Blog Post 16: Paths Beyond Ego
This is an important key to understanding compassion as a way of life. Although our ego is involved in daily living, the Source of compassion is infinite and beyond ego. We cannot bypass the Source and expect to live compassionately, it is beyond the ability of our finite ego to accomplish. And even if the ego could accomplish this it would just make it more egocentric, which is not a characteristic of compassion.
In Boundless Compassion and in the retreats of the same title, Joyce Rupp fills a void that some other teachers of compassion overlook or don’t acknowledge. To realize that we are one with and created in the image of Infinite Love and Compassion, that is, it is our essential nature (aka, True Self) is the foundation and reality of living compassionately. To quote Thomas Merton, “…for it beats in our very blood whether we want it to or not.” Joyce speaks from this foundation, The Source of Infinite Compassion.
At the same time she focuses on daily living a compassionate life. Is this not who we are called to be? To follow and live as Christ in the world; in the practical, daily life. In the tradition of Merton, Joyce provides wisdom from theistic and non-theistic resources as a basis for a compassionate life. After all, Tibetan Buddhism has studied ways to practically implement compassion in daily life for over a thousand years.
In the Introduction to Week 1 of Boundless Compassion, Joyce writes “Compassion is a way of life-an inner posture of how to be with suffering, both our own and others, and a desire to move that attitude into action. Compassion involves an ‘inside-out’ movement. A radical change unfolds in us when compassion becomes a way of life, a transformation as far-reaching as an acorn growing into a tree,…or a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly.” In this way we see that “compassion the primary agent of transformation” as Jim Finley states.
In Blog 2, “What is Compassion and What is Suffering?” I described compassion as tenderness, courage, and wisdom (TCW). Joyce provides the basis for TCW and also identifies the “movement of compassion–awareness, attitude, and action—and the four essential aspects of nonjudgment, nonviolence, forgiveness ,and mindfulness” in multiple aspects of daily life. These aspects create the necessary training to habituate the transformation to a compassionate life of tenderness, courage, and wisdom.
Boundless Compassion is eminently practical since there are daily practices and prayers around each weekly theme of compassionate living. “Compassion is a photosynthesis of the heart…We cannot hurry this transformation, but we can give ourselves to it as fully as possible, knowing that it entails a continual recommitment.” My future blog posts will highlight these themes and encourage us all to live a compassionate way of life in the midst of today’s world.
 Rupp, J. (2018) Boundless Compassion: Creating a Way of Life. Notre Dame, IN.: Sorin Books.  Merton, T. (1961) New Seeds of Contemplation. New York: New Directions Publishing, p. 297.  Rupp, p.12.  Finley, James said on many retreats and found in Christian Mediation (2004) San Francisco, CA and New York: HarperSanFrancisco.  Rupp, p. 12.  Rupp, p. 14.