Some days I just can’t stop the tears. And why should I? There are ample reasons to weep, especially lately, when the play of Samsara seems to have morphed into some twisted combination of Theater of the Absurd, a Hieronymous Bosch painting of hell, and Edvard Munch’s The Scream.
I do my best to meditate, to rest in the non-duality that I have been taught to aspire to by every spiritual teacher, in this lifetime and no doubt others. At moments, I remember to use the powerful Tibetan syllable “Phet!” to instantly dissolve the illusion of duality, the illusion of this dream (dare I say “nightmare”?) that we are currently collectively experiencing.
From time to time I embark on news fasts and social media fasts, especially when I am on a spiritual pilgrimage or a chosen retreat. I focus on both bliss and ultimate reality during those times, or what in some traditions is referred to as “5-D” and higher dimensions.
And then, with a sickening plummet, I’m back in 3-D, back in the Orwellian reality of the current Timeline, where we are passengers in an out of control bus careening towards a cliff leading into the chasm of permanent fascism.
We weep—our hearts beyond broken, shredded beyond all recognition as hearts—at the images of children torn from mothers and fathers, most legally seeking to claim asylum under both international and US law. We sob at the panicked screams of toddlers wanting their parents, the only world they know. Those of us who are empaths feel with the refugees, feel with the confused children and their judges, confronted by the unprecedented as near-infants are brought before them for Solomonic judgment.
We weep at images of the Sixth Extinction, at starving polar bears on melting ice floes, at bears and bobcats emaciated by drought ultimately caused by human actions. We weep at the brown lands of the Southwest’s exceptional drought, the browning fields of the British Isles, the plumes of smoke over the Scandinavian Arctic. We weep for the stunned Guatemalan villagers not warned of imminent volcanic eruption, for the Japanese people swept away by floods, for the African, Afghan, and Syrian migrants and refugees drowning on their quests for safety, and the poor inhabitants of Indian cities literally choking to death in fogs of pollution. And in nearly every nation, the women and girls subjected to at minimum disrespect and harassment, and all too often to rape and murder and sexual trafficking.
It’s overwhelming. It’s enough to exhaust the spirit, to shut down the heart.
But Compassion Fatigue is not an option.
The constant bombardment, which I feel energetically even when I am not accessing news sites or looking at social media, let alone TV, has caused me to reflect and remember. Compassion is, in my view, what is required from us, the price and privilege of being human. Never mind that it is extremely hard to feel compassion for certain actors on the world stage who seem to be utterly devoid of that capacity themselves.
I remembered the story of Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion also known as Avalokiteshvara, and how the goddess Tara is said to have been born from his tears. I remembered that I had written about his tears in the introduction to my memoirs about travels in Tibet and the Tibetan world in the early years of the 21st century, Messages from the Dharma Cybercafe.
Like an offering of flame or flowers held in my hands, I hereby offer those words to you, to all who are suffering, and to the essence of Divine Compassion:
Tears of Avalokiteshvara, from my soon-to-be-published memoir,
Messages from the Dharma Cybercafe (©2018)
“So much suffering!” moans the Bodhisattva of compassion. “Is this the hell realm? No, it’s humans, on Earth.” He observes for an endless moment of timeless time. “Unbelievable, even for Samsara, the circling realm of endless suffering caused by attachment,” he mutters in disgust.
He sighs as he watches. An infant killed by—a rock, a sword, then a gun, then blown apart by a bomb, then a laser exploding a life. Time compressed, weapons, hands, fiendish technologies to kill. A newborn squalls in the mountains of Tibet, born in freezing cold of winter, the mother outside, alone, gushing blood onto a pile of sheepdung, reaching out feebly to cut the cord with a broken, dirty stone.
Both will die. He does not feel indifferent, though he sees Karma and karmic patterns. The heart of the deity begins to gush with compassion, to overflow. The formlessness of love, of Bodhicitta—the Awakened Heart—grows a human form, a him-ness. He forms heart, head, limbs, eyes. He begins to reach out a hand to all those suffering humans, then is overwhelmed by the suffering of the other beings killed by humans, the factory-farmed cattle in feedlots and beakless chickens in cages, the polar bears floating sad-eyed on melting ice, unable to reach shore or food, the wild birds dropping out of polluted skies.
A hand catches a bird, lifts it into healing, or into another realm. He grows another hand, fields a leaping dolphin screaming in pain from sonar tests conducted by the U.S. Navy. More hands, reaching to the children of war, the orphans of AIDS in Africa, a child dying in her mother’s arms after a drive-by shooting in L.A.
Hands grow, endlessly, reaching out to help the suffering. Hands grow eyes in the center, seeing more than even a deity can bear.
And the eyes begin to weep, one by one. First the eyes in the head. Sometimes one head, sometimes eleven. Lots of eyes. Lots of eyes in lots of hands. Some say a thousand arms, a thousand hands, a thousand eyes. Avalokiteshvara just keeps growing. He grows beyond his Sanskrit name, into the Chenrezig known to Tibetans, stepping into a graceful feminine form as he strides east through China and Japan, becoming Kwan Yin, goddess of mercy.
And still the hands grow, the eyes weep. And out of thousands, no, millions of tears, another form of compassion is born, the goddess Tara, beloved Jetsun Dolma to the Tibetans. She springs forth endlessly out of rainbow tears, swiftly striving to alleviate suffering, tirelessly helping and protecting from fears, taking on kaleidoscopic colors and forms of peace and wrath, all the while trying to awaken beings out of duality.
Endless, endless. Chenrezig weeps, Taras, Dolmas, are born and born. Slowly, humans and other beings awaken into light, slowly, slowly, over galactic aeons. And always and everywhere, Tara is present, she who has vowed to incarnate again and again in female form until every single being is awakened, none left behind.
Chenrezig emanates into many forms in 3-D time. Endless, infinite forms, just like Tara. Male and female, temporary duality just for convenience on Earth. Chenrezig and Tara emanate into humans, cats, rocks, crystals, plants, flies…just about anything, even things humans don’t think are conscious or sentient. Humans mostly notice them in human form, as spiritual teachers, kings, queens, ascetics, mystics, monks, nuns. Less often they notice them as merchants, truck drivers, sports stars—even politicians!
The most famous emanation becomes known for awhile as the Dalai Lama, the broad ocean of wisdom. At first, the successive incarnations of Dalai Lamas are only known in Mongolia, China, and Tibet, where they are born. Then the problems become bigger, the whole world is drawn in. In the middle of the 20th century the Chinese Communist Red Army invades Tibet. The 14th Dalai Lama, a humble man, a youth really, escapes the bombarded city, leaving behind the ancient palace he built a number of incarnations ago, and comes to India, land of Sakyamuni, the “historical” Buddha, one of many awakened ones to grace this particular planet in hundreds of thousands of years.
Eventually he is led to that magical place known as “the West.” The media says Buddhism is spreading all over the world, the great Tibetan secrets revealed at last. The Buddhists say “good, the Dharma is flourishing.” The man, the simple monk, says “my religion is kindness.”
We’re not sure what Chenrezig/Tara is saying. Perhaps, just, awaken. Awaken out of this dream of suffering, into the clear light of Reality, of kindness, of self-less-ness.
And so I hold that vision in my quantum heart, weeping, wishing that Taras would be born from my own tears to help alleviate the suffering of all beings in the myriad realms.