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.