Dharma Talk: Compassion

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

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,

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

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.