Nondual Zen Article:

True Compassion

nondual title

True Compassion
by Kathleen Sutherland

Fred mentioned in last week's satsang that suffering is the primary indication that we are not clear. This is so true! Identification with the character, or any character, leads to suffering. I will suffer if I believe I am this mind/body called Kathleen, and her thoughts tell her all is not well. I can also suffer vicariously when my husband is upset because he is "mine." I’m less concerned if you tell me that your partner is upset because I have more distance from both of you. But I'm still a little sorry because I'm human, and thus relate to and identify with all humans.

If the panda's wife is upset, I suffer even less. But I still feel a little sorry because as a mammal, I feel for my fellow and sister mammals. If the ant's husband is upset, I figure, he'll get over it quickly. But I still feel an inkling of sorrow because I relate to ants as sentient beings. The distress of the carrot being pulled from the ground hardly moves me at all, unless I think about it. Otherwise, I anticipate a tasty snack.

It's clear that the extent of my suffering is commensurate with the extent of my identification. So to reduce my personal suffering, I must work to disidentify with the unit Kathleen and with all those close to her. Ultimately, I must learn to disidentify with all that manifests in the material world: people, animals, plants, inanimate objects. None of this is me. They are all projections of me. They all feature prominently in the dream. But none of them is an actual, honest-to-goodness, solid me. Only I am me. And I am forever free, forever untouched by all that seems to occur within the dream.

Ironically, this month I have been practicing seeing myself in all things. All things are me - but only in the sense that they emanate from me. Thus I needn't be overly identified with any one unit, or category of units. I am not Kathleen; I am not even human.

Compassion is a virtue, but identification is not. Identification makes it all about me, the little me. I can still have great compassion, in fact, even greater compassion without identification. I am glad to have experienced a severe case of (mis)identification with the unit because it allows me to understand and have compassion for the suffering of others who are doing the same. But then having learned to be relatively free of false identification means I have also learned how to reduce the suffering of both myself and others: Step back from the unit. Abandon ship! The unit is going down. Don't be tied to it. Watch over it, keep it afloat and comfortable for as long as you can. Strive to keep your fellow units afloat and comfortable as long as possible. But remain steady in your knowledge that none of this is you. None of this is anyone.

All of us are safe. All of us hover above the show, safe and secure. All of us are one. All of us are the only One. Whenever suffering arises, check carefully to see who you mistakenly think you are. There is no suffering absent identification. There is only infinite compassion - compassion both to help others within the dream, and, if they are ready, to help them awaken from the dream.