Imagine spending your life in a little room with only one locked window so dirty it barely admits any light. You'd probably think the world was a pretty dim and dreary place, full of strangely shaped creatures that cast terrifying shadows against the dirty glass as they passed your room. But suppose one day you spill some water on the window, or a bit of rain dribbles in after a storm, and you use a rag or a corner of your shirtsleeve to dry it off. And as you do that, a little of the dirt that had accumulated on the glass comes away. Suddenly a small patch of light comes through the glass. Curious, you might rub a little harder, and as more dirt comes away, more light streams in. Maybe, you think, the world isn't so dark and dreary after all. Maybe it's the window.

You go to the sink and get more water (and maybe a few more rags), and rub and rub until the whole surface of the window is free of dirt and grime. The light simply pours in, and you recognize, perhaps for the first time, that all those strangely shaped shadows that used to scare you every time they passed are people - just like you! And from the depths of your awareness arises an instinctive urge to form a social bond - to go out there on the street and just be with them. In truth, you haven't changed anything at all. The world, the light, the people were always there. You just couldn't see them because your vision was obscured. But now you see it all, what a difference it makes! This is what, in the Buddhist tradition, we call the dawning of compassion, the awakening of an inborn capacity to identify with and understand the experience of others.