We were a bunch of 16 years old student sitting around a monk discussing compassion.
Someone asked if Buddhist compassion will encourage crime or allow people to take advantage of Buddhist.
Venerable looked at us with his usual piercing gaze and then he smiled.
“The Buddha taught us to be compassionate, not become idiots”
6 years later, I was sitting in a Vajrayana centre and someone asked “what happen if someone is drowning and I do not know how to swim, should I still jump into the water and try save that person out of compassion?”
This time the reply was ” while we wish to help someone out of compassion, we also need to determine the best way to help and if we have the ability to help”
Such questions are common and they are important. They help the student regain their foothold in their spiritual life.
To an outsider, the answer would seem like common sense. Why would a Buddhist be asking such questions? Does Buddhism make one loses the ability of logical reasoning and common sense?
When studying the Buddhist text, we read of past Buddhist masters (including the Buddha) performing extraordinary feats that benefited others.
Donating organs and flesh to benefit other beings including the animals. Exhibiting extreme patience and tolerance under abuse. Donating their entire wealth to charity or a cause, renouncing their noble birth rights etc.
The message of self sacrifice and perfection of human virtues are so inspiring and at the same time so overwhelming. I found myself asking many a time,”Do I really need to donate an eye or kidney to become Enlightened?”
When we have such question, it simply says that we are not mentally ready or spiritually matured to perform those extraordinary acts. No need to be demoralised, we just have to acknowledge humbly that we still have a long way to go.
On the other hand, we can give ourselves a pat on the shoulder because we are aware of how much it takes to be a truly perfect one. In the very least, that will prevent us from getting ahead of ourselves.