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  • Writer's pictureLama Jigme Gyatso

Compassion, Desire, and Suffering

Although a reduction, at the hands of a vegan chef, can be a delicious component of ethical cuisine, its conceptual cousin, REDUCTIVE reasoning, could be the pseudo-intellectual seed from which grows the poison herb of striving to debate the Buddha.

The path to enlightenment is eight fold and its second component is often translated as right aspiration. That of course infers that NOT all aspirations are created equal. Some could be constructive, peace-inducing, selfless, wise, and rooted in the seat of empathy (that is the anterior cingulate gyrus of the neocortex). Others are destructive, neurosis-inducing, selfish, foolish, and rooted in the archicortex of the under-brain.

The study of biology could reveal many coincidences: some happy and others unfortunate. From a certain point of view the FIRST noble truth is that there are stressors (circumstantial, physical, interpersonal, and mental). The SECOND noble truth shows us that when our under-brain’s ancient survival-oriented drives of pushing, pulling, vying, and clinging run the show then peace, love, and joy become neurological impossibilities, for they are the domain of the neocortex.

But can’t empathy be abused? Of course it can, as could a glass of water, but we are too wise to choose dehydration, are we not? Compassion, like water, takes on the shape of the vessel in which it is stored. Is the shape of the world view in which our compassion grows rigid, fearful, controlling, elitist, and competitive or is it flexible, loving, laid-back, egalitarian, and cooperative? For this could mean the difference between neurosis and nirvana.

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