Recently I received several teachings, one of which, while making the same point, uses different words, different phrasing, making the teaching more accessible and thus easier to implement. The other builds on that by again, while not making a different point than I’ve often made about the primacy of offering others joy, putting it in different words.. If you’ve been reading my posts, you know how important I think semantics can be in improving accessibility and understanding.
The first is that the things we experience that tend to upset us, whether it’s the actions of individuals or society, are an expression of someone’s or our collective suffering. If something is an expression of someone’s suffering, than how could one possibly be upset with the person as a result of the experience. There is no free will involved here.
The second teaching is that love is the greatest protector from suffering, with love being defined as a heartfelt desire for others to experience happiness. How can one not desire that everyone in the world experience happiness?
The obvious answer would be, “If you hate someone, it’s easy not to wish that they experience happiness.” Ah, but if you believe in the first teaching I shared above, then how can you hate someone? You may be upset with their actions, but how can you hate them?
Even regarding someone who has done evil, how can you not wish that their suffering end and they thus experience happiness (which would also mean that their evil ways would end to the benefit of everyone)?
If your ego-mind responds that people who do evil things shouldn’t get away with it, that that wouldn’t be justice, that misses the point. First they aren’t getting away with it, both because they suffer and because if it’s serious enough that they’ve broken a law society will exact some form of penance. But more importantly, if what someone does is an expression of their suffering and not their free will, if they've been programmed by their mind's reaction to their life experiences to do what they do, then they are responsible but not to blame.
Our justice system is based on responsibility.
And so this doesn’t mean abandoning our justice system, throwing our hands up, and accepting anarchy. There is in general nothing wrong with our laws. In a civilized, ordered society, people cannot go around harming others regardless what their definition of right and wrong is, regardless their life experience.
Compassion is about compassion. It does not imply letting people harm others in violation of the law. However, it does or should impact how those who are convicted are treated; rehabilitation should be the goal, not retribution. (See my post, "Prisons as Monasteries not Dungeons," at PreservingAmericanValues.blogspot.com)