Living With Compassion


Abbey of Gethsemani

As we saw recently in Worthiness, Thomas Merton was an American Trappist monk who was a friend of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, known as Thay by his followers. They met together only one time at Father Merton’s monastery in Gethsemani, Kentuckey in 1966. They were both quite outspoken against the war in Vietnam. They prayed for peace and compassion for the innocent people in Vietnam.

Thomas Merton once said about Thay, “Just the way he opens the door and enters a room demonstrates his understanding. He is a true monk. Nhat Hanh Is My Brother.”

Both of them spoke and wrote about living with compassion and the nature of interdependence, or, as Thay puts it, interbeing. These words of wisdom from Thomas Merton say it very well.

The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.
~Thomas Merton

The insight of interbeing extends even beyond living beings to include the trees and other plants, animals, the oceans, the earth, the moon, the sun, and the rest of the cosmos. Our interbeing with trees derives from their ability to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and generate oxygen for us to breathe. Without the animals, our species may never have evolved. Without the oceans, life may never have existed on planet Earth. Without the moon, there would be no tides and nothing to stir up the oceans so life could evolve.

Without the sun there would be no solar system and no life as we know it. The whole solar system came about because a supernovae exploded in our region of the Milky Way and left enough stardust behind for the sun, planets, moons, asteroids, and other cosmic characters to coalesce. We are 100% made of stardust! Every element, every atom on Earth and in the atmosphere came from that explosion and the formation of the solar system. We are breathing the same air as Buddha, Moses, Jesus, and each other. There is no getting around our dependence on everything around us.

Without the cosmos…

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