The Power of Compassion
“Those, who maddened by the demon of delusion, commit, violent negative actions that destroy both themselves and others, should be the object of our compassion . . .”
The Fourteenth Dalai Lama Excerpt from “Prayers for Healing”
It’s hard to write about joy or other positive feelings after the recent attacks on Paris and Beirut. I didn’t know anyone in the attacks. I wasn’t nearby, I didn’t have serendipity in my story in which I was supposed to be one place and ended up in another and a tragedy ensued. I don’t have a logical reason to feel anything about these tragedies, yet I have felt deep sadness and sorrow about what happened. And, my heart aches.
A young woman recently said to me she couldn’t understand why so many people were upset by the attacks. I wanted to say – when we grieve for others, we also grieve for ourselves. I wanted to say “it’s called compassion. It’s called empathy. It’s called love, and having a genuine regard for other human beings. You have to access that part of yourself to feel it”. But I didn’t. I know when she is ready she will receive that insight and knowledge and discover she too is filled with compassion, empathy and heartfelt sorrow. For now, like so many of us she is struggling to understand in her own way.
As a mother, it worries me to think my children are being raised in a war torn world so full of hatred and injustices. It’s turned into a world where value systems seem to continually clash, where greed and power in many countries predominate over people’s basic needs. Where the spoils of war in many countries circumvent duty and responsibility for the greater good. And that’s all in addition to the other global issues we are now facing including the extinction of species, climate change and the depleting of resources. It can seem pretty dismal at times. I feel myself getting cynical. So now I have to tell my children about crazy men who bomb people for some inexplicable reason?
I usually try to have compassion for those that injure along with those that are injured. But right now I can’t seem to find it. I’m angry for what has been done regardless of their history, their stories or their reasons. It will take time but eventually I will feel compassion and forgiveness. They always follow, just a little later.
I do feel a deep sorrow for those in the attacks, who can no longer be with their loved ones. I do know what that feeling is like. The pain feels insurmountable, like it will never end. And nothing can console it. It’s difficult to find understanding in these moments, make sense of what has happened, or find some kind of resolution. So I give it to God. He who has a sense of purpose and meaning, the one who knows every hair on our head and every thought we think. I tell myself this is only one small piece of a much bigger picture, one we may never fully know or understand. Making sense of it simply isn’t our job. But maybe having compassion is. And maybe having a little faith. I seek, not to understand what has happened but understand what God wants me to understand. To acknowledge simply what I know in this moment.
When 9/11 happened, one my instructors was traveling overseas and woke up to find the entire village where she was staying praying for America. She said it was a powerful moment. They did not ask or explain, they simply came together and prayed. Candles lit, all were in silence. There is a lot of healing in the world. There is also a lot of love and compassion. And there are more of these moments coming, we just have to be open and embrace them.
PRAYER: “Remember, O Lord, you’re unfailing love and compassion, which you have shown from long ages past”. Psalms 25:6