What is Great Compassion?

This is by way of a farewell offering from Rev Jishin to the Reading and South-east Sangha.  The Buddhist scriptures referred to can be found at www.throssel.org.uk under Dharma Teachings; downloads.

I think we all have experience of compassion arising with a truer, profound view of something.  How that functions, I do not know, although there are threads to follow at times in the mind.  More often, there is a degree of cluelessness.

I do know that I must keep a gentle and bright tone and be dead honest with myself, if I am even to begin in Serene Reflection meditation and practice, each day.  This is Avalokiteshwara to me.

Zen meditation, “Serene Reflection”, holds a direction.  The direction is towards the wisdom of the Heart.  This is just one way of describing, but the important point is that of a direction: one must sit still with intention, engagement, and be ready to see and let go superficial and subtle ideas and notions. These are not “wrong”, they simply get in the way of something more real.   One must not believe subtle doubt; nor undermine oneself by thinking that there is no goal.  One cannot jump to the goal of goallessness (Dogen’s Rules for Meditation); nor incidentally jump by thinking there is no direction.  The direction is-as it were-below thinking.

Great Compassion is joined to this direction (or movement, if you prefer.)

Great compassion (or the whole of Avalokiteshwara Bodhisattva) lies within all, within everyone.  It is real.  We can say that fundamentally we are Avalokiteshwara.  It is as part of life, whether we recognise it at the moment, or not. The nature of Great Compassion is described in Buddhist scriptures:

A)  When recited or read, the Scripture of Avalokiteshwara Bodhisattva shows us the actualisation of great compassion.  It draws great compassion from the well within us; not just a feeling, but the prompt towards the activity of the Three Pure Precepts: cease from all harm; do good; purify the heart.  This is truely wonderful and real.    The Litany of the Great Compassionate One is a devotional and also an invocational scripture.

The One Who hears the cries of the world.

B)  The Scripture of Great Wisdom (Heart Sutra) points towards another feature of Great compassion, which begins, “When one with deepest wisdom of the heart that is beyond discriminative thought, the Holy Lord, Great Kanzeon bosatsu, knew that………….”   Here, Kanzeon is

                              The One Who sees (knows) without obstruction. I.e. without division, distortion or projection; beyond desire and fear. Beyond filters.

So, here we have great compassion joined to great wisdom!  “Kanzeon is the mother and father of all the Buddhas” ( Dogen,Shobogenzo, Chapter 33: Kannon).

The still ground of gentleness and compassion we come to through training enables us to turn and face all that arises. There is a shift to entrusting ourselves to this way of training and we come to seeing/knowing more clearly.  This is vast and marvelous; beyond imagining.

I hope these words are a helpful reminder to you to not carry a superficial idea of compassion or, worst still, view it is a box to be ticked.  We should practice not slipping back into usual or sloppy thinking.  Have Avalokiteshwara right there with you in all circumstance.  Then you can begin to realise its nature, and rely on it. We are more than we think.

May all beings realise the Truth. In gassho, Jishin.

The mix of alternating great compassion and the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshwara or Kanzeon is deliberate.