Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Compassion and Emptiness

"Compassion is not just a feeling of pity and empathy, but an active force, a fundamental energy that is ceaselessly at work to remove the causes of suffering. It cannot help arising, because in the realization of emptiness there are no boundaries between oneself and others. Compassion is absolute sensitivity, unbiased love, and limitless concern for everything in existence. It is the natural outward expression of the bliss of enlightenment. Even in ordinary life, when we are happy and fulfilled, we feel more loving towards the world and we want to express that love. Skillful means is the application of compassion, the enlightened activity that strives to remove suffering and to lead all sentient beings toward supreme happiness.
Emptiness and compassion are completely intertwined. The relationship between them has been compared to that of a flame and its light, or a tree and its leaves. Activity in the world is not truly enlightened unless it springs from the awareness that, in the absolute sense, nothing is being done or needs to be done. Yet at the same time, the awakened heart feels as its own the suffering of all who are not yet awakened. The bodhisattvas embody this activity for the welfare of all beings."
.........Francesca Fremantle, "Luminous Emptiness - Understanding the Tibetan Book of the Dead"

A very important tenet is proposed in the above writing. Many a time one associates compassion with a mental attitude of feeling of pity or empathy. In this mode one becomes reactive in response and has no access to the fundamental nature of why compassion gets evoked in the human heart. This is very similar to treating the symptom of the disease rather than addressing the root cause. The nature of compassion needs to emanate from deep within human awareness. This is why Francesca calls it a "fundamental energy that is ceaselessly at work to remove the causes of suffering". Please note that it does not remove suffering but removes the causes of suffering. The nature of compassion then has to equivocally act across all objective perception. Soren Kierkegard differentiated between objective truths and subjective truths. Objective truths are filtered and altered by our subjective truths. This creates distinct boundaries in our perceptions. If compassion is to be unbiased love for all creation then it has to dismantle all boundaries constructed through objective perception.

The root cause of suffering is attachment and whether one is attached to any mental or ego construct, be it a belief system or personal possession in the material or power domain, the germination process is set in motion. To root out this cause there can only be a subjective realization of any individual operating in this state, through the giver of compassion. This is achieved through the natural outward expression of the bliss of enlightenment which is all healing consciousness of the realized individual.
This well illustrated in the story of Lord Buddha and Angulimala, the personification of that which causes suffering. Angulimala causes suffering through murder for personal gratification and sports a garland of human fingers and terrorizes the whole region. When Buddha encounters him in the forest he offers himself. The force of compassion flowing outward so touched the consciousness of the perpetrator of evil that he surrenders to the  boundless ocean of love. So also when Christ encountered the woman accused of adultery and the woman at the well, there is a change in the consciousness of all participants in the event. This is the outward flow of the force of compassion. When the soldiers encounter Christ at the garden to arrest him for killing him, his self identification to the soldiers so that no suffering result for his followers, throws the soldiers to the ground. This the force of compassionate energy flowing out from an enlightened individual.

The next level of understanding is the core theme of today's article. Emptiness and compassion cannot be segregated. They are the integral part of the same state of being of one who has realized the true nature of compassion. If one has to utilize the power of compassion then the individual self has to merge with the universal self so that the boundless or borderless ocean of creation can be perceived without differentiation. This is the concept of Emptiness. This emptiness is the limitless capacity to hold the entire creation. In this mode, the suffering of any entity in creation becomes the suffering of the Self.

At its most fundamental level any suffering is the state of being of the self that is rooted only in ego consciousness thus suffering through false attachments.

Let us make a sincere effort to be Bodhisattvas through a state of emptying ourselves of all ego attachments so that we become dispensers of true compassion.

Love to you all.


  1. to strive towards that 'emptiness sublime'....... easily worded but.... gets pulled down by the never ending subjectivity....
    nice blog..... made me think!

  2. Very well said!
    It is easy to conceptualize but takes a lot of hard work to reach this state.
    Thank you for your feedback.