Awen and Peace – East meets West

Further exploring the nature of peace, what leads me to understand the fundamental precept behind achieving peace is through compassion.  But what is compassion?

Dictionary definitions say that it is a state of sympathy with someone who is suffering, and yet that doesn’t adequately describe compassion in my mind, in either the Zen or the Druid tradition.  Two words in Sanskrit delve a little closer, such as karuna, a gentle affection and a willingness to bear others’ pain, or metta, often described now as loving kindness, acting for the benefit of all living things with a selfless attitude.

The Dalai Lama stated “Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness)” –  (The Essence of the Heart Sutra).

For me, compassion is all about relationship, about an integration with the world, with the universe. As the native American saying goes – “We are all related”.  (Not just humanity, but essentially go far enough back and see that we are all star stuff.)  In order for this integration to occur, we have to learn how to lose that sense of self, for is there is a separate self, there can be no true integration, only the state of sympathy.  There is someone observing someone else’s suffering, and helping to alleviate their suffering but still retaining a sense of Us and Them. In Buddhism, wisdom, or prajna, is most often found through the teachings of No Self, or attana.

In my studies in Zen Buddhism, we are taught to help wherever we can, as selflessly as is possible, which is true compassion. If you help someone and then expect a reward, there is still a separate self expecting reward from a separate person.  We have to learn to drop all expectations. The Tibetan practice of Lojong’s final slogan is brilliant in this regard – Do Not Expect Applause.  Only then, there is there an integration of everyone involved.

In Druidry, this integration is often termed as relationship – but again, words fail to describe the enormity of the meaning behind it all. Druidry also uses the word, awen, a Welsh word with several interpretations: poetic inspiration and flowing spirit to name a few.  For me, awen is the life “force” itself, in its myriad expressions, in constant change and flux.

To find true peace, one must release into this, into awen, losing that sense of separateness, and in doing so discovering the nature of compassion in soul to soul relationship.


5 thoughts on “Awen and Peace – East meets West

  1. Reblogueó esto en Nemeton Imbasy comentado:
    Explorar más a fondo la naturaleza de la paz, lo que me lleva a entender el precepto fundamental de lograr la paz es a través de la compasión. Pero, ¿qué es la compasión?

    Las definiciones del diccionario dice que es un estado de simpatía con alguien que está sufriendo, y sin embargo, que no describe adecuadamente la compasión en mi mente, ya sea en el Zen o la tradición druida. Dos palabras en sánscrito profundizar un poco más cerca, como Karuna, un cariño tierno y la voluntad de soportar el dolor de los demás, o metta, a menudo se describen ahora como la bondad amorosa, actuando en beneficio de todos los seres vivos con una actitud desinteresada.

    El Dalai Lama declaró que “la compasión genuina debe tener tanto la sabiduría y la misericordia. Es decir, hay que entender la naturaleza del sufrimiento del que deseamos para liberar a otros (esto es la sabiduría), y uno debe experimentar una profunda intimidad y la empatía con otros seres sensibles (esto es misericordia) “- (La Esencia del Sutra del Corazón).

    Para mí, la compasión es todo acerca de la relación, de una integración con el mundo, con el universo. Como dice el dicho americano nativo va – “Todos estamos relacionados”. (No sólo la humanidad, pero en esencia lo suficientemente lejos hacia atrás y vemos que todos somos materia de la estrella.) Para que esta integración se produzca, tenemos que aprender a perder ese sentido de uno mismo, por que hay es un ser separado, no puede haber verdadera integración, sólo el estado de simpatía. Hay alguien observando a alguien más está sufriendo, y ayudar a aliviar su sufrimiento, que aún conserva un sentido de nosotros y ellos. En el budismo, la sabiduría, o prajna, se encuentra con más frecuencia a través de las enseñanzas del No Ser, o attana.

    En mis estudios en el budismo Zen, se nos enseña a ayudar en lo que podamos, ya que desinteresadamente de lo posible, que es la verdadera compasión. Si usted ayuda a alguien y luego esperar una recompensa, todavía hay un auto esperando recompensa individual de una persona independiente. Tenemos que aprender a soltar todas las expectativas. La práctica tibetana de consigna definitiva de Lojong es brillante en este sentido – no esperes Aplausos. Sólo entonces, no hay una integración de todos los involucrados.

    En el druidismo, esta integración se denomina a menudo como la relación – pero de nuevo, las palabras no pueden describir la magnitud del significado detrás de todo. Druidismo también utiliza la palabra Awen, una palabra galesa con varias interpretaciones: la inspiración poética y el espíritu que fluye por nombrar algunos. Para mí, Awen es la vida “fuerza” en sí mismo, en sus múltiples expresiones, en constante cambio y cambio.

    Para encontrar la verdadera paz, hay que liberar a este, en Awen, perder esa sensación de separación, y al hacerlo, descubrir la naturaleza de la compasión en el alma a la relación alma.

  2. While I understand your position on compassion, I’m not sure I totally agree. I think that in order to practice true compassion we must also know when to retain enough “distance” or freedom from entanglement from the person in pain in order to ascertain what the best possible course of action on our part might be.

    One example that comes to mind is when the Dalai Lama was at a speaking engagement, and he came out of the building to find some hubbub going on between his entourage and a man who had come to see him. The man was dirty and in ragged clothing, and was clearly angry; the Dalai Lama was on a tight schedule and his driver was attempting to hustle him to the car through the people who had amassed there to get a glimpse of him. But when the Dalai Lama emerged from the building, he felt the tension in the air and immediately sized up the situation. He walked straight to the angry man and put out his hand and gave him a blessing, and immediately the man’s anger was alleviated. He had come a very long way just to see the Dalai Lama, and the men who were there to protect him, seeing the condition of the man, had tried to push him to the back of the crowd, causing the anger and tensions to rise in all concerned. Had the Dalai Lama not kept himself separate from these emotions, he would have been caught up in the tension and anger and not been able to see through to the right course of action.

    If we become too closely entangled with the person in need of compassion and lose ourselves, then we too are in danger of needing the same kind of assistance and uplifting by someone else that the first person needed. It is a fine line we walk.

    I have not studied Zen Buddhism, nor have I delved deeply into Tibetan Buddhism in this life, but I do believe I was a Buddhist in another life, as I resonate strongly with so very much of it. I think for many Druids, Buddhism is a close kin. I was wrestling to get a deeper understanding of compassion myself, when I was drawn to what I think is probably the best book on compassion I have ever read. It is “The Lost Art of Compassion: Discovering the Practice of Happiness in the Meeting of Buddhism and Psychology” by Lorne Ladner, Ph.D. Dr. Ladner is a Western psychologist and practicing Tibetan Buddhist. I would recommend this book to any Westerner who is struggling to understand the Buddhist concept of compassion — a much deeper connotation than Western society ascribes to the term.

    • Thanks – I will look up that book! And yes, you have to be able to let go of entanglements in order to act appropriately in all situations. Buddhism and Zen Buddhism would say that through meditation, you learn to let go of self, and in doing so be able to act with compassion with all things. In releasing the sense of the self, you can join with others – without attachments, such as emotion. It’s not easy! x

      • I now know that my confusion has always been with the term “the self” — as it is used differently in Eastern cultures and spirituality than it is in Western psychology — which is one reason why this book was so enormously helpful to me!

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