Compassion and courage

by Gary Zukav, The Buddhist Channel, Jan 3, 2007

What does it mean to be compassionate when unrestrained anger and hatred have suddenly taken the lives of thousands of people violently, like the 9/11 event? What does it mean when we see defenseless monks bludgeoned and killed, as in Burma last year?

San Francisco, CA (USA) -- To be compassionate requires that you share your passion with others. The passion of others now is one of pain, of shock, of grieving, and of loss. Compassion allows you to feel those painful emotions and the fear that lies beneath them.

Rage and the need for revenge are the ways that many people will cover the experience of these painful emotions. It is easier to become enraged and to seek revenge, or swear that you will, than it is to experience the pain of loss, the depth of the loss, the grieving and the fear that is now occurring.

When there is unwillingness to experience the depth of these painful emotions, there is a compulsive quality to the anger and to the behaviors that prevent the experience of them. Rage and thoughts of revenge become magnetically attractive not because villains deserve to be punished, but because you are not willing to experience the intensity of the pain that is in you.

The compassionate action in such a circumstance is to experience what you are feeling--to experience the pain and the depth of it in you and then to begin to plan your action from there. Once emotional pain is experienced in that degree - with awareness - your desire will not be to inflict the same pain on others but to avoid that happening again to any individual on the Earth.

That is when and how your creativity will come into focus. If you do not experience your emotions and the depth of the pain that is now within you, you will find yourself irresistibly and righteously drawn to thoughts of revenge and striking back.

The most compassionate act that you can now choose is also the one that requires the most courage -- to feel what you are feeling, to feel beneath the rage and beneath the desire for revenge, if necessary, because there lies pain and it is deep.

When you have the courage to feel that pain at the intensity that it is now moving through millions of individuals, then you will begin to see what is necessary to begin to create a world in which this type of pain is not generated.

Therefore, the first step in the creation of compassion is to be compassionate with yourself. Allow yourself to feel all that you are feeling. If you are feeling hatred, do not hate yourself for hating. Compassionate allowance for your human response to tragedy allows you to regain your balance more quickly.

Feeling hate does not mean acting on it. It means taking the first step in allowing yourself to become conscious of everything that you are feeling so that you can expand your consciousness to the pain and fear that lies beneath the impulses to hate and to seek revenge.

Do you have the courage to do that? Are you strong enough to feel hatred and not act on it? Are you brave enough to face and feel the pain of loss, of grief, of the horror and the fear that is now pervasive upon our Earth?

Compassion is not for cowards.

This article was originally published on the Buddhist News Network, Sept 24, 2007