Idiotic Compassion

by Friends of Godwin

It is very important to realise that loving-kindness doesn’t mean allowing others to exploit you. This can be considered as idiotic compassion. In this connection there is a very interesting story. It is one of my favourite stories. I would like to share this story with you. It comes from the Indian tradition and the story is about a cobra who was practising loving-kindness.

So there was this cobra practising loving-kindness in the forest saying: May all beings be well, may all beings be happy, may all beings be peaceful. And an old woman who was collecting firewood saw this cobra and mistook this cobra for a rope. So she used the cobra to tie up the firewood that she was carrying. As the cobra was doing loving-kindness practice, the cobra allowed this woman to do anything.

So the woman carried the bundle of firewood home and then the cobra escaped but with a lot of physical pain and physical wounds. And then he went to meet his teacher, and the cobra said: See what happened to me! I was practising loving-kindness, and now see the wounds and all the pain that I’m experiencing in my body! The teacher very calmly said: You have not been practising loving-kindness. You have been practising idiotic compassion, because you should have shown that you were a cobra. You should at least have hissed! So in relating to people like the person you described you have to learn to hiss, and in doing so you’ll also be doing a service for that person.