Compassion vs. the Dark Night

thumbnail
J W, modified 2 Years ago at 3/3/20 10:24 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 3/3/20 10:24 AM

Compassion vs. the Dark Night

Posts: 594 Join Date: 2/11/20 Recent Posts
Hey all, does anyone have any thoughts on how Compassion (morality) is related to the Dark Night?

The thought came up to me last night during my meditation. I was feeling some DNish symptoms but eventually with effort, was able to transform it into a happy state and during that time I kept thinking things like how I should reach out to my family more, how I should try to be better to others, etc.

So I think there's some connection there but I'm not totally sure how they are related. It maybe talks about this in MCTB, I'm meaning to reread it soon.

Thanks

John
thumbnail
Brandon Dayton, modified 2 Years ago at 3/3/20 10:46 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 3/3/20 10:46 AM

RE: Compassion vs. the Dark Night

Posts: 511 Join Date: 9/24/19 Recent Posts
At the last retreat I attended, the teacher (Susie Harrington) was asked the question: "What is the difference between loving-kindness and compassion." I think her answer gets to what you are seeing here. She responded that compassion is when loving-kindness meets suffering. The key here is approaching suffering with acceptance and love. I think that might be what is going on with your practice. Accepting the difficult stuff in the DN is a way of practicing self-compassion which then starts to extend to others. 
thumbnail
J W, modified 2 Years ago at 3/3/20 11:11 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 3/3/20 11:11 AM

RE: Compassion vs. the Dark Night

Posts: 594 Join Date: 2/11/20 Recent Posts
Well said.
Ben Sulsky, modified 2 Years ago at 3/4/20 9:03 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 3/4/20 9:03 AM

RE: Compassion vs. the Dark Night

Posts: 146 Join Date: 11/5/19 Recent Posts
"I was feeling some DNish symptoms but eventually with effort, was able to transform it into a happy state and during that time I kept thinking things like how I should reach out to my family more, how I should try to be better to others, etc."

My current take is that compassion is a fantastic thing, but compassion practices are mostly unrelated to the stages of insight.  My experience is that trying to "transform" the dark night into a "happy state" won't work long term.  I do agree that being compassionate towards yourself (giving yourself space, meeting your human needs), and others (not being an asshole just because you feel awful) is a great idea during the DN and will help cushion the blow.
thumbnail
J W, modified 2 Years ago at 3/4/20 1:30 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 3/4/20 1:30 PM

RE: Compassion vs. the Dark Night

Posts: 594 Join Date: 2/11/20 Recent Posts
That's a good thing to clarify. I'm still not entirely clear on the differences between concentration and insight meditations. In theory I know the difference, but usually I find myself sort of switching back and forth between the two during a sit. Maybe not best practice (?).

And what I'm hearing here is, maybe not to look at compassion as a way to 'nullify' the DN which would basically just be a form of denial, just hitting the snooze button on the alarm so to speak. Rather, incorporate compassion to get something out of the Dark Night when it occurs.
By that I mean, to use self-compassion to better understand the nature of the suffering you experience in the DN, and thus increase your ability to be able to respond to suffering when it happens naturally in the world, as a result of environmental factors, to extend that compassion to others, etc.

And as you mentioned, may help to cushion the blows as they happen in your meditations, though it may not be a way to permanently solve the negative mental states... they will come up again for sure.
Ben Sulsky, modified 2 Years ago at 3/4/20 1:54 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 3/4/20 1:54 PM

RE: Compassion vs. the Dark Night

Posts: 146 Join Date: 11/5/19 Recent Posts
John,

Pretty confident from my own experience and from resources that the distinction between concentration and insight is very porous.  See https://www.integrateddaniel.info/mind-maps.  The Daniel take is that insight is concentration plus 3 characteristics, which seems like a fine description.  Probably don't worry too much about your concentration and insight practices not being separate enough imo.  

Yea, I agree with your above post that so long as denial isn't happening too much you can be just about as compassionate as you want to yourself and others emoticon
Tim Farrington, modified 2 Years ago at 4/8/20 9:59 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 4/8/20 9:59 AM

RE: Compassion vs. the Dark Night

Posts: 2470 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
John W:
Hey all, does anyone have any thoughts on how Compassion (morality) is related to the Dark Night?



I think the Dark Night is what makes us capable of real compassion, in its root sense of com-passio, in the Latin: "suffering with." The Jhana of the Knowledges of Suffering teaches us ever more subtle ways of seeing the dukha characteristic arise, and we duly suffer them, in degrees of cluelessness, until the fire has done its work. Knowing what that burn is, ever more deeply, our sense of compassion for those we recognize as our kin in suffering grows more acute, in humility, and with patience, and utter acceptance, which is what it has taken for us to survive that fire, even up to anatta door, where nothing has survived the fire at all but that patience, and humility, and acceptance. And so is what we have to offer. at any stage of our own suffering, that we are that much more capable of suffering-with.
thumbnail
Pepe ·, modified 2 Years ago at 4/8/20 8:47 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 4/8/20 8:45 PM

RE: Compassion vs. the Dark Night

Posts: 588 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Excuse me, I'm not offering my own thoughts, but useful pointers that you or others may appreciate.

You may find useful Daniel Ingram's thread  Micro-PTSD and BlissTech Fun where he 'bliss-iconize a list of his traumatic life events'.

In Shargrol's compiled posts, you may Control + F "compassion", "metta" or "heal" and find some interesting points. Also, there is plenty  of compassion implied wording in "Dark Night" blocks, and "6 Realms Teachings".

 
thumbnail
Jim Smith, modified 2 Years ago at 4/9/20 3:31 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 4/8/20 9:40 PM

RE: Compassion vs. the Dark Night

Posts: 1189 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
"Hey all, does anyone have any thoughts on how Compassion (morality) is related to the Dark Night?"

I think morality relates to the dark night in a different way than you mean. To me it seem immoral to teach forms of meditation that have dark nights baked into the process when there are other forms of meditation that produce them much less often. I understand meditation can bring out suppressed emotions and in the long run that can be helpful. That is not what I am referring to. I am referring to forms of meditation which train the practitioner to use their brain in an intensive way it was never meant ot be used which, evidently, produces psychiatric problems at a relatively high frequency, sometimes severe psychiatric problems. The fact that researchers like Willoughby Britton can have a career studying the problem ought to be a signal that there is something very wrong with certain forms of meditation and students ought to be warned off of them.

There are forms of meditation that are "natural" and are harmonious with normal brain function For example, hunters waiting quietly for game to pass by with all their senses on alert often experience effects similar to soto zen and similar types of meditation in which the practitioner just sits and observes their senses. I've experienced this myself doing wildlife photography. Hunting is something human beings evolved to do and is entirely compatible with our physiology and so soto zen meditation is a very safe form of practice.
thumbnail
J W, modified 2 Years ago at 4/12/20 12:28 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 4/12/20 12:28 PM

RE: Compassion vs. the Dark Night

Posts: 594 Join Date: 2/11/20 Recent Posts
Thanks all, lots to think about here. Some good links to check out as well.  @Jim that's an interesting point, perhaps I am thinking about it wrong. Part of it I think is my usage of the term Dark Night which I am applying pretty generally. Perhaps the better question is "how does suffering relate to compassion".  

Regarding dangerous types of meditation, I do agree with you. I think it's important to find the right balance of different techniques and practices that work for you.  Personally, I'm most familiar with the Mahayana and Tibetan practices but I find Noting a good complement to those practices, which tend to be more concentration-based.  I think putting traditional lineages and maps under the lens of Pragmatic Dharma is really the way to go for me. It just makes the tradtitional practices way more meaningful and powerful.

The thing that really pulls me towards the MCTB description of the Dark Night is just how it relates to my own "past life" experiences, in the past I have been involved in some really toxic and traumatic situations, most or really all of it self-inflicted.  I had never really looked at that from a spiritual lens, but now I do and it just makes so much more sense.  I'm happier now that I've ever been and I owe that largely to meditation (not specifically MCTB, but including it), even though I feel like I'm just starting on the path. But that's the thing with the DN, or, maybe you prefer to call it 'toxic narcissistic behavior' it can come back at any time if you're not mindful of it. 
Tim Farrington, modified 2 Years ago at 4/13/20 4:41 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 4/13/20 4:41 AM

RE: Compassion vs. the Dark Night

Posts: 2470 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
John W:
Thanks all, lots to think about here. Some good links to check out as well.  . . . Part of it I think is my usage of the term Dark Night which I am applying pretty generally. Perhaps the better question is "how does suffering relate to compassion".  

The thing that really pulls me towards the MCTB description of the Dark Night is just how it relates to my own "past life" experiences, in the past I have been involved in some really toxic and traumatic situations, most or really all of it self-inflicted.  I had never really looked at that from a spiritual lens, but now I do and it just makes so much more sense.  I'm happier now that I've ever been and I owe that largely to meditation (not specifically MCTB, but including it), even though I feel like I'm just starting on the path. But that's the thing with the DN, or, maybe you prefer to call it 'toxic narcissistic behavior' it can come back at any time if you're not mindful of it. 

I think it is also helpful sometimes to look at the dark night nanas as a purgative fire burning up all manner of previously unsuspected bullshit, as well as the kinds of bullshit we've suffered with all too much. A furnace of compassion, if you will.