Compassion

  • 2017

    Dharma Talk: Compassion

    About Buddhist Merits

    The talk below was given on 3/20/95 at the regular Monday night Dzogchen sitting group in Cambridge, MA.

    This practice that we just did- this is what we call in Tibetan the "Chenrezig Sadhana," or practice of Avalokiteshvara, Bodhisattva, or Buddha of Compassion, of love, of loving kindness. My own teacher, the late and extremely great Himalayan meditation master Kalu Rinpoche, always used to teach this, all over the world, and he always used to say this mantra, chant this mantra himself, day and night. If you ever saw Kalu Rinpoche, I'm sure you know that you never saw him without beads in his left hand and saying this mantra: Om mani padme hung, the Mantra of Great Compassion. But even more importantly, the Mantra of Compassion was always circling in his own heart, as it were, like a prayer wheel, like every breath as a mantra, as compassion, as a loving concern for others.

    So I've always been inspired by this practice and this kind of practice. Although in Buddhism, as we experience it in the West, we often hear about very mental aspects like wisdom, clarity, enlightenment, realization, illumination and so on... higher consciousness, awareness.... I don't think that the Buddha's teaching is really meant for the eyebrows up. The Buddha's teaching and the teachings of enlightenment more importantly... even in the Buddhist teaching, the true, authentic teachings of enlightenment, if one could say such a thing, are, if nothing else, about the heart, opening the heart and mind, not just about the mind and thought and clarity. But they're about warmth, kindness and love. Unconditional love, "divine love," so-called. True love, warmth, to speak English. Not cold detachment, but a very warm, spiritual equanimity, equal to all-detachment, which can help us to treat others as we ourselves would be treated. Actually, a training in how to do that, not just a rule that we should do that...... recognizing our intrinsic connection, our total interconnectedness.

    Even more, even more scary, not just interconnected like train cars coupled by a small piece of iron at the ends, but totally interpenetrative and inseparable. Totally interpenetrative and inseparable from each other and all those around us and the entire mandala of being or holograph, cosmic web of being, imaged in Mahayana sutras as Indra's net. Each node of the net is a luminous diamond or pearl, like a mirror-like jewel that reflects and contains all the others. Think about that. That's what mandala means, or a holograph. Indra's net, where each of us is like a luminous jewel that reflects and therefore contains all the others.

    So when we practice, we really, if we can, we really could settle back into that completeness. That's the completeness, the wholeness, that's the Innate Great Perfection, or Dzogchen, which the teachings refer to. That's why we often talk about clear light, luminosity or transparency or clarity. Seeing through the illusion or seeing through the contracted ego of self, we experience the interpenetrativeness with all. Seeing through the seer, we become seers, sages, who know everyone, as it were.

    Since we are infinitely connected, infinitely deep, not just looking out into infinitely deep space, we can also look "in". It is also infinitely deep, infinitely rich and profound, infinitely mysterious, if you like, and unfathomable, and yet at the same time, totally coherent, fitting together, everything in its own place. Perfectly. It's like the ultimate chaos theory. Everything is coherent when you broaden the frame enough. Then you see it's actually a perfect pattern, everything fits, it's a perfect mandala or hologram. Everything fits, everything's perfect in its own way, in its own place. Shit belongs, as well as gold and pearls and rainbows. Also, shit, schmaltz and everything else. Neurosis, whatever.

    And not only that, even more radically, we belong. Of all people, yes even oneself, imagine that, fits and belongs. That's what these teachings, I hate to say "reveal" - it's not a secret. That's what they highlight, underline. It is there on every line, but maybe needs to be highlighted a little bit so it's not lost in an entire thicket of words, concepts. It is so evident that we overlook it. It's so close, right under our own noses, that we never notice. Everything is that. There's nothing missing and nothing extra to get rid of in the Great Perfection.

    So when we meditate through clear seeing, or the openness and awareness practice, we are entering into the wisdom side, the infinite, open side of the heart and mind. This we call the "absolute bodhi-mind." And when we practice, we generate out of that compassion, loving kindness, joy, empathy... excuse all the words, but no one word can hold them all. With a cluster, we get more of a feeling what it is all about. Not just compassion or pity.

    Think about the Third World with empathy, putting ourselves in their shoes, "walking a mile in their moccasins," as the Native Americans say. Then we'll know where they are coming from, where others are coming from, where each other are coming from. Then we can treat others as we would be treated. Then we can equalize ourselves and others. As it says in the Mahayana: mind training or attitude transformation, to treat others as yourself. To equalize oneself and others. To know where others are coming from, that others want and need the same as we do.

    The wisdom of unselfishness or selflessness reveals that real heart of interconnectedness, interpenetrativeness, and love. Then we would treat everyone like we like to treat our children or our beloved ones. Equalizing ourselves with others, or even more radically, putting them first. That's what the Dalai Lama says, that's the way to train: put others first. Like, perhaps, in your best moments, you put your children first or would die for your children. If we see ourselves as one person on one side and all the beings in this world on the other side, we might one day do a little advanced calculus and say "Which side is really more important?"

    Of course, that's a big stretch, but we just say it that way to exaggerate. But it's "me, me, me," or the world. Think about it: three - me, myself, and I- or 6 billion? And that's only the people! What about all the others, creatures great and small, seen an unseen? Hard to count them.

    So, when we really put things in perspective, we can, by continuous reflection and contemplation, start to not just conclude or jump to a conclusion or make some kind of exaggerated point that the many are more important than any one of us, but we might start to really transform our attitude. Erode or loosen a little bit of our selfishness, of our self-cherishing, our egotism, whatever you want to call it...relinquish our grasping, attachment, and demandingness.

    That's the way to peace. World peace and also inner peace. We're not just talking about mystical doctrines like no-self, shunyata, anakima, no self, no one home. But how about just a little more generosity and less grasping and demanding?

    Let's start anywhere, anything will do. Just being a little nicer to each other or when we drive around or whatever. Let's start anywhere, I dare you!

    No, I'm sure you are doing better than me in that regard. But never mind. I think this is a real challenge for all of us to really live up to these marvelous, glittering truths that we all bandy about, subscribe to, read and write about, and even worse, teach. How hard to really walk our talk, to live in an enlightened way, to embody the way, to model impeccable living for the benefit of one and all. That is the great challenge, to embody and enact wisdom of compassion in action. To show that it is possible, it must show up in ourselves first of all. We must act as if it's possible-since it is. Let's make believe and go into it.

    We can work from the outside in. We can act as if it's possible to be sane, to be loving, to live an enlightened way, to make believe from the outside in, as well as transforming from the inside out - bit by bit, because it does seem to take a while, this infinite journey.

    surya@kei.com ...

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