One whose mind is enmeshed in sympathy for friends & companions, neglects the true goal. Seeing this danger in intimacy, wander alone like a rhinoceros.verse 3, Khaggavisana Sutta
Wait a minute! Chotto Matte!
Is it possible that Buddha, the all compassionate one; is teaching us to be less caring? Have less sympathy?
I think we can break up this verse into 4 parts for a better understanding.
- Enmeshed in sympathy
- for Friends and companions
- Neglects the true goal
- Danger in intimacy
If we remind ourselves that Buddha’s teaching is all about mind transformation. Turning our mind from a deluded state to an enlightened one; Then it is easy for us to zoom into this part of the verse at a glance.
Enmeshed in sympathy means that our mind is entangled with “being concerned for others”. You “see” suffering and you become worried. The feeling of sympathy is pity and sorrow. The seeing is probably delusional to begin with.
For example, an overly protective mother may imagine all sort of misfortune lying in the path of her children. An overbearing elder may feel frustrated because the younger generation is not living according to their advices.
Although Buddhism speaks of compassion, it is not consistently worrying, pitying and feeling sad for others. That kind of mental positioning is delusion. Some beginners to Buddhism may mistaken this to be a practice for compassion. It is not. We do not sit around, reading sad news and generating pity and sadness in our mind. Nor should we feel that we are “Saved by Dharma” and all those who do not accept Dharma needs to be pitied. That is also delusional.
Compassion in Buddhism is non discriminatory. It is all embracing like the warmth of the Sun.
Therefore, in this verse, you will realise that, it is talking about our mundane sympathy. It is limited to our close circle of friends and family. It does not embrace all other sentient beings (including our enemies)
So if you read 1 and 2 properly. It is describing a mental suffering that is born out of mundane love. Like when we worry about our spouse, children, family, students etc.
This kind of mental sympathy is a type of delusion. It is not Buddhist practice of compassion.
So what is wrong about worrying for our love ones?
Well, worrying is not constructive. It doesn’t help anyone. It weighs down our mind. It cause us to neglect the true goal.
The true goal in Buddhism is to gain enlightenment. To gain enlightenment, we need to realise the truth. To realise the truth, we need a clear and healthy mind.
Constant worrying, pitying and feeling sad is definitely not healthy!
So what causes one to be helplessly sympathetic about the plight (real or imaginary) of friends & companions?
It is intimacy towards someone. When we feel that someone is an indispensable part of our life; where we feel that life will become incomplete without them. Or they are a piece of a puzzle that complete the whole picture. That is the type of intimacy we are discussing here.
While the world celebrate this type of intimacy, Buddha taught us to be independent of them. Our well-being and happiness is independent of such intimacy.
It may sound strange to many people, but let’s ask ourselves this.
Will we still be a good parent, a good spouse, a good son/daughter, a good friend, a good brother/sister, a good employee, a good manager etc; if they (friends & companions) turn their back on us anytime?
If our answer is, “I think so”, then we are one tiny step closer to wisdom. And you probably would have already realised that, you do not need to run away from people.
If our answer is ” I don’t think so”, then we are more concerned about ourselves in the 1st place. Wouldn’t it make more sense to drop the act and stop our unhealthy mental habit of useless worrying? Try gain true happiness by becoming enlightened.
Therefore, this verse is advising us to, keep our mind clear from delusional concerns (worrying, pitying and sadness). Learn to be independent of others when we look for happiness. Focus on our goal (enlightenment) (A.K.A roam like a rhinoceros)
May all be well and happy.