And he thinks, “Before, she was very active. She’d cook us delicious meals, water the garden, and do all sorts of things. But nowadays she’s doing less and less.”
She thinks, “What’s the use of watering the garden? You have to do it again tomorrow; it’s never enough. What’s the point? I’ll just sit and practice.”
Now the husband’s beginning to get unhappy. They start to growl and argue back and forth. In a while, perhaps, they will separate.
What’s wrong with this woman? She understands emptiness but not compassion. If there were more compassion in her, then she would realize that although certain things may be pointless, it’s not necessary to avoid doing them just because they don’t mean anything for oneself. They may be important to others, so why not just do them? Actually, if the woman truly understood openness and compassion she would be happy to do something meaningless if it made others happy. She would be even more eager to do it than before, when it was merely her own enjoyment she was pursuing! This is the Mahayana style.
Vajrayana is even better, because you can do anything, enjoy anything, without attachment or clinging. The indivisibility of emptiness and compassion means they should be a unity. It’s not enough to just understand emptiness and the general pointlessness of things, because then we may become selfish and apathetic. If we understand emptiness in a one-sided way, thinking “Things are pointless and nothing really matters to me,” then we don’t really care about what matters for others, either. We might end up saying, “I’ll just sit here and meditate because then I’m happy. I don’t care about anything else.”
Compassion without the understanding of emptiness easily becomes selfish attachment, while understanding emptiness without compassion can also become selfish, one-sided, and limited. In order to avoid those dangers, it’s very important to understand the unity of emptiness and compassion. Your naked, present ordinary mind is the door to this unity of compassionate emptiness.
Right now this door is closed by our preoccupation with an almost uninterrupted string of thoughts. But if we allow just one gap between one thought and the next, we may glimpse the naked ordinary mind, self-existing awareness. Then the door is opened right there, to reveal compassion and emptiness united. It is a timeless moment.
The great wisdom qualities of the Buddha-mind - that wisdom that sees the innate nature as it is and the wisdom that perceives all possible things - are blocked again and again, almost continuously, by the concepts that we form. These concepts are actually temporally based; they are, in essence, time. The moment we start to allow gaps in this flow of concepts, the innate qualities of the awakened state begin to shine through.
After fixation on the concept of self dissolves, the expression of that realization manifests as compassion. The true compassion is undirected, and holds no conceptual focus. That kind of genuine, true compassion is only possible after realizing emptiness.
Of course, we feel compassionate right now as well. However, that kind of compassion is not true and genuine compassion, because it’s always mixed with a conceptual frame of mind. Often mixed with our compassion we feel some distance between ourselves and others. “I am here, and sentient beings are over there. I am higher than they are. They are pitiful. They need help, so I should help them.” That is not true compassion either.