It is finally a beautiful, sunny day today, and I don’t want you spending too much time in front of the computer, so I’ll be brief this time. Yes, you’re right, I also don’t want to extend my screen time any more than I need to today!
I have been waiting to introduce this topic because I am a little worried about riling things up too much. I want to start with a teaching I heard, 2nd hand, told by Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche. A student asked about compassion and how it played when we witness violence, do we just sit and pray for compassion while someone is being harmed? Of course, Rinpoche had a ready response. I will paraphrase the teaching as I remember it:
Suppose you’re meditating in the forest and you hear a man harming a child, maybe intending to rape the child. No, you don’t just sit there, you jump! But you jump to save them both. Both are involved in a karmic situation: the perpetrator and the victim. The (potential) victim is experiencing the ripened fruit stage of karma and the perpetrator is experiencing the seed stage. You jump to save them both. Maybe even more for the perpetrator because the pain that will follow is much worse.
I stumble a little on this teaching because it sounds like it paints the victim as having played some part in being harmed. This part of the philosophy of karma is tricky for me. I’m not sure if it rings true for me. However, I really like the radical idea of jumping to save the one who is about to harm another, with compassion. This is radical for our culture, where infinite stories are based on revenge, avenging a harm from long ago, and rejoicing when that other person is cruelly punished. It is a tall order and calls us to really dig deep. Could I forgive, could I feel compassion for the police officers who dish out such cruel and lethal treatment to our beloveds?
I have one more story today. It was told by Tara Brach, well-known meditation teacher. Again, I will do my best to relate the tale:
A young, teen-aged boy was killed in the crossfire of a gang conflict. His killer was caught and put on trial. The dead boy’s mother came to the trial, every day, and stared at the killer continuously. When we was sentenced, she stood and said to him, “I’m going to kill you.”. While he was in prison, she began to visit him. She brought him small gifts. When she learned that he was all alone, totally abandoned by all friends and family, she contributed to his commissary, so he could have everyday items like soap and books. She continued to care for him in this way. When it came time for him to be released, she asked where he would go. He had no plans because, again, no one was caring for him. She offered him a room in her house and a job through a friend. He came to live with her and eventually got his footing to start life anew. He asked if she wanted him to go. She told him, “Remember that day when I said I would kill you? Well, I have killed that boy, the one who could carelessly take another boy’s life. Now you are a new person. If you would let me, I’d like to adopt you and continue to care for you.”
I get teary every time I read or tell that tale. It seems like a fairy tale or lore of a saint, but it’s a real story and it has happened more than once. I don’t expect this kind of angelic behavior from myself or anyone else, but I feel moved to know that even one person was capable of this kind of radical love, radical forgiveness and radical acceptance. We can all do our best each day. It’s easy to feel compassion for those who are harmed, their families, the pain our global family feels. If things are going to change we will need to see every single person as human, deserving of compassion. This is radical! Be ready for pushback, from your own ego and others.