June 18, 2010
I was about 25 years old of so when the emotion of love arose in my heart. I remember that during my college days, while meditating, my heart filled with love. Not a love for anything or anyone specific, although that would come later. It was a general, non-specific love emanating from my heart.
Prior to that experience, I didn’t know what love was. I didn’t feel it. I only felt feelings in my gut: as attachment, as anger, as fear, as excitement. But love was different. Love only cared for the other, that thing, person or concept outside of self.
Compassion came later, much later, in life. I was driving in the desert after having visited with my aging mother (my father had died a couple of years before). She had been in the hospital. When I saw her, her hair was disheveled, her complexion sallow; she was frail, enfeebled – not the mother who I grew up with.
While driving in the desert after seeing my mother, a great compassion awakened in me. As I looked out over the empty expanse, driving toward the Grand Canyon, I felt a tremendous compassion for all of the suffering of all the people in the world. Tears rolled down my eyes. It was an awakening.
When I look around me, I see people so willing to blame others. To accuse others. Everyone is responsible for suffering, it seems, but us. But is this true?
My sense about most people is that everyone, regardless of their station in life, is doing what they believe is going to make them happy. Even if their attempts fail, they still try, they still retain hope that what they will do will somehow allow them to maintain permanent happiness. But we know that cannot be. Happiness comes and goes. It is transient.
We too, are transient. We will not live forever. We are here, temporarily, like flowers in a garden. We act, however, like we are somehow a fixed thing that is permanent: a person of fixed ideas, of likes, dislikes – a personality. We become so vested in this self-created idea of ourselves that we sometimes cannot change, and believe we are always right, and that others are stupid, ignorant and insensitive to us, who are the righteous.
This is a myth. It is a myth of us as ‘good’ and the other as ‘bad’. There is in fact no good or bad people, just people trying to be happy. Any person, no matter who they are, even an Osama Bin Laden, is doing what they believe is right, what will make them and perhaps their people, happy, satisfied, and complete.
This is the reality of the situation. As long as we continue to fight each other, to be vested in a definition of ourselves that defines us as ‘good’ and the other as ‘bad’, we will never be truly happy. We can only be happy when we empathize with the other. Even with our enemy. If we empathize with our enemy, our enemy is no longer seen as an enemy. We feel compassion for them, as they are trapped in hatred, trapped in a definition of self that is transient and does not last, just as we could be – an illusion of duality, of separation, of us and them.
There is no us and them. There is only what is.
When someone hates you, you may feel like you are justified in returning that hatred. And perhaps you are. But eventually hate and anger has to stop somewhere; if not, it continues in endless cycles of hate. So how do we stop this endless hatred? The only person you can control regarding whether or not that hatred or anger will be expressed is yourself. Therefore, if hatred is to stop, it must first stop within you. That is the only answer there is, or can ever be.