Friday, October 12, 2007

Mama Says Om - Compassion

This is a difficult one...... Compassion is (and has been) at the core of my practice in this and probably many other lifetimes, and yet it is the place where I fall down over and over again in this lifetime, and all those others too. Perhaps I shall get things right in one of the many lifetimes to come, but in the meantime, I am just pottering along in this lifetime: falling and skinning my knees, lurching to my feet and continuing along the trail with a lantern and a song.

In the Pali language, the word for compassion is karuna, and in Tibetan, the expression is snying-rje. Both seek to describe mercy and loving care extended to those who are suffering, and surely we are all suffering in one way or another. Showing mercy, loving care and consideration to each other is an acknowledgment of the non-duality of existence, of our profound connection to each other and the connection of all things, of the sacred animating spark within us all. That includes Mother Earth, and we must be honest here - our treatment of each other and our mother is appalling.

In Buddhist thought, compassion is embodied within the Buddha Avalokitesvara (or Chenresig) of whom the Dalai Lama is a living incarnation, in the path of the Bodhisattva and the way of the Shambala warrior. There can be no real compassion without wisdom, and prajña (or enlightened wisdom) is the perfect working companion to compassion, both qualities working together, hand in hand and side by side.

Compassion is also one of the four Brahmavihāras or boundless states of being: karuna (compassion), metta (loving kindness), mudita (joy/appreciation), and upekkha (equanimity). Boundless is a fine and appropriate word in the circumstances, for a loving heart enfolds all of life and creation within in its care. The vast flowing cosmic web of existence is without breakage, division or separation, whether or not we recognize it and conduct ourselves accordingly — with compassion.

One begins in small ways and just goes on from there: purchasing groceries for an elderly neighbour who tumbled a few days ago and broke her hip, putting grain and apples out for wild deer and turkeys and keeping bird feeders topped up for our winter birds. Sometimes it's just well wishes and a small blessing - this morning as the first flocks of migrating northern geese flew over the garden on their way south, I blessed them one and all and wished them a safe journey there and back again. May we all complete this journey together, and may we travel onward with compassion.

Written for the incandescent mamas at Mama Says Om, and as always, a nod, a smile and a greeting to Lil.


Visual-Voice said...

What a lovely post. Thank you for sharing your heart with me.

Linda G. said...

Thank you Cate, for expressing so beautifully what I feel in my heart..

Lil said...

Compassion comes even in small's not the size, but the energy within the act.

Thank you for this Cate...a knowing, nodding smile back to you dear one.


ps. how's that for speedy huh??

Endment said...

Your post and your blog send waves of compassion throughout the "blog-o-sphere.

Pixie Mama said...

Very beautiful and what a wonderful photograph. Thanks for sharing

julia said...

Thank you for this post
It reminds me of the many dharmas for which I am responsible
Especially that of friend and neighbour and planet-dweller

Anonymous said...

I stumbled over here today from Unveiling of a Pagan Spirit and my heart leapt when I saw this post. Thank you for this. Within the past year or so, Green Tara has entered my life and helped me to see the truth of compassion. Blessings to you!

Val said...

Ah, how good it is to see the Pali terms used so normally. So much Buddhist "culture" in the UK used Sanskrit terminology. But I first came across Buddhadhamma in the Theravada tradition from Thailand. For me its like translating French to English - I can manage, but it halts the flow of reading. I suppose you could say Pali is my Buddhist mother tongue!

I have just booked my tickets for the four days of teaching when the Dalai Lama comes to the UK next May!! I was thrilled to go to Glasgow in 2003. And honoured.

*goes off humming an Avalokitesvara chant from the Vietnamese monks of Thich Naht Hanh*