Self-Compassion. A Critique. Is Compassion the end of self-preoccupation – not the perpetuation of it?

Western society often has an obsessional tendency to adapt every issue of life to the needs of the self.

Self-compassion. Self-help. Self-acceptance. Self-interest. Love for myself. We hear about a connected Self. A separate Self. a True Self. Self- Actualisation. A Spiritual Self. Self-Enlightenment. Self, self, self. I, I, I, My, my my.

The list will go on and on.

Teachers and others certainly can employ such language, but you will not find such words above in 10,000 discourses of the Buddha. Nowhere does the Buddha attach such words to self.

Take self-compassion. Excess of focussing compassion on oneself can get close to or enter the zone of narcissism. Life then becomes all about me wanting to feel good about myself.  The pleasant sensations please the self for a while before fading. The expanse of life takes on a secondary interest. Such self-compassion bears no relationship to liberation, to freedom of being and the opportunity to wake up to the vast and immeasurable reality that pervades life.

In the Western Buddhist tradition, there are loving kindness meditations and self-compassion meditations where 90% of the recital consists of self-interest. ‘May I be happy. May I be peaceful” and so on.

It is much easier to grasp onto the notion of the self, as it seems to have a substance, whether a separate self or a connected self, whether self-blame of self-compassion.

Contemporary teachings of the self can offer a modest benefit – self-compassion, self-acceptance, a spiritual self feels much better than the opposite.

If your primary wish consists of feeling better about yourself, then these terms might work for you. Do employ them. A meditator can experience genuine benefit through the practice of self-compassion. The practice can reduce self-blame and self-hate. What does it mean to go deeper than giving priority to the self? After all, the self is a tiny detail in the dynamics of unfolding life and death.

If you wish to go deep and find a liberating reality, you will not limit yourself to yourself. Any kind of preoccupation with Self, with I and My confines you to the finite. Realisation of the Infinite takes priority.

A Matter of Depth

Depth goes far, far deeper than self-interest.

Depth leaves behind the story of the self – the construct of the personal history and whole baggage of formations that put it together to stick to a notion of a self.

Dharma primarily concerns itself with the deep, not with the comfortable, not with the gratification of the self.

This talk addresses compassion as an action to reduce and end suffering in the world around. Teachings point to the emptiness of building up the self around compassion and an awakened self.

Two wings of Dharma

The Dharma flies with two wings – compassion and wisdom.

Compassion emerges from a liberated wisdom.

That happens when constructs in the mind lose their significance.

The emptiness of self and the emptiness of dependency on feeling tones take priority.

This talk will also explore the contraction of compassion into self-interest.

The liberation of compassion reveals the dissolution of ‘I’ and ‘my.’

The teachings will offer a reminder of the meaning of ‘acting out of compassion.’

Here are Five Areas for Reflection

 With self-compassion, am I settling for something less than the best?

  1. How can self-compassion reveal the emptiness of self-interest?
  2. Why is the entire story of our lives such a minor detail in the Great Expanse?
  3. What does emptiness of self-existence mean?
  4. Why does natural empathy and compassion emerge through seeing the emptiness of self?

This is an expanded version of a previous blog.



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top