Seeing Others as Brothers and Sisters

I’ve heard it said that the practice of seeing others as your own brothers and sisters can be used as an means to develop compassion and eliminate lust toward others. This is a practice I’ve tried to adopt, but I think this is a case when a particular teaching, on it’s own, needs to be augmented slightly to be the most beneficial in my particular case.

Normal Relationship? I think not.

Normal Relationships? I think not.

The issue here is that I’ve never had a normal relationship with family, so the closeness associated with the relationship of brother or sister is a little relaxed — more like that of friends. Thinking of a person as my sister doesn’t really inspire a sense of compassion or love for that person the way I think it might for my wife, for instance, because my sisters are just people with whom I happened to grow up.

I wonder sometimes whether my sisters (particularly the youngest two) feel the same way — and if they do, whether they even realize it. I think we would all agree that the situation in which we spent our childhood was not normal (even if people may have not known the difference from the outside looking in) and that each of us has some sort of unique damage as a result. I think mine is that I feel disconnected from pretty much everyone most of the time and really have to work at making meaningful connections with people.

I think this issue requires a little bit of an adjustment to my thinking, possibly more than one adjustment, in fact. At a minimum, I think I should be trying to see everyone, including my siblings, more like I do my own children (with whom I seem to have a much more “normal” relationship when viewed in comparison to others and their children).

I can’t say for sure if the Buddha would agree with my assessment of the situation (or of the remedy I’ve conjured up), but like many of the specific situations in life, we’re often left to own devices when trying to take 2,500 year-old teachings and apply them to unusual, modern circumstances.

Thank you for reading, friends. Please be well!

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2 comments

  1. I have similar issues around family – even the mother thing, most revered in Buddhism…a difficult relationship!

  2. Sorry for replying so late to this — I guess with work being crazy I totally missed your comment!

    Lately, I must admit that it has seemed like maybe this is a problem common to our time and place… as if we’ve just forgotten how to be a “family” anymore to begin with… I suppose it is both somewhat comforting to know I’m not alone and incredibly unfortunate that others have challenges in this way.

    Please be well, friend.

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