The Chile Effect
Chili contains capsaicin, like chili, which is itself spicy and functionally similar to compassion or karuṇā.
The chemical compound capsaicin or capsaicin1 (8-methyl-N-vanillil-6-nonenamide) is an oleoresin, an active component of hot peppers (Capsicum). It is irritating to mammals; It produces a strong burning sensation (pungency) in the mouth.
When you touch a chili with your mouth you feel heat, something that biochemically is not wrong. The capsaicin chemical in chili binds to a receptor that triggers a nerve that activates in the brain which causes the burning sensation in the tongue. The body registers this as pain and releases endorphins in the body to enhance the feeling of well-being.
Neurobiologists have found that a combination of hormones determines the degree of well-being of an individual. It has been scientifically proven that serotonin and endorphins are the key substances that generate sensations of happiness, well-being and restful sleep; and, above all, that they act as natural analgesics.
Not only that, chilies and marijuana have a lot in common: when they eat, they both interact with the same receptor in our stomachs, according to an article by researchers at the University of Connecticut. They saw that capsaicin bound to a receptor called TRPV1, which is found in specialized cells throughout the gastrointestinal tract. When capsaicin binds to it, TRPV1 causes the cells to produce anandamide.
Anandamide is a compound chemically similar to cannabinoids in marijuana. It was the anandamide that caused the immune system to calm down. And the researchers discovered that they could obtain the same calming results in the intestine by feeding the mice with anandamide directly.
The brain also has anandamide receptors. It is these receptors that react with the cannabinoids of marijuana to generate the ‘rush’ that people experience.
In other words, eating chili produces a rush of happiness and joy in the form of an endorphin and anandamide shot.
And, of course, the stronger the feeling of pungency, the greater the shot.That is why it is very normal to see in certain countries like Mexico eating extraordinarily spicy food, which to other people would seem unbearable, and they look happy after seeing them sweat and blush with the spicy.
The worse it goes, the greater the reward.
Something very similar happens with karuṇā, compassion or compassionate love.
To develop karuṇā you need to be able to empathize with people who are having a bad time. The worse they are, the situations are extreme and the more empathy is achieved, the worse it goes. As with the chile.
This provokes a reaction of aversion to the situation, so that the brain enters alert and tries to overcome this extreme feeling of rejection which drives to perform behaviors that manage to solve the situation of the suffering people. This includes giving money, curing the terminally ill, saving refugees who drown on the high seas, collecting dying, making food for the poor, etc.
Anyone who sees this situation from the outside would understand that the person affected behaves altruistically, so they will reinforce their behavior as «good behavior». On the other hand, the same affected, to feel happy understands that what he does is also «good», so there is a double reinforcement, personal and social.
However, what really happens is that we are dealing with an endo-politoxic drug user in the abstinence phase who is compulsively impelled to perform these tasks, not to «help», in fact, he does not even consider if this «help» really is the most important thing. convenient for people subject to your compulsion, but to get a shot of endorphins and anandamide that will leave you happy and cheerful for a long time.
These behaviors, depending on the sensory organs, fall into the category of «sensory pleasures» that create attachment, aversion and, therefore, suffering. Obviously they are an impediment in the development of awakening.
This «compassion» has nothing to do with that of a Sammasambuddha which consists in having the disposition to show Dhamma to asleep people for what they have to deal with fools and ignorant people, which is essentially repulsive to them and in exchange for absolutely nothing. A Sammasambuddha has nothing to gain or merit to achieve.