Compassion seems to be the recent recurring theme in my thoughts and prayers. It was in the forefront of ideas in one of my recent reads – “Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain” by Sharon Begley, which reports on a meeting of neuroscientists, buddhist scholars and the Dalai Lama. One story related in the book has stayed with me for a couple of weeks. It is the story of a Tibetan Buddhist monk who was imprisoned by the Chinese for 18 years with all that entails – toture included. Upon his release he made is way to Dharamsala, the current home of the Dalai Lama where he seemed happy, peaceful and amazingly unscarred by the previous 18 years. When asked what he feared most in prison, his response was almost startling – “I feared most that I would lose my compassion for the Chinese.”
How does one develop such compassion? It is evident in so few of us – in this monk, in Jesus on the cross, Mother Teresa… The Buddhists get there by meditating for many hours. I suspect that Jesus and Mother Teresa and others got (or will get) there by similar routes. The world would be a better place if more people were able to develop this compassion – it might actually look more like the Kingdom of God that Christians strive for.
This compassion is a desire to relieve the suffering of all of God’s creatures. It does not require that the object conform to my standards of behavior or belief. It calls to mind the outlook of Vincent de Paul – to see Christ in the face of the poor. But beyond that, it calls one to action to relieve that suffering. Not just think about it, but to act.
There have been times when I have been there – not a often as I would like, but often enough to have a small taste of it, and know that it is a call to holiness, a call to wholeness, a call to oneness with the world and the creator.
Now, it seems I am back to Thomas Merton and Active Contemplation. And somehow, I must move beyond just pondering this idea and actually practice.