"The place where God calls you is where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."These words—which I got from Hazy Moon, thank you, Delwyn—prompted some rumination on the second Brahmavihara, Karuna, compassion.
-Fredrich Buechner, Wishful Thinking
Buddhism identifies four Brahmaviharas. Brahmaviharas, sublime abidings, can be translated as "divine abodes." These are places where you can live—at least momentarily—as if you were among the gods.
Metta (Loving kindness)
Mudita (Sympathetic Joy)
Each day teaching kindergarten gives me many opportunities to experience the first three Brahmaviharas. (Equanimity is a bit more elusive in kindergarten, an environment ever so close to chaos.) They arrive in about equal measure, metta, karuna, and mudita. But I want to talk about karuna, compassion.
Joy arises when I have the opportunity to respond to the pain or suffering of one of my students. Perhaps their pet died. Or their parents separated. Maybe a painful blister appeared on their palms after a long session on the monkey bars. Pain and suffering arise unbidden in a seemingly constant flow.
Fortunately, our world is set up perfectly:
When we respond to alleviate another person's suffering, our own hearts gladden in proportion to our ability to soothe the pain in person who's suffering.
I can't explain why. It's just the way it is.
In a future post, I hope to write about Stan Goldberg who discovered immeasurable joy in what might seem to be the least likely places: as a hospice volunteer at the side of people actively dying. Stan inspired me to take up the Native American flute which has taken me a few steps further down the pollen path.