Archive for November 2013

Dharma Talk on Compassion

Need a little dharma on this cold, windy day? Enjoy this audio of a talk on compassion given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Stillwater Meditation Hall, Upper Hamlet of Plum Village. It begins with two chants from the monastics followed by a talk on the theme of compassion.


From Steve:

Many years ago, when military battles were fought with bows, shields and spears, a renowned warrior was in a fierce conflict. His armor did not cover the right shoulder. As he raised his sword, there, above the armpit, a barbed arrow rushed to pierce his flesh. The pain was intense. He ground his teeth with clenched jaws. Then parted the veil over his eyes to find the battle line again. His left hand wrenched the sword out of the right hand. And he slowly raised the sword. It glistened in the sun.

From across the field of contest, a skilled archer aimed another arrow at the esteemed warrior. With alacrity and luck, the missile found its mark in the right shoulder, hitting the exact spot where the first arrow had entered.

The noble warrior cried out in pain. His sword dropped harmlessly to the ground. He doubled over, left hand gripping the right shoulder. He fell to his knees and flailed in convulsions. The fierce pain of the second arrow was ten times the agony of the first.

The combatants, as one body, momentarily ceased while the honored one, now limp with trauma, was dragged to the rear of the action.

This story is not from Homer or the Gita. It is found in the teachings carefully passed down in the mindfulness traditions. I did embellish it in Homeric style. It is a parable about how we multiply our suffering. Our reactivity and judgment magnify whatever unskillful thoughts, feelings and perceptions arise. This unskillful habit energy is the second arrow, which we shoot at ourselves, and, too often, at others.

A great adventure in our practice is cultivating kindness towards whatever arises. Rather than scolding ourselves for unskillful states of mind, we aspire to cultivate calm abiding. Reactivity and self judging is deeply rooted within and can be quite subtle. With awareness of the breath as our anchor, mindfulness and compassion work naturally to gently lead reaction towards repose.