How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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contemplans
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Re: How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Post by contemplans » Sat Feb 11, 2012 1:57 pm

It is probably a good idea to refrain from reading most news. The news is stilted. Evil has been going on long before news feeds. The question to ask is, is it doing me any good to know this knowledge. A lot of news seeking is curiosity. We seek news about things that have no relation to our lives at all. We can be informed without reading about all the lurid details of a movie stars life, the latest trial of someone, or even crimes in our nearby area. Really, do we not know at this point that there are people who do terrible things to children? So you have to start turning the stuff off.

As for compassion. There is nothing wrong with admitting that indeed a child abuser has done great evil. It isn't a figment of our imaginations. If we are to have compassion on someone who need to have an accurate estimate of what compassion we need to have. It is easy to have compassion for the Dalai Lama. Not so much for a child molester. So first look for a good that is in them. Everyone has some good in them, so find it. You don't know this person, so use something. Maybe he loved his mother dearly. Maybe he was kind to animals. Maybe he really regretted his evil deeds, but just couldn't find a way out of them. Just find something to latch on to at least get into feeling some compassion for that person. After that spread it to their whole being, by wishing them that they would take that good they do have a develop it, and they would overcome their evil deeds and inclinations, and through that development they would be a better and more skillful person. Wish this for their own good. A person who commits such crimes is in a truly detestable state. A wish for them to be out of that, and to start developing their good qualities, is a good thing. Latching onto rejection of the detestable thing will lead into the idea of developing good. It may take a while to see that. There is somewhere where he does good though.

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Re: How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Post by Viscid » Sat Feb 11, 2012 6:47 pm

Everyone has some good in them, so find it.
This naive assumption is made far too often. Some sociopaths do not do anything that does not benefit themselves in some way. The idea that everyone has some sort of inner core of good is nonsense.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James

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Re: How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Post by Virgo » Sat Feb 11, 2012 7:14 pm

Viscid wrote:
Everyone has some good in them, so find it.
This naive assumption is made far too often. Some sociopaths do not do anything that does not benefit themselves in some way. The idea that everyone has some sort of inner core of good is nonsense.
Most sociopaths are incapable of understanding why their actions are not acceptable. For example, Dohmer didn't really understand why it was "bad" that he killed and ate people. He hid his actions out of fear because he knew they were wrong by societies standards but could not perceive the moral wrongness himself. He thought it was perfectly alright to do what he did. Therefore, his intention wasn't really "evil". Or maybe it was, it's hard to tell.

Kevin

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Re: How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Post by daverupa » Sat Feb 11, 2012 7:26 pm

Being compassionate (i.e. pervading karuna in all quarters) is an attitude, not a behavior; it is not necessarily compassionate to shove ones hand into a child's mouth, you see, but such a behavior is compassionate if the child is choking on a pebble and one intends to relieve that thereby. So expressions of compassion can be widely disparate: the particular expression (via thought, word, or deed) of compassion for a child may differ from that for a child abuser, but the practice of pervading compassion, et al, proceeds equivalently in both cases (so long as upekkha keeps pace).

:shrug:

Either one is pervading all quarters with thoughts of karuna, or one is not; the confusion here seems to misconceive brahmavihara-bhavana as being the direction of karuna (or metta or what have you) to this or that person or group of people, usually in successive stages (e.g. innocents, then loved ones, oneself, strangers, the hated, the loathed, and so on). The problem is that this relies on an equanimity based on diversity, and as such admits of exceptions and gaps, as the simile of the Guatemalan Tree Walrus shows - after all, how can one have limitless compassion if one has only a limited list of recipients?

The proper way seems to me to involve pervading karuna in all quarters irrespective of what is perceived in any quarter.

"Bhikkhus, even if bandits were to sever you savagely limb from limb with a two-handed saw, he who gave rise to a mind of hate towards them would not be following my teaching."

Pervade karuna - do not 'send' it to various dhammas.
Last edited by daverupa on Sat Feb 11, 2012 7:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Post by contemplans » Sat Feb 11, 2012 7:44 pm

Viscid wrote:
Everyone has some good in them, so find it.
This naive assumption is made far too often. Some sociopaths do not do anything that does not benefit themselves in some way. The idea that everyone has some sort of inner core of good is nonsense.
Everybody acts to benefit themselves in some way. I am simply pointing out the truth that not every act of the worst person on earth is bad. I made no reference to their "inner core". The "good in them" is whatever good qualities they have in their mind/heart/whatever. Humans are all capable of good or bad. Even the worst has something good in there. It may be hard to find, but there is.

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Re: How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Post by reflection » Sat Feb 11, 2012 7:54 pm

As said before, evil doesn't exist in Buddhism. I'd also call it unskillful instead. People doing such deeds don't know what will give them happiness and partly because of that reason come to these acts. This is unskillful behaviour, unwise but not evil.

But aside from that I think it is good to note that there is no such thing as an "evil person" or an "unskillful person". It's a person that has committed an unskillful act. I would not call child abusers like that, but persons who did abuse a child. This is a big difference because it is not labelling themselves in some way. In that way I am open to them and they still have potential to change. This is a first step in developing compassion.

I also believe everybody has a tendency to do good that may get overwhelmed by anger/greed/delusion. This could have happened because they never knew compassion in their lives. If we allow those people to restore and open our heart to them, that may be their first step in recovery. So it is important to forgive them. Without forgiveness there will never be compassion. In the end it is possible to forgive everybody. The Buddha was even able to forgive murderers that were sent to kill him.

With metta,
Reflection

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Re: How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Post by contemplans » Sat Feb 11, 2012 8:03 pm

reflection wrote:As said before, evil doesn't exist in Buddhism. I'd also call it unskillful instead.
Then the monk should investigate: 'Are there any evil, unskillful mental qualities unabandoned by me that would be an obstruction for me were I to die in the night?'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Evil is pāpa in Pali.

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Re: How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Post by reflection » Sat Feb 11, 2012 8:10 pm

I'm sorry, part of my reply needed to be in this topic: http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=11452" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
I mixed the two up. I'll reply on the above in the other topic.

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Re: How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Post by perkele » Sat Feb 11, 2012 8:22 pm

reflection wrote:As said before, evil doesn't exist in Buddhism. I'd also call it unskillful instead. People doing such deeds don't know what will give them happiness and partly because of that reason come to these acts. This is unskillful behaviour, unwise but not evil.
Saying that "evil doesn't exist in Buddhism" is maybe a bit too much.
But I think arguing about that would mostly be a vain fight about words.
But aside from that I think it is good to note that there is no such thing as an "evil person" or an "unskillful person". It's a person that has committed an unskillful act. I would not call child abusers like that, but persons who did abuse a child. This is a big difference because it is not labelling themselves in some way. In that way I am open to them and they still have potential to change. This is a first step in developing compassion.
This is a very good attitude and surely in line with how the Buddha taught and acted. :thumbsup:

And I think this is also the practical attitude contemplans was advocating.

No reason to take this to a metaphysical level and a debate about good and evil in and of themselves, the "inherent nature of psychopaths/sociopaths" or something like that.
reflection wrote:I'm sorry, part of my reply needed to be in this topic: http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=11452" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
I mixed the two up. I'll reply on the above in the other topic.
I think both topics discuss more or less the same. The problem in both places is that people get too theoretical about practical matters imho.

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Re: How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Post by Dan74 » Sat Feb 11, 2012 9:25 pm

retrofuturist wrote: Out of interest, do you ever feel compassion for the endangered Guatemalan Tree Walrus? Not likely, because I bet you'd never before brought it to mind until I mentioned it. Yet, that doesn't mean you regard it with hatred or other unwholesome attitudes either.

Metta,
Retro. :)
Oh, the adorable Tree Walrus, how can anyone not love him! :D
Greetings Dan,

I don't think you've quite grasped the point I was making earlier.

How many things/groups/dhammas etc. can you avert your mind (placing attention - manasikara) to at once? For me the answer is just one.

Of all the things I could avert my mind to, out of the vast number of dhammas I could fabricate, I see no compelling reason to avert it specifically towards child abusers. More likely than not, the mind would be better placed on the six-sense-sphere, the five aggregates, the qualities of the Buddha, the qualities of the Dhamma, the qualities of the Sangha, the breath etc.
On a more serious note, I guess since the thread was about child abusers, the mind has already been turned to child abusers and some response has been generated.

While your list is admirable, I suggest that it is in fact very beneficial to avert your mind to the sort of "objects" that typically generate aversion and face this vedana, familiarise yourself with it and learn to develop equanimity and compassion.
_/|\_

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Re: How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Feb 11, 2012 9:30 pm

Greetings Dan,
Dan74 wrote:While your list is admirable, I suggest that it is in fact very beneficial to avert your mind to the sort of "objects" that typically generate aversion and face this vedana, familiarise yourself with it and learn to develop equanimity and compassion.
Further to contemplans' point above, we are bombarded with the evil/unskillful as it is... I don't believe an effort needs to be made to deliberately hunt it down.

Sure, when such evil does come into range, respond with equanimity and compassion... that kinda goes without saying, but no need to revel in it or make a focused effort to concentrate on it and "keep it in mind" in preference to anything else in the infinitely long alternative set of fabrications one could be developing and "keeping in mind" instead.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Post by Dan74 » Sat Feb 11, 2012 9:42 pm

I agree.

I don't think anybody was suggesting "reveling in it".
_/|\_

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Re: How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Post by reflection » Sat Feb 11, 2012 9:47 pm

perkele wrote:
I think both topics discuss more or less the same. The problem in both places is that people get too theoretical about practical matters imho.
I think these are wise words.

Compassion is a practice, not a theory. In fact, this goes for the whole Buddhist path.


So, how can we have compassion for child abusers?
Start with compassion for yourself. If you can accept yourself including all that's maybe not so beautiful about you, it becomes much more easy to have compassion for others. :hug:

With metta,
Reflection

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Re: How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Feb 11, 2012 9:56 pm

Greetings Dan,
Dan74 wrote:I don't think anybody was suggesting "reveling in it".
That's what I made of your suggestion... "I suggest that it is in fact very beneficial to avert your mind to the sort of "objects" that typically generate aversion and face this vedana"

To choose, wilfully, deliberately, and intentionally to direct the mind towards certain objects, is to fashion one's experience around the object - to create a loka/world in its image.

If "revel" had connotations for you over and above that, it wasn't intended.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Post by Cittasanto » Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:18 pm

there are two things you can do to minimise your reaction to this,

1 - saturate your environment with this sort of news, which is not the best idea in my opinion as you could become hard to it.
2 - when you do see this sort of news, consciously react with the Brahmaviharas. the Buddha never said to cultivate metta for an enemy as a regular practice of metta, rather it is in the face of an enemy that metta is the appropriate response, and to a far lesser extent this is true of the other brahmavihara's although the others are used in other situations. no need to look for it, but no need to run either.
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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Re: How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:21 pm

:goodpost:

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Post by Dan74 » Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:43 pm

I guess it will be much harder to generate metta when faced with the enemy if one did not deal with these vedana in less extreme situations.

Whether one should make an effort to turn their attention to child abusers and the like is probably a matter for their practice, but equally it is good to notice if one makes an effort to turn away from such stimuli or when faced with them, react with aversion and ill-will.

I've known a few people whose lives were blessed with a near complete absence of any real difficulty or trauma. I always felt there is a dimension missing, a kind of a shallowness to them, even though they could be thoughtful and intelligent. A lack of real appreciation of dukkha, perhaps.

Incidentally a friend came over last night who works in the Working with Children Checks. He deals with child abusers every week, reviewing applications for the Working with Children permits. I asked him this question and he said "sure, it's possible to feel compassion for them because there are always circumstances and causes that if one knew would move one towards compassion."
_/|\_

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Re: How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Post by Cittasanto » Sun Feb 12, 2012 12:35 am

Dan74 wrote:I guess it will be much harder to generate metta when faced with the enemy if one did not deal with these vedana in less extreme situations.

Whether one should make an effort to turn their attention to child abusers and the like is probably a matter for their practice, but equally it is good to notice if one makes an effort to turn away from such stimuli or when faced with them, react with aversion and ill-will.

I've known a few people whose lives were blessed with a near complete absence of any real difficulty or trauma. I always felt there is a dimension missing, a kind of a shallowness to them, even though they could be thoughtful and intelligent. A lack of real appreciation of dukkha, perhaps.

Incidentally a friend came over last night who works in the Working with Children Checks. He deals with child abusers every week, reviewing applications for the Working with Children permits. I asked him this question and he said "sure, it's possible to feel compassion for them because there are always circumstances and causes that if one knew would move one towards compassion."
this is why the Buddha recommends to protect this intention!
Just as a mother protects her own child with her life, as though they were her only child, this limitless intention is nurtured in the same way in regard to all beings.
it is cultivated, developed and matured, then when faced with difficult people or news it is not as easy to tarnish it!
when developing Metta we turn to where metta naturally arises and with the aid of the other Brahmaviharas Metta can be toward all.

with the more dificult situations it is best to work in the opposite direction swapping Metta and Upekkha but leaving Karuṇā and Mudita in place, as it seams to me these are useful at different times or are expressions of metta and upekkha, just as metta can be and expression of Upekkha.
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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Re: How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Post by Dan74 » Sun Feb 12, 2012 3:04 am

Can you provide more detail, Cittasanto? I am not sure I am following.
_/|\_

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Re: How can we have compassion for child abusers?

Post by Cittasanto » Sun Feb 12, 2012 8:30 am

Dan74 wrote:Can you provide more detail, Cittasanto? I am not sure I am following.
any particular question, may help to clarify?
Blog, Suttas, Aj Chah, Facebook.

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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