Recently life placed me in front of a beautiful, hand-painted thangka of the Buddha of Compassion and for the first time in my adult life, I actually bought it rather than turning away. The tangka now hangs on my wall and I look at it from time to time, contemplating how I can develop Compassion more deeply. It will therefore come as no surprise that I have found opportunities to learn about Compassion.
I remember Rama talking about compassion – the Tear in the Eye of the Buddha talk [See Forums: https://www.ramameditationsociety.org/compassion-rama] and I reflect that Rama truly was a model of Compassion. When I screwed up –which human beings do – Rama would have the impeccable Buddhist etiquette to look aside from my failings and support me in the next moment. He was more than a saint. He was enlightened, so he would not just take the time to love and forgive me, but he would use every experience – be the experience, in my mind, good or bad – as a way to help me transcend the self and move toward liberation. He never gave up on me despite my being silly and self-centered and egotistical and angry and afraid. So, suffice it to say, I have a model of compassion that is difficult to perceive living up to.
Now, I am a nice person. My personality has been dissolved to some extent. I do love others and life. I work on dharma projects. I try to practice self-control. But, compassion? That is a tall order.
I think it was easier in past lives when we could live away from people and sit in meditation for hours in a pristine setting. It seemed easier to view the world and its people with compassion. Compassion for all those souls in the samsara – sure!
But when we come down into the cities. When we interact with families. When we work in the world. When we get cut off on the freeway or when our work is unappreciated. When people we love make foolish, in our view, choices. When people we are close to become sick or angry or grieve or act in a hurtful manner. Then we have a true opportunity to practice compassion.
To be compassionate is challenging for me when I want to feel righteous indignation because of some slight or injury. To live with compassion, I would have to love instead. Not just the other person but myself. Not just the part of me that wants to “be good”, but the part of me that wants to lash out.
The only road to real Compassion I am aware of is to meditate more deeply until I and the other and the situation and this world, all dissolve in light. Dissolve. Then to come back into the world and interact with situations and people as compassionately as possible. Forgiving or forgetting when I want to hold on. Believing in others when part of me feels they are wrong or deluded. Accepting all sides of myself, even those parts I am ashamed of. Practicing compassion.
The Buddha in the traditional thangkas is always pointing off the wheel – off the wheel of birth, death, and rebirth. Pointing with compassion to compassion as a way through and beyond.