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The Compassionate Life by Marc Ian Barasch

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1

THE CIRCLE OF COMPASSION

If one completes the journey to one’s own heart,one will find oneself in the heart of everyone else.

—Father Thomas Keating

WHEN I WAS IN MY TWENTIES, MY BUDDHIST TEACHER tricked me into taking a vow of universal compassion. Using some spiritual sleight of hand, he made it appear that I could aspire to a tender concern for everybody, even putting their welfare before my own.

Fat chance, I thought. But in his wily way, he framed this vow—the bodhisattva’s promise to live for others—as a case of enlightened self-interest. It was not, he told me, a matter of wearing a one-size-fits-all hair shirt. I was taking the vow for my own good. It would give me some leverage to pry loose, finger by finger, the claustrophobic monkey-grip ...

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