I read the following two paragraphs during a recent weekend retreat in Auckland and it seemed to touch people deeply. One of the participants asked that it be put on Green Dharma Treasury, hence this posting. The writing was originally part of an extensive e-mail reply to some questions about using anger in compassionate ways. It’s not uncommon today for people to aspire to explore dharma and to live awarely and compassionately and yet to experience frustration when people they care for don’t seem to value and cultivate these same interests. Our friends, or relatives, or co-workers, might appear to be asleep or hypnotised and we, the frustrated dharma practitioner, sometimes get irritated and (out of compassion!) want to break through the dullness in order to wake them up. There is even a category within Buddhism to describe this and it’s called wrathful or fierce compassion. I wanted to shine a different light on such situations and the following words arose.
Dear (you might like to fill in your own name here)
You are a tree. If your experience of roots is shallow and the wind is strong, you need to be very flexible and accommodating in order not to be blown down. You bend with every little puff, and that can be tiresome, and tiresomeness breeds irritability. You restrict the growth of your leaves and branches so that your small public face can be secure with your small hidden roots. If you feel your roots running vast and deep, even if the wind is threatening, you can be very strong and upright and you still will not be blown away. The deeper your roots, the broader can be your branches (and the more numerous your leaves and the heavier and richer your fruit). Trees with deep roots might not bend as much as trees with shallow roots but trees with deep roots provide support and stability for more shallow rooted plants that grow all around and hang epiphytically from bark and limbs.
Fierce compassion is not about using anger in compassionate ways. Fierce compassion is actually fearless compassion. (The word padma, in the mantra of Guru Rinpoché, represents “fearless compassion”.) Fearless compassion arises from deep rootedness; an experiential knowing of oneness and embeddedness in life. This is a richness of being and natural engagement that leaves nothing and no-one out – that is profoundly inclusive. With fearless compassion there is less fussing and concern for ‘self’ and more a tendency to stabilize and provide supportive inspiration for others. Using anger/ill-will or directing anger for compassionate reasons is the action of a shallow rooted tree. The tree with deep roots may stand uncompromising, implacable, upright and strong, and that may be felt by more shallow rooted ones as threatening, but the steadfastness of the deep, broad rooted one, ultimately stabilizes the earth and air and water content for all around and so in the end, such a being will be appreciated for their integrity.