Compassion is not about kindness. Compassion is about awareness. Compassion in the general sense of kindness would be an expression of awareness, but one that might not necessarily be free from the stain of ego-grasping. Genuine compassion is egoless. It is the inherent essence expressed, inseparable from awareness. This natural essence, which is genuine compassion, does not need to be formulated or even expressed as something like “compassion.” We see this exemplified in our great teachers. Their genuine compassion does not require phrases and expressions or even actions. Just their presence, who they are, is nothing other than the quintessence of compassion.
The bodhisattva vow acknowledges confusion and chaos — aggression, passion, frustration, frivolousness — as part of the path. The path is like a busy, broad highway, complete with roadblocks, accidents, construction work, and police. It is quite terrifying. Nevertheless it is majestic, it is the great path. “From today onward until the attainment of enlightenment I am willing to live with my chaos and confusion as well as with that of all other sentient beings. I am willing to share our mutual confusion.” So no one is playing a one-upmanship game. The bodhisattva is a very humble pilgrim who works in the soil of samsara to dig out the jewel embedded in it.
Do you really want to support the center, support the dharma, and benefit sentient beings, with all three of your doors and not just your mouth? Then you need to be flexible and accommodating, rather than wanting everyone else to help and support you in your idea. We are all one family, all trying to support the dharma because that way we can be sure we are bringing benefit to sentient beings in a meaningful way. We are none of us at the level where we should be proud, or want to be the boss. None of us have those kinds of qualities and none of us are omniscient! But all of us can try to be more harmonious and more humble, which is how we can develop those qualities in ourselves. Each person should check his or her own mind continuously to see when the faults of stubbornness and self-importance creep in. When you see your faults, then you can work to eradicate them. That is how you develop qualities. That is how you clean up your mindstream and become worthy of praise and respect. You don’t get praise and respect by yelling the loudest; if you did, babies would be above all others. We don’t need more babies crying or boasting. We need people working together smoothly, watching and helping intelligently, like grown up human beings. That is not beyond our level. Therefore, if you really want to help, watch yourself carefully. Be patient with each other. Have humility and discipline, which means being in control of your three doors, rather than everything being under the power of your five poisons. Then everything will be very good: in the center, with the sangha, with the dharma, everything. That way, it works!
This variety of desirous and hateful thoughts
that strands us in the ocean of cyclic existence
once realized to be without intrinsic nature,
makes everything a golden land, child.
If you meditate on the illusion-like nature
of illusion-like phenomena,
actual illusion-like buddhahood
will occur through the power of devotion.
You do not have to abandon worldly activities in order to attain effortless unconcern. You should know that worldly activities and effortless unconcern are not two different things, but if you keep thinking about rejection and grasping, you make them two.
Nirvana means extinction, the extinction of all notions and concepts, including the concepts of birth, death, being, nonbeing, coming, and going. Nirvana is the ultimate dimension of life, a state of coolness, peace, and joy. It is not a state to be attained after death. You can touch nirvana right now by breathing, walking, and drinking your tea in mindfulness.
Viewing others through the lens of interdependence helps us see that we are not separate from people on the other side of these seeming gaps. We are capable of seeing causal connections that link us to others who appears to be remote from us, even if such links are not visible to the naked eye. For example, we can review the ample evidence and arguments that show that those who have less economic power provide the labor that keeps down the cost of living and fuels the material prosperity of those who have more. This means we can identify ties between our meal and the field workers who harvested our vegetables and factory workers who manufactured our dishes. Yet having this intellectual knowledge of our connection to them does not automatically make us feel personally close to them, especially when the outer conditions of their lives seem so different from our own.
We are in many ways creatures of habit. If we live within certain conditions long enough, they come to seem natural to us. But if we had lived in different conditions, they would seem equally natural. Looking at the cultural, religious, or material conditions that others have become habituated to may make us feel that they must be totally different from us, but we are just mistaking something circumstantial for something essential. It is largely an accident of our birth and our life circumstances that we have come to find certain conditions familiar and others alien or distant. It is not an indication of anything essentially other or different about us.
All beings consist of causes and effects,
In which there is no ‘sentient being’ at all.
From phenomena which are exclusively empty,
There arise only empty phenomena.
All things are devoid of any ‘I’ or ‘mine’.
Like a recitation, a candle, a mirror, a seal,
A magnifying glass, a seed, sourness, or a sound,
So also with the continuation of the aggregates —
The wise should know they are not transferred.
There’s no real happiness among any of the six classes of beings.
If we consider the sufferings of the three lower realms,
When you feel upset just by hearing about them,
How will you possibly cope when you experience them directly?
Even the happiness and pleasures of the three upper realms,
Are just like fine food that’s been laced with poison,
Enjoyable at first, but in the long run a cause of ruin.
Who feels angry? Where does this anger rise from? Is there a place where this anger is now? Is there someone who is angry, since we feel so strongly, “I am angry”? Is there a real substance, a force? Questioning in this way, it’s absolutely impossible to find such a thing. There is neither a place to find, nor a substance, nor any entity. It’s simply a seeming presence, a mere movement of the attention which has no reality to it whatsoever. It is like a bubble on the surface of water.