有 | Yū | Exist and Be
What I didn't know before I came to Zen was the actual meaning of compassion. It was well intentioned yet pollyanna... transactional... immature. I discovered thoughts and feelings of "Compassion fatigue," were really "Ego fatigue." Compassion in my experience isn't to be mushy lovey-dovey kind, syrupy, overly sentimental, with endless tears... it's to be able to hold space with our pain and suffering in mutual solidarity and respect, without running away, and manifest healthy responses. This was not an easy lesson for me to learn. The hand of thought and conditioning had to be opened, to see and experience things differently.
In the Kannon-gyo, from the Lotus Sutra, there's an expression: Omōiyari nō mē dē sūbētē nō sōnzāi ō mīru. It means, see all sentient beings with the eye of compassion. I would add: to the best of our ability, plus whatever our personal height is, which in my case is 5 feet 11 inches. Put another way, just a little... we can go the extra distance; out of a policy of caring. This is not the encouragement of pole vaulting extremes of codependence, heroics or overly idealized obligation... but what makes sense... when necessary, but when is it not? That's strictly up to you.
Personally my best guide is my intuition or inner mentor and friend. For me that's in my 'Hara' or 'Soft-belly.' I'm told that Hakuun Yasūtani Roshi, once said, "There's a blindfolded Buddha in there." It could be good to get to know It, by consciously and intentionally placing our awareness in the soft-belly and experience it in a sustained way. Sometimes, similar to zazen, I place my lefthand (associated with wisdom nature) over the righthand (associated with compassionate action nature), pause and listen through 360° awareness. Sometimes I also recite a very particular phrase... Universal Nature of Loving Presence, guide me in This moment and show me ways that I can respond in harmony with my values and vows.
When it's someone we like or care about, it's usually no problem. But when a) we don't have a sense of connection, or b) the persons a schmuck, jerk, adversary, or worse... what can the small i say... difficult, difficult, difficult. Been there, seen it and done that 100,000 times. It's like can think and feel like trying to wipe your butt with sandpaper. It's the stuff that we don't particularly want to be doing to ourselves. Oy Vey, Oy Vey, Oy Vey!
Once there was this guy at a meeting, who looked "Extra" addict fidgety. Someone told me he was just outta jail, and might be a wee-bit racist, so perhaps avoid him as he seemed to have a kind of off-putting personality. I laughed, and replied, "Nobody gets here cause they're a happy meal," at which my friend replied "touché, oh crazy Jedi Master."
After the meeting I invited him to go to dinner with us. Initially he said "No," in an impressively off-putting way," but then asked "Why do you care?" My response was, "What does it cost not to care? Isn't that enough to extend goodwill just based on that?" He replied, "Not where I'm from." Gotcha. But then he asked... "Are you buying?" I replied, "I asked you, and so yes, I got ya covered." At that he said "Okay! F-it, I'll go." And that was the beginning of a friendship that has lasted for some time now. He's a great guy, and we have very human conversations all the time. I didn't do anything special. I was just as my friend Carey says... "[Just Being] another bozo on the bus". Just being person to person... just existing heart to heart, spirit to spirit... without forcing people to validate or prove their worth. Sometimes that can be very necessary... but not always so. We do way too much personhood as theatrical performance art in our society.
Omōiyari nō mē dē sūbētē nō sōnzāi ō mīru.... See all sentient beings with the eye of compassion, experiencing so-called "Other," as though we're related... Empathy + Care + Action = Compassion. I know people... ordained no less that say, "Zen has nothing to do with compassion." I can only say... if you really believe that... your high, and the vows and principles we aspire to are worthless. Please confirm through your own efforts and practice, in your own remarkably creative way.
一Living and Dying Without Regret