Update on Emerson college recordings / “Courageous Compassion”

IWP_20160713_21_02_00_Pro said it would only take a week or so of free time to get the recordings ready… and this is true, but sometimes there’s more to it than that….

Emerson recordings update  22nd Aug…nearly complete. There have been lots of difficulties in getting hold of the final part of the good recording which Gaynor made…i’ve tried improving mine but the result’s not great… so thankfully a friend who is a sound engineer is going to have a bash today…so…. ready shortly!

The first week back different people i had not seen for years got in touch or visited. Last week I was  away at the Buddhafield festival, which had the theme “Courageous Compassion” and gave a talk in a little tent on the need for wisdom – the wisdom of emptiness or openness – as the basis for the arising of sustainable compassion.

If you are interested here’s the gist of what the talk was based around.

Dualistic, false–relative, compassion… where I am going to act compassionately towards you –  where I, you, and the action are all three seen as entitative –   is a big step up from ‘I just care about me and mine’ but it maintains the sense of separation, of solidity, even superiority …  and, because of its effortful nature, transient effect, and the desire (and often frustrated desire!) involved it can be exhausting.  Jumping in to help a drowning man is great if you can swim and are strong enough to get him safely out without getting yourself into the same predicament…knowing the variable nature of your capacity and working within that is essential at this point.

So different dharma teachings  gesture to the way through this via another approach to suffering.

If we take the bodhisattva vow, as in Mahayana Buddhism, then the intention is to ‘develop’ the mind of the buddha.  Understanding that the compassion that goes with this intention involves a wish to attain enlightenment in order to benefit all ‘others’… to bring them happiness and freedom from suffering in the short term and enlightenment in the longer term…whilst accepting that this longer term may indeed be very, very long!

It seems likely that  in the sustained and concentrated effort of altruistically attempting to attain the perfections of generosity, morality, vigour, patience, concentration and wisdom of a bodhisattva, somehow the custard–like skin of self-referential thoughts holding us in a particular shape thins to the point where there is an understanding of non-duality in the relative sense and perhaps the realisation of prajna as revealed in the Heart Sutra shines through. At this point compassion is fearless rather than courageous.

The view of Tantra  is that of (an initially intentional) transformation of all that is manifesting by viewing it through the lens of the pure relative. Compassion then, as the liberation of all sentient beings, is that of not taking them prisoner, and relating to them as entities in the first place!

The encouragement is to practice until we have integrated the view.  I think it was Gampopa who said to his students who wanted to bring their retreat to a premature conclusion in order to go and  be helpful… ” Do you think there will be nobody left in need of your help down in the valley if you wait until completion of your practice?”

After the initial introduction, the practice of dzogchen is that of absolute compassion arising spontaneously… not being impulsively or thoughtfully contrived but arising naturally from the ground nature, freshly in each moment. So rather than using different strengths of detergent to eventually clean the window, or looking through a different window, its a matter of … throwing the window wide open!

If we overheat or get stuck in the practice of relative compassion we may not get to ask…What  is the nature of this self, this other, these thoughts, this mind?… it is the answer to this that the buddha was seeking… and found and, in deep dharma, taught.


Of the different levels of compassion arising from the different views – false relative, pure relative and absolute… these are explained by Patrul Rinpoche in Chapter 7 in the book Simply Being by James Low.

Chapter 3 on the development of bodhicitta is also recommended.