I just read this and I don't know the date of the post. But you speak deeply for me, except I am in the unique position of having a son who is in prison, long-term. His miraculous transformation of himself based on what he was learning about meditation, first, and now Buddhism, went hand in hand with my own self-transformation. I was a professor at a university, relatively wealthy, secure, socially high on the hierarchies, etc. I come from poor working people, however, and Ii am extremely reactive to what seems to me delusional middle-class ''niceties" in Buddhist gatherings. "Getting my own way." Yes. I have also always been an activist. And sharing my advantages has always seemed not just morally obligatory, but second nature. (Not that I'm not riddled with all my own faults)
What a wonderful honest deep response to this question.
Thank you for the story. It reminds me that every time I get a little "burned" in work of compassion that it's a natural concomitant. Yes, I am trying to put out the fire. And one gets burned...but one can get burned anywhere so what better way? Spirit of gratitude, yes. Self-sacrifice, not so much, actually. Self-escape, maybe?
I think it is for different reasons and that these reasons overlap with each other and are similar to each other. . ...I think people wish to assist others through teaching the Dharma. Others wish to grow from teaching in a manner that may be wise or self - serving. Some know that people in prison can change through their knowledge and ability to practice the Dharma because they themselves have experienced the change. Others understand that there is a Buddha nature within us all. When we share with others in a sincere manner and from our heart we grow and we can help others grow. All of one's students may not see this, but one or more may. In some respects a teacher of the Dhamma may be able to do nothing else then to plant a seed which will sprout and grow at a later time in one's life. Others may understand, seek and be able to immediately make the change upon hearing the Dhamma. Sometimes a student of the Dhamma, whether he or she is in prison or not, may have had to have experienced a lot in life and seen the changes in their life and what they have or have not brought them before they can accept and make a change according to the Dharma......
Although I recognize in myself this same disappointment which tends to bitterness, I have to compare Buddhists to any other religion and say there are many in the cheering section and fewer who have been blessed to feel the motivation to compassion through action.
I went to New Orleans after Katrina with a bunch of Methodists!!! Yuck, I feared, but I was assured we would not be on a proselytizing mission, but a mission to relieve suffering. What I discovered was thousands and thousands of people of "the faith community" doing all the on-the-ground repair, removal, cleaning, rebuilding. What a thrilling and heart-warming affirmation of the goodness of good people. John Wesley's creed is the basis for Methodists: "Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to everyone you can, wherever you can, in every way you can." A tiny portion of Methodists actually hear and act on that. But it's the same impulse as the Boddhisattva, as the Buddha who gives his body to the starving mother tiger, as the parrot quenching the fire in the story in a previous reply.
Maybe you and I have to remind ourselves that we are fortunate to feel compassion so thoroughly it moves us. The real gift of Life is the gift of Love, and that's probably what every lame ritualist is seeking. I'm glad you have the courage to tell it like you see it. But don't see it so bitterly that you hurt yourself and close your heart.
With love, Juanita (mother of a prisoner)