2020-04-29: Anukampā (3 of 5) Care as Resonance with Others
8:19PM Apr 29, 2020
I feel some happiness to be able to talk or consider the Buddha's concept, teaching or use of the word 'anukampā.' The part 'kampā' means to shake and 'anu' means towards or with. In modern English I like to think of it as resonating with others. To have something inside that can resonate.
This resonance, this word 'anukampā,' I think the best translation that I can come up with right now for it is care, caring. It's a basic concept that appears in the Buddha's teachings. Oddly enough, it's emphasized a lot. It's used a lot. It's used much more than the word 'karuṇā' - compassion. But it is never something that a person cultivates. It's not something one develops. The Buddha put tremendous emphasis on cultivation, development of the heart. But 'anukampā' is not. It's almost as if 'anukampā' is an assumed part of the human being. That our capacity to care is innate. Of course, we all care for each other, provided we have somehow settled or let go of all of the obstructions from it. When we're caught up in preoccupations, caught up in being in a hurry, caught up in anger, greed or delusion and fantasy, it might be very hard to give space to feel where we resonate, where we have empathy, where we have this emotions, feelings of being in relationship to other people.
But the Buddha seems to assume that this is the case. That people will act from there. That parents will have this care for their children. Friends will have this care - 'anukampā' - for each other. That the Buddha himself acts in the world not out of 'karuṇā,' but out of this 'anukampā.'
Some of the things that the Buddha says that he does out of 'anukampā' is - or some people ask him, maybe it's a common colloquial expression in ancient India, when someone is sick or someone wants and requests the Buddha to come to see them, they asked him please, out of care. It could be out of compassion. But I think that out of care for me, out of consideration for me, please come to visit.
The Buddha said to teach out of care. When people want to give him food, for example, he receives it out of care, out of some kind of in the relationship to them.
One of the things I wanted to emphasize today that this word care is a relational word. It was a concept that occurs, an event that occurs in relationship to people, in relationship to others. For the Buddha, it seems like he assumes that we live in a relational world. He emphasizes a tremendous amount, but without using the English word, relationship, or in relation. I can't remember any place seeing in any English translation the word relationship or in relation to. People looking for that and value that, it's missing.
It's a little arbitrary how we translate some of these words from the ancient language. But we find a lot of words that are closely connected to that. The Buddha seemingly regularly was thinking in ways that used conditionality. That's the English word we use. That things exist in relationship. They exist because of conditions. Things exist in dependence is the English word that's used for Pali.
So things exist in dependence to each other, in relationship to each other on the basis of other things. Some things are said to exist like two straws of reed. Straws of reed, the plant. They're leaning against each other, and they hold each other up. So they exist in relationship to each other holding each other up. They exist because they're in relationship.
For the Buddha, everything that exists is said to be conditioned. It means that everything that exists exists in relationship to other things. In terms of our behavior with other people, the Buddha, as far as I can read, over and over and over again took the religious teachings, spiritual teachings of his time and repeatedly reframed them in the context of a relationship to other people. In terms of what we might call ethics. In terms of how we would relate to other people out of our goodness, out of non-greed, non-hate and non-delusion, as opposed to relating to people out of greed, hatred and delusion.
This tremendous emphasis on greed, hate and delusion in the Buddha's teachings and becoming free of it as a definition of liberation is putting liberation in a relational context. Because greed and hatred, especially hatred, but greed and hatred have a lot to do with the relational way we are in the world and with other people. Over and over again, the Buddha's coming back to this.
One of my favorite ways I think I said yesterday is when the Buddha defined a person of great wisdom. He said a person of great wisdom is concerned with the welfare of oneself, welfare of others, welfare of self and others, and welfare for the whole world. So where does that come from, this concern for the welfare of everything - self, other, the whole world? Where does that come from? If it doesn't come from obligation, doesn't come from a logical idea that this is what we should do. And it comes out of, for example, someone who spends a lot of time meditating, the chances are that it wells up as a responsivity, a response, to this relational world that we live in. We are influenced by others. We feel others. They feel us. As this capacity to settle deeper and deeper and the obstructions fall away, we touch into this place of resonance, this place of 'anukampā,' where maybe it's close to the English idea of empathy.
Ethics then doesn't come from following rules. It comes from being in touch with this place where things vibrate or resonate or where this goodness exists. Where we feel in a deep, heartfelt way this being in relationship to the world around us, or how there's a mutual support we are.
For the Buddha, it seems that this place you're just assumed to be there. As people develop spiritually, it's just assumed more and more that, of course, that's what they'll operate from. It seems like the Buddha's care for the world, the Buddha's way in which engaging and teaching for the world, came out of this place of 'anukampā.'
It's a different place than 'mettā,' 'karuṇā,' 'muditā,' 'upekkhā' - loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity - for a number of reasons. One is that it encompasses all those other four points of love. It's also maybe more basic and simple. Mettā is friendliness, and it's a cognate with 'friend,' so it's a way of being friendly and having goodwill. It's just is a little more conceptual and more active. Compassion also is really in connection to people's suffering, and it's also a bit more engaged, or specific. Certainly sympathetic joy is conceptual, recognizing something wonderful that's happening there. 'Upekkhā' - equanimity - as a Brahmavihāra, it's understood to be a wisdom understanding, having a bird's-eye view, a perspective on what's happening that's also a little more activated than this deep, settled, quiet place where care exists. A place of care that then can be manifested in loving-kindness or friendliness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. But that it's something much more basic, simple and relaxed that doesn't require a lot of thinking. It doesn't require a lot of conceptualization. It's just this vibration, this resonance, this place of warmth, of kindness.
The Buddha doesn't say that this is innate in us. He seems to assume that it's there, that that is how people will operate. I find it very helpful to have this as a reference point that there is something very peaceful, something at ease, something that doesn't get troubled easily. But that is kind of a warm caring and a way of living in relationships. That relationships are important.
This Dharma practice we're doing from the very beginning is a practice that is very much connected to our relational world - our relationships to other people, animals, beings, and the Earth itself. That, of course, it is. Of course, in all kinds of very fundamental ways, we only exist in dependence on other things. We only exist because certain conditions come together to hold us up. We only exist because we're leaning against other things, which are leaning against us, keeping us going and alive.
In this deep relational way that we are, what happens when the deep relational place of empathy, of connection, of warmth, of goodness, of care comes from a place where there is no greed, no neediness, no attachments, no fear? Can we settle and discover in this deep place of goodness within, and then let that be the support? Let that be how we come into the world. If we do that, I think it becomes second nature. It becomes a natural thing to want to care for others and to care for ourselves.
This idea that dharma practice cultivates and develops people who care, maybe care in fierce ways, strong ways and wise ways. This is a very inspiring idea for me. I hope that all of us as we continue to develop this practice we clearly see the connection between this practice and becoming people who have 'anukampā' for the whole world.
Thank you very much.