One day on retreat in the south of France, the Buddhist master Sogyal Rinpoche suddenly had to leave to go to an emergency meeting in Paris. It was an abrupt departure, and we did not see him for several days.
The retreat continued on without him, but many of us were severely disappointed. Some of us had come such a long way, and every moment in the teacher’s presence seemed so precious. Finally he returned and he shared with us scenes from his trip, vividly painting a picture of the glowing fields and quaint country homes of the region between Montpelier in the south and Paris in the north. With his laughter and enthusiasm, Rinpoche had a way of speaking in such detail that it was not difficult to feel you were in the car with him. And then he said quite humbly, “As I was driving through this region, staring out the window, there was a moment . . . a moment . . . I was so moved by the beauty and spaciousness of the landscape, that I found myself saying, 'May all beings enjoy such beauty. May all beings have the opportunity to enjoy such views in their lives.'"
By simply giving us a glimpse of his heart, Sogyal Rinpoche was trying to teach us that boundless generosity in which no experience, even the greatest bliss of enlightenment, is held for oneself. In that moment it was easy to see how genuine the feeling was for him, how natural such a human response could be, if we allowed it.
In a way that I only see now, it was not too different from how my own mother is, always wanting to share whatever good bit of food or trinket or gift she has with me. From that moment on, I’ve tried to remember to share with others whatever experiences of beauty and pleasure I had—even if only through silent aspiration. But it hasn’t always been easy. How many times do we become so involved in eating an ice cream cone, laughing at a great joke, hearing beautiful music that we wipe out the awareness that there is anything else in the world but our own personal pleasure.
But slowly, as I tried to train myself to remember and “share,” I noticed something in me start to open and soften, to expand. Slowly the exercise began to take on a life of its own and became joy. And it certainly made any experience of happiness that much more profound by wishing it for all.
—Pamela Bloom, from THE POWER OF COMPASSION: Stories that Open the Heart, Heal the Soul, and Change the World (Hampton Roads, 2010).
Pamela Bloom offers an self-directed online course in "Cultivating Radical Compassion" at Fitango.com. Sign up for free registration.