Society of the Vav

Be a Vavnik, harnessing your transformational power of connection, creating change for the good of all

Compassion is not for the faint of heart

Compassion is not for the faint of heart

Compassion demands mindfulness, focus, awake, generosity, self  love

Compassion:  sympathy, empathy, concern, kindness, consideration, care,

Vs coldness

Karen Armstrong writes that compassion is not a popular virtue. Very often when I talk to religious people, and mention how important it is that compassion is the key, that it’s the sine-qua-non of religion, people look kind of balked, and stubborn sometimes, as much to say, what’s the point of having religion if you can’t disapprove of other people?

Jane Goodall, animal activist, has been quoted to say: We have so far to go to realize our human potential for compassion, altruism, and love.  And we can learn so much from our animal friends.


One of the names of the Hebrew G!D is HaRachamana, which translates as the Compassionate One.  The root of the word is RHKM and is the Hebrew word for womb.  I like to imagine that the Compassionate One held me in my mother’s womb as her left brain began to bleed in her 9th month of pregnancy. And that womb did not give me up until I was ready and The Compassionate One knows me intimately – my pain and my joy and continues to offer me unconditional Love eternally.

And in mystical Judaism there are supernatural hidden characters walking the earth whose job it is to notice, be compassionate and then mend and heal the tears in the fabric of the universe. These compassionate beings are called Lamed Vavniks.


Martin Buber, German Jewish philosopher writes of the I-Thou relationship where you relate to others as the Divine incarnate, in human form, you honor the connection between you two as if she or he were a reflection of the Divine.  He contrasts the I-Thou to the I-It relationship where you act from a place of separateness and judging.


In Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation Father Richard Rohr, Catholic and Christian mystic: equates compassion with our True Self.  He writes True Self, that others may call the Buddha within or G!D nature, is spacious and grounded where one naturally connects, empathizes, forgives and loves just about everything.


Norman Fischer, a Zen teacher, in Training in Compassion writes about the bodhicitta, the development of the impulse or desire for spiritual awakening, a heartfelt concern for others. This spiritual awakening path is not about the Self, since he writes that any self serving effort, even with a goal of wisdom or enlightenment for one’s self, would never lead to real awakening, and would lead to narrowness.  


Spiritual awakening, Fisher writes, is dropping the sense of one’s narrow separateness: it is essentially and profoundly altruistic.  The Bodhicitta’s reality is that life is essentially dream like and built on a foundation of love. No need to cling to anything only experience the Love. I imagine like floating in the womb of the Compassionate One.


In Zen Mahayana Buddhism there are two kinds of compassion: absolute and relative. And each is practiced with different intentions. Fischer writes that relative bodhicitta is difficult because loving actual people as they really are in this imperfect world as it really is always involves some pain.


The Buddha has been quoted to teach: You, yourself, as much as any body in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.   So what about us, how do we provide compassion for our Self , how do we include our Self in our emotions of compassion.


Kristin Neff of UT’s writes that Self-Compassion is really no different than having compassion for others. She suggests that we think about what the experience of compassion feels like. First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering. If you ignore that homeless person on the street, you can’t feel compassion for how difficult his or her experience is. Second, compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering so that your heart responds to their pain.

Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment? Or I would say to myself, how can I love you, Beloved One.


Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?  You may try to change in ways that allow you to be more healthy and happy, AND this is done because you care about yourself.


The Dalai Lama is quoted to say: Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive 

SO now we will practice Lojong, a compassion practice from Norman FIscher’s book Training in Compassion.