Is idiot compassion a thing?

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catmoon
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Is idiot compassion a thing?

Post by catmoon » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:09 am

This is a topic of ongoing debate be me and a friend. The specific case keeps coming up of a beggar asking for ten dollars. The beggar is a known, active drug user and is known to have begged money for other purposes, such as food or overnight shelter, then spent it on drugs.

My friend says it's not my place to call the shot or exercise judgement, and thus the only compassionate course is to hand over the money. What do you think? The arguments are not going anywhere, I think I need some new approach.
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Re: Is idiot compassion a thing?

Post by haha » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:41 am

Probably, other people have faced it differently. Whether one should give money to alcoholic or not? Whether one should give money to regular fraud (who has the bigger business of begging)? And so on.

Sometimes, directly offering the food could be a solution; but such person may reject the offer. Generally people think about one step only. But while practicing the compassion, one needs to think about ten steps and she or he should patiently wait for right timing/ moment. Compassion without judgment (i.e. wisdom) cannot be real compassion. (Just my opinion)
Last edited by haha on Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Is idiot compassion a thing?

Post by Knotty Veneer » Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:02 am

catmoon wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:09 am
This is a topic of ongoing debate be me and a friend. The specific case keeps coming up of a beggar asking for ten dollars. The beggar is a known, active drug user and is known to have begged money for other purposes, such as food or overnight shelter, then spent it on drugs.

My friend says it's not my place to call the shot or exercise judgement, and thus the only compassionate course is to hand over the money. What do you think? The arguments are not going anywhere, I think I need some new approach.

Of course idiot compassion is a thing. And your friend is wrong.

If you are truly compassionate, you want the best for all beings. Giving an addict resources that s/he will use to make their life worse is not a compassionate act.

The problem is that to act compassionately also requires the wisdom to know what is the best thing to do. And, it is true you do not know for sure,that the addict will use your money for drugs, but if you really think that that is a likely outcome, in my opinion, it is more compassionate to withhold the money (and maybe give it to charity that helps addicts get off drugs).
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Re: Is idiot compassion a thing?

Post by Grigoris » Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:46 am

catmoon wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:09 am
This is a topic of ongoing debate be me and a friend. The specific case keeps coming up of a beggar asking for ten dollars. The beggar is a known, active drug user and is known to have begged money for other purposes, such as food or overnight shelter, then spent it on drugs.

My friend says it's not my place to call the shot or exercise judgement, and thus the only compassionate course is to hand over the money. What do you think? The arguments are not going anywhere, I think I need some new approach.
I was waiting for the train once in Athens and a young guy (that looked very obviously like a junky) was shambling down the platform asking people for money for food. When he got to me, I happened to have a whole bunch of clean food on me from a tsog and so I offered it to him. He refused the food and asked for cash from the young woman sitting next to me. She, having observed the exchange with me, must have pulled a face so he started to curse her out. I told him to get the frak out of here and stop harassing the girl otherwise I would kick his ass. He considered responding, but I put on my best "death look" face and he turned away and continued to ask people for money.

I think that when one is being generous one has to weigh up if their generosity will feed the person's suffering, or assuage it. One needs to apply discriminating wisdom in this matter. Does this mean one has to judge? Yes. But you are not judging the person, you are judging what may be the best for them, in that particular instance. It may even be to give nothing at all.

So, yes, idiot compassion is a thing. Compassion has to benefit sentient beings. If it is not applied properly it will be to their detriment, in which case you will be adding to their suffering. The opposite of what a Bodhisattva intends to do.
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Re: Is idiot compassion a thing?

Post by Miroku » Tue Mar 26, 2019 10:38 am

Garchen rinpoche has said that both object of generosity and also the gift must be pure. So the gift must not be stolen, or obtained in some sketchy way and the person you are giving to should not use it for bad things (drugs, bombs, god knows what). So yeah. Seems like giving food is the best choice. Unfortunately I rarely have any money with me and when I do I like to give them some because I am too soft (especially when they pull off nice words and sad stories :D). So god knows how many highs I have donated for.
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Re: Is idiot compassion a thing?

Post by Simon E. » Tue Mar 26, 2019 2:26 pm

catmoon wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:09 am
This is a topic of ongoing debate be me and a friend. The specific case keeps coming up of a beggar asking for ten dollars. The beggar is a known, active drug user and is known to have begged money for other purposes, such as food or overnight shelter, then spent it on drugs.

My friend says it's not my place to call the shot or exercise judgement, and thus the only compassionate course is to hand over the money. What do you think? The arguments are not going anywhere, I think I need some new approach.
I lived for a while in a small town in England called Glastonbury which has out of a population of around 8000 a registered addict population of more than a hundred. So as you can imagine, your dilemma was one I encountered daily. My own solution which is not perfect but was the best I could come up with, was to buy the beggars veggie tarts and pasties from the local health shop. Of course they might have sold them on... :shrug:
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Re: Is idiot compassion a thing?

Post by weitsicht » Tue Mar 26, 2019 2:57 pm

I smile at them and kindly decline their request and wish them a nice day. A wish that comes from the depth of my heart. I don't consider money-giving as the essential component of compassion.

If hungry, I usually have an apple in my pocket.

And I donate to one of the local organizations that handle addicts / homeless / stranded / people in need.

I am passing by a renowned hotspot daily and it took me a while until I came at peace with the above described approach.

Even thinking further: Begging can become a profession, a profession that protracts unhealthy patterns. What is compassionate about supporting that?!?
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Re: Is idiot compassion a thing?

Post by jake » Tue Mar 26, 2019 3:09 pm

weitsicht wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 2:57 pm
I smile at them and kindly decline their request and wish them a nice day. A wish that comes from the depth of my heart. I don't consider money-giving as the essential component of compassion....
I am passing by a renowned hotspot daily and it took me a while until I came at peace with the above described approach.
I lived in Paris for a few years and this was the approach I eventually settled upon as well. Making an effort to genuinely "see" them, wish them a good day, and then move on. So much suffering comes from a lack of human connection so I felt this was the best approach I could sustainably handle. It can be exhausting, the sheer number of beggars one encounters on a daily commute in a city like that.

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Re: Is idiot compassion a thing?

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Tue Mar 26, 2019 4:04 pm

catmoon wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:09 am
This is a topic of ongoing debate be me and a friend. The specific case keeps coming up of a beggar asking for ten dollars. The beggar is a known, active drug user and is known to have begged money for other purposes, such as food or overnight shelter, then spent it on drugs.

My friend says it's not my place to call the shot or exercise judgement, and thus the only compassionate course is to hand over the money. What do you think? The arguments are not going anywhere, I think I need some new approach.
You don't need to feel guilty about it, it's definitely a sane decision.

On the other hand, strict right and wrong are not really possible in this case. For instance, if I knew an addict (and I know lots because I work in that world) that was trying to buy heroin (or better yet suboxone or similar off the street) mainly to avoid withdrawal sickness in a given circumstance, I might give them money for it. Same thing with a severe alcoholic, people can actually die from those withdrawals, unlike heroin. It's hard to say whether you are actually always making an effective moral stand by wanting to deprive them of ability to do their drug, addiction is much more complicated than that, and unmonitored deprivation of the drug is not always positive when they reach that point. For instance, they might just go rip someone off (often another addict) when they can't panhandle it. Either way, trust that if they are really addicted, you not giving them money is a temporary delay and nothing else.

So yeah, don't give him money if you feel an objection to it, instead donate it to your local place that does treatment, methadone, suboxone, and narcan training if you are concerned with your impact on his drug use.
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Re: Is idiot compassion a thing?

Post by lelopa » Wed Mar 27, 2019 5:57 am

the late Gendun Rinpoche, who teached in Dordogne, France was asked a similar question
and he said you should give money - even when you know the beggar use it for alcohol, etc.

i never really "liked" this answer
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Re: Is idiot compassion a thing?

Post by Simon E. » Wed Mar 27, 2019 10:13 am

lelopa wrote:
Wed Mar 27, 2019 5:57 am
the late Gendun Rinpoche, who teached in Dordogne, France was asked a similar question
and he said you should give money - even when you know the beggar use it for alcohol, etc.

i never really "liked" this answer
I am not personally acquainted with the Rinpoche in question.
But Tibetan teachers in general are not always well informed about the nature of western society.
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Re: Is idiot compassion a thing?

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Wed Mar 27, 2019 12:07 pm

What is the motivation?
If one is practicing compassion, which isn't merely expressed through generosity by the way, but also though patience, effort, and so on,
then, one needs to look at whether one is merely taking a cookie-cutter approach, or really applying their practice to the situation.
The cookie cutter approach is simply, "Buddhism says be compassionate, so here is some money" or whatever.
It's robotic in a way, and that roboticness (roboticism?) is easily mistaken for selfless non-attachment, impartiality, ultimate bodhicitta...

But that's not really compassion, because underlying it is the motivation of trying to be a "good buddhist".
In other words, you are still really doing it for yourself, scoring some bodhi-points.

The painful truth is that very often we can't really help someone. We may not have the conditions, or the merit, or the wisdom.
Of course, there are many things people can do that really do help others, either directly or indirectly, and we don't have to wait for situations to confront us.

So, the opposite of the cookie cutter approach is really about looking at each situation individually,
and then trying to use some wisdom but not in trying to determine what you may think is the "best" thing to do, because, who knows that?

But simply, how you can or cannot help someone. Then, your actions really become being about that other person.
If you can help someone, that's really good.
Most of the time, there is very little we can do to really change the causes which produce the conditions for another person's mental or physical state of existence.
To use the old saying, you can give someone a fish and feed them for that day. But you may not be able to teach them how, or have access to a river, or to the hook and string.
You see your own limits this way, and that helps to develop your own practice and wisdom.
Then, each time the situation arises, with each new event that occurs where someone may ask you for a dollar or whatever, you become a little better at knowing what to do, whether you should or shouldn't.
Then that's the opposite of idiot compassion.
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Re: Is idiot compassion a thing?

Post by Queequeg » Wed Mar 27, 2019 5:38 pm

Depends on what your practice is.

If you are perfecting dana, you give it, without hesitation, and keep giving until there is nothing left.

https://pages.ucsd.edu/~dkjordan/script ... ataka.html

But the question is about "compassion".

Seems to me, unless you are willing to go full bore on compassion, meaning, you are going to personally undertake the happiness of this person, no matter what, without limitation, then you're just rationalizing being stingy with your wealth and projecting yourself - your values, your expectations -onto their life. Just shut up and give or don't, but don't put conditions on your help and give yourself a pat for being "compassionate".

Nothing wrong with conditioning your generosity, but just realize, that's not Dharma practice and is rather just conventional generosity of a certain conservative bent. :)

Edit: "that's not Dharma practice" I should preface that, its not a perfected practice. All good intentions for Dharma are meritorious.
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Re: Is idiot compassion a thing?

Post by Grigoris » Wed Mar 27, 2019 7:59 pm

Simon E. wrote:
Wed Mar 27, 2019 10:13 am
lelopa wrote:
Wed Mar 27, 2019 5:57 am
the late Gendun Rinpoche, who teached in Dordogne, France was asked a similar question
and he said you should give money - even when you know the beggar use it for alcohol, etc.

i never really "liked" this answer
I am not personally acquainted with the Rinpoche in question.
But Tibetan teachers in general are not always well informed about the nature of western society.
There were no drug addicts and pan-handlers in Tibet???
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: Is idiot compassion a thing?

Post by 明安 Myoan » Wed Mar 27, 2019 9:13 pm

This being continues to suffer in samsara because I have yet to abandon my afflictions.
I feel instinctive aversion towards the field of merit, because my bodhicitta is still aspirational.

Doesn't a sutra say that arousing bodhicitta once is more meritorious than filling the universe with jewels?
So what's a few dollars plus or minus without bodhicitta?
Shantideva wrote:Whoever resorts to me, may it never be in vain.
FWIW I rarely have money to give but try to do some practice for the person in the moment. They need the merit.
With a heart wandering in ignorance down this path and that, to guide me I simply say Namu-Amida-Butsu. -- Ippen

The Fundamental Vow [of Amitabha Buddha] is just for such people as woodcutters and grassgatherers, vegetable pickers, drawers of water and the like, illiterate folk who merely recite the Buddha's name wholeheartedly, confident that as a result of saying "Namu Amida Butsu" they will be born into the western land. -- Master Hōnen

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Re: Is idiot compassion a thing?

Post by Drenpa » Wed Mar 27, 2019 9:59 pm

I get the sentiment OP, but wouldn't call it "idiot" compassion. In a cut-throat world even misguided or misinformed attempts at compassion are far from idiotic and better than the law of the jungle that prevails.

Having said that, there's no doubt that understanding of compassion lies along a spectrum from contrived & relative bodhicitta to spontaneously arising wisdom. Speaking from personal experience, it took me a long time to realize that the passive aggressive, sickly sweet, "nice" and coddling view I brought with me when I met the Teacher, embodiment of Dharma, was for lack of a better word, idiotic at times. My partner who is capable of real compassion, calls it my "Bodhisattva complex." She's right, and so this thread stuck a chord.

I still skew towards affliction in that way, but have incredible admiration for the qualities displayed by people I've seen, some of them here, who cut through the bullshit and have had the courage to call a spade a spade. And then have the ability to deal with the fallout, or just ignore it. I've heard it said that even some teachers have difficulty saying and doing what actually needs to be done, out of fear of offending someone. I prefer someone who is direct and can come across at first blush as arrogant or gruff or seems to go too far but really has a good heart. All day any day over the alternative. Gradually I've come to see this as a courageous quality arising from clarity. Not in every case, but certainly in some. I think many of us have probably been on the receiving end of this from our teachers, and can attest to the benefit even if it stings.

The manifestations of wisdom include not only the ability to pacify/magnetize & increase - but also to subjugate, and wrathful activity. Sometimes, as noted here by various thoughtful folks, the kindest thing we can do is to give a good swift kick in the ass. Many of us have no problem doing it to ourselves - to excess maybe - but at a certain point if the qualities of wisdom from diligently applying the instructions of our teachers are to manifest, one needs to be able act on wisdom & clarity that arises in our mind stream. Anyone one else struggle with this? I do.

But it's necessary at a certain point to take action, even if on the face of it it appears contrary to convention and ideas we have about what is nice or not. We can certainly be mistaken even though there is good intention and thus this "miserable compassion" as ChNNR put it sometimes. Or idiot compassion. Same idea. But miserable compassion is still the perfect arising of the dynamic energy of the basis, its just obscured by affliction from being the clarity of complete wisdom that cuts through artifice- we have to start somewhere - so idiot/miserable compassion is better than the alternative IMO.

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Re: Is idiot compassion a thing?

Post by Simon E. » Thu Mar 28, 2019 10:50 am

Grigoris wrote:
Wed Mar 27, 2019 7:59 pm
Simon E. wrote:
Wed Mar 27, 2019 10:13 am
lelopa wrote:
Wed Mar 27, 2019 5:57 am
the late Gendun Rinpoche, who teached in Dordogne, France was asked a similar question
and he said you should give money - even when you know the beggar use it for alcohol, etc.

i never really "liked" this answer
I am not personally acquainted with the Rinpoche in question.
But Tibetan teachers in general are not always well informed about the nature of western society.
There were no drug addicts and pan-handlers in Tibet???
I had something else in mind. I am sure all Rinpoches are fully aware of the workings of samsara irrespective of culture and locale. They all know the depths that desperate people can plummet to. What might be less clear is how samsara can work out in relatively affluent societies..where initially fit and healthy young women and men can out of indolence become dependant on the goodwill of others.. to their long term disadvantage.
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Re: Is idiot compassion a thing?

Post by haha » Thu Mar 28, 2019 11:25 am

Practice of generosity or giving is not only about hard cash. It sounds like other items are not included. Money is only one aspect of generosity (i.e. about wealth).
A. giving wealth,
B. giving fearlessness, and
C. giving Dharma.


....You should not give your body to beings who are influenced by the maras, insane, or who have disturbed minds, because they don't need it and don't have freedom of thought. Also, a bodhisattva should not give food or drink to those who are gluttons.

Gampopa, The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, Chapter 12
One can add fourth one as
D. giving loving-kindness (and compassion).

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Re: Is idiot compassion a thing?

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Fri Mar 29, 2019 12:02 am

At a teaching one time, our teacher was asked, "There is a saying, to give until it hurts. Should we do that as Buddhists?"
The teacher said, no, don't do that. Don't cause yourself suffering!
Be as generous as you are able to be. If you can only give someone a penny, but your motivation is really selfless, then that has more merit than someone who gives a large amount of money, hoping that it will bring them admiration or a higher rebirth.

That is also part of wisdom. You could say, practicing compassion with wisdom is the opposite of "idiot compassion".
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Re: Is idiot compassion a thing?

Post by DharmaN00b » Fri Mar 29, 2019 4:40 am

It is easy to be patronizing in a situation such as the one posited. Many people come from the school of hard knocks and are not so easily wounded or offended, whereas one accustomed to pampering may develop insecurities and arrogance in the face of a perceived threat.

So if there's a big gap between a person holding onto everything and someone with nothing to lose the help 'can' be misplaced. One person feels the need to be better off, without questioning what it means to be better. I think at least one commonality of 'high life/low life' is simply that people are trying to shield themselves.

I've often thought about times when someone was shouting abuse in my face that it was something that was said to them many times in the past. Knowing or thinking this at belief level means I don't elevate myself or develop the tendency to take things personally and patronize others.
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