry them. Compassion is still a very important quality in people, even if we see less evidence of it in society at large.

The title of this post is actually a misleading question. It’s a bit like asking “How deep is the river?” Unless it’s a man-made canal, a river’s depth varies from place to place and time to time. Depending on many natural (and some man-made) factors, a river’s depth can fluctuate widely during any given year.

It’s the same with the depth of an individual’s compassion. It ebbs and flows. We are all distracted by work and family priorities, health issues, material needs and wants, greed, hunger for power — and many other influences which can cause us to focus more on our own desires than the needs of other people.

Some religions contain teachings which emphasize the importance of compassion for our fellow man and woman. People who believe in those religions may benefit from timely reminders about “rebooting their compassion drives.”

But what about other people, especially those who’ve never personally experienced hardship, hunger, grief, or hatred? It’s very easy to become complacent, take things for granted, and be selfish. It’s very easy to forget why compassion is such an important quality for each of us to develop.

How can people who are not compassionate towards themselves be compassionate towards others? Compassion is fundamental to long-term friendships and partnerships. It is arguably also the foundation on which a happy and satisfied personal life is based.

I am a big fan of Jim Collins. In his book “How the Mighty Fall”, he describes how certain companies who had once been phenomenally successful eventually fail. His analysis outlines the five stages which ultimately lead to their defeat.

Stage one is “hubris, born of success”; and stage two is what Collins calls “the undisciplined pursuit of more.” I won’t delve into the other three stages here, because Collins’ book is focused on companies.

My observation is that these two stages also apply to people. How many people around you display signs of “hubris born of success”, and “an undisciplined pursuit of more”? I don’t know about you, but I see plenty of people around me exhibiting those traits every day. I have no scientific data, but my gut sense is this kind of behavior is far more prevalent that it was twenty years ago.

I don’t think it is coincidence that people behaving like this tend to be the least compassionate people we know.

Like companies, people can learn and correct their ways, adjusting as they go. But to do so, they need a clear vision of what’s important, and the longer-term consequences of ignoring that which is important.

Whether you are religious or not, ignoring the importance of compassion is like losing your compass. The difference in this case is, there is no GPS to replace it. If you lose it, you may not find your way home.

Anyone who has ever been on the high seas, in the mountains, or deep forest, in the fog, without a compass, will appreciate what a frightening and risky situation that is.

It makes sense for us all to place a high value on improving the depth of our compassion, on an ongoing, life-long basis. We’ll be happier for it, and the world will certainly be a better place as a result.

Another two things about real compassion … it can be very contagious; and its reach extends beyond people, to animals and the natural environment.

To paraphrase a slogan popular in another era, let us “Dig tunnels deep, and store compassion everywhere.”


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