From Compassion and Meditation
What is the vow of a person who is animated by compassion? Is it wise to devote one’s life to the welfare of all beings? Is it even rational to make such a vow? Is it not a dream, or even a form of megalomania, to make such a vow? What are the motivations and justifications of this vow, both personal and impersonal?
We might concern ourselves with the welfare of others because we discover that our own welfare is thereby increased. This is not necessarily a bad thing. To open to others is a way of opening our heart, as well as our intelligence. It is perhaps the best means of “going beyond ego.” On the path of the bodhisattva there is a very personal motivation: our own liberation. To become free and happy through loving.
There are other, more impersonal justifications. Through the practice of compassion, unconditional love is possible because we have within us this capacity to give because our true nature is Love and Light. In the language of Christianity we say that we have the spirit of Christ, his Breath (Pneuma, the Holy Spirit), his energy. And it is from this reality “more truly us than we ourselves,” that we can work for the welfare of all living beings.
Yet to wish for the welfare of all beings from the ego-space of “I want!” is to risk a narrow limitation, which can well be catastrophic for others. To wish happiness for others according to our own ideas of happiness is to invite difficulties. The quality of being and loving, known as compassion, is never centered on this “me.” It is not “me” who loves, because it is precisely this “me” that is incapable of love. With all the lacks and disappointments it has accumulated over a lifetime, this “me” seeks only to perpetuate itself. It constantly demands to be loved, and it never gets enough. Only the Self is capable of true giving and unconditional love.
We must awaken to a quality of being, consciousness, and love, which is our essential nature, to allow it to first manifest within us, and then to allow this capacity of giving and this quality of awakening to grow, so that all our actions are permeated with it.