Bangkok and lessons in compassion

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The woman trembles as she reaches her hands
Out in front of her, scars tracing
Like veins up her arms.
A cup sits nestled between her palms,
Only one or two coins rattling against one
Another as she rocks the plastic
Back and forth, back and forth.
Her words come out with
A rasping breath, and her skin
Seems to drip down her face.
Acid had once washed this woman’s
Skin, and now she sits, cup in hand,
Pulling at our compassion as we
Walk past. Her eyes stare out,
Intelligent, from a face, a body,
That she is trapped behind.
This mask in unmovable,
Drawing both sympathy and disgust
From those that pass.

It is a constant battle, compassion. Too often we turn away in revulsion, as so many do, from people and situations like that woman hunched on the Bangkok sidewalk. Buddhism teaches us that to achieve peace within ourselves and to achieve enlightenment, one of the things we must have is compassion for all living things: animals, plants, family, friends, enemies, strangers. True compassion does not judge, it should reach out equally to all living beings.
It is hard, when we are angry with someone, to turn our thoughts around and feel love and compassion for them instead of anger. So many times, I, as I’m sure we all have, have found myself with such frustration for what a particular someone did or didn’t do. What we should then try and teach ourselves is to take a step back and look at the situation from the others’ point of view. Why did this person let us down or cause us this frustration? Did something out of their control (for example) prevent them from being on time? We must turn our thoughts away from ourselves and learn to focus more on how we may help those around us to be happy. It is through assisting in the happiness of others that we may one day be at peace within ourselves.

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