Great Compassion

Thich Nhat Hanh shows that looking at the enemy with eyes of love is possible for all of us. Thich Nhat Hanh

In the eyes of Great Compassion, there is no separation between subject and object, no separate self. If a cruel and violent person disembowels you, you can smile and look at him with love. It is his upbringing, his situation, and his ignorance that cause him to act so mindlessly. Look at him—the one who is bent on your destruction and heaps injustice upon you—with the eyes of love and compassion. Let compassion pour from your eyes, and don't let a ripple of blame or anger rise up in your heart. He commits senseless crimes against you and makes you suffer because he cannot see the way to peace, joy, or understanding.

If someday you receive news that I have died because of someone's cruel actions, know that I died with my heart at peace. Know that in my last moments I did not succumb to anger. We must never hate another being. If you can give rise to this awareness, you will be able to smile. Remembering me, you will continue on your path. You will have a refuge that no one can take from you. No one will be able to disturb your faith, because that faith does not rely on anything in the phenomenal world. Faith and love are one and can only emerge when you penetrate deeply the empty nature of the phenomenal world, when you can see that you are in everything and everything is In you.

Long ago I read a story about a monk who felt no anger toward the cruel king who had chopped off the monk's ear and pierced his skin with a knife. When I read that, I thought the monk must be some kind of god. That was because I did not yet know the nature of Great Compassion. The monk had no anger to hold back. All he had was a heart of love. There is nothing to prevent us from being like that monk. Love teaches that we can all live like the Buddha. ▼

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, poet. and peacemaker. From Fragrant Palm Leaves: Journals 1962- 1966, © 1966 by Thich Nhat Hanh. Reprinted with permission of Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc.

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