By Rev. Ellen Dionna, MSW, LCSW
Compassion is perhaps the greatest virtue. When one lives from compassion, on lives with passion—with absolute overarching love for all humanity and for the cosmos of which we are an integral part. We live, as quantum physicists are proving, in a holographic universe. That is, we as individuals are both the entire whole and the fragment. We are each of “the other”—that there is “other” is illusion. We are One, paradoxically, in all our diversity.
Compassion. “The eye by which I see God is the same eye by which God looks at me,” says Meister Eckhart, twelfth century mystic. The eye by which I see an orphaned Sudanese child, or an elephant slain by ivory greed, or a magnificent redwood cut for a hot tub, are the same eyes by which the child, the elephant, the tree view me. Am I virtuous in their eyes?
Likewise, when the society in which I live executes prisoners, poisons rivers, sells weapons of mass destruction, I am killed, poisoned, prostituted.
Kuan Yin, the great Buddhist whose name means, “She Who Hears the Cries of the World”, and whom some call a Goddess of Mercy, became a bodhisattva—that is, she achieved the enlightened state of Nirvana, but when offered sanctuary in that peaceful realm, turned away and returned to Earth where she will dwell, offering compassion, loving reverence, to all humanity until the last soul reaches Nirvana. Kuan Yin hears the cries, brings compassionate witness, offers mercy—but she does not take on the suffering of others. She is an example of the purity of being with another in his pain, and honoring that person and the suffering by not assuming the burden herself. To take on the pain that belongs to others is the ultimate hubris and dishonors the other person’s journey.
Compassion is “love your neighbor” lived. To live in balance one must practice compassion.
Essay excerpt from SPIRITUAL SAMPLER by Ellen Dionna