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Lions Roar : May 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2006 71 ourselves to find the steadfastness and understanding that enables us to remain open. Connecting with those who perpetrate harm is hard practice, yet compassion is somewhat shallow if it turns away those who—lost in ignorance, rage, and fear—harm others. The mountain of suffering in the world can never be lessened by adding yet more bitterness, resentment, rage, and blame to it. Thich Nhat Hanh, the beloved Vietnamese teacher, said, “Anger and hatred are the materials from which hell is made.” It is not that the compassionate heart will never feel anger. Faced with the terrible injustice, oppression, and violence in our world, our hearts tremble not only with compassion but also with anger. A person without anger may be a person who has not been deeply touched by harmful acts that scar the lives of too many people. Anger can be the beginning of abandonment or the beginning of commitment to helping others. We can be startled into wakefulness by exposure to suffering, and this wakefulness can become part of the fabric of our own rage, or part of the fabric of wise and compassionate action. If we align ourselves with hatred, we equally align ourselves with the perpetrators of harm. We can also align ourselves with a commitment to bringing to an end the causes of suffering. It is easy to forget the portrayal of Kuan Yin as an armed warrior, profoundly dedicated to protecting all beings, fearless and resolved to bring suffering to an end. Rarely are words and acts of healing and reconciliation born of an agitated heart. One of the great arts in the cultivation of compassion is to ask if we can embrace anger without blame. Blame agitates our hearts, keeps them contracted, and ultimately leads to despair. To surrender blame is to maintain the discriminating wisdom that knows clearly what suffering is and what causes it. To surrender blame is to surrender the separation that makes compassion impossible. Compassion is not a magical device that can instantly dispel all suffering. The path of compassion is altruistic but not idealistic. Walking this path we are not asked to lay down our life, find a solution for all of the struggles in this world, or immediately rescue all beings. We are asked to explore how we may transform our own hearts and minds in the moment. Can we understand the transparency of division and separation? Can we liberate our hearts from ill will, fear, and cruelty? Can we find the steadfastness, patience, generosity, and commitment not to abandon anyone or anything in this world? Can we learn how to listen deeply and discover the heart that trembles in the face of suffering? The path of compassion is cultivated one step and one moment at a time. Each of those steps lessens the mountain of sorrow in the world. ♦ Standing Bodhisattva, Chinese, later Zhou Dynasty, wall painting, tempera paint on clay. THENELSON-ATKINSMUSEUMOFART,KANSASCITY,MISSOURI.PURCHASE:NELSONTRUST,52-6.PHOTOGRAPHBYJAMISONMILLER.