When at first we begin to develop compassion for all beings, it often takes the form of a vague wish for global happiness. In our immature compassion, we imagine that God wants all beings to have had, at the end of the day, a good time. We wish that beings be free of pain, that they enjoy themselves and live the lives they desire, that everyone lives in harmony.
Becoming a little wiser, we begin to separate out the ultimate good from mere enjoyment. We see that, though we want to please a dog, we must refuse to share with him the chocolate treat he is begging for. We see that, though we want to make our child happy, giving him or her every toy in the store is harmful in the longer run. Although we still have immature compassion, we know that which is pleasant is not always that which results in happiness. Just as God often refuses prayers and guides us into situations we want to avoid, our deepening wisdom leads us away from enjoyment into an elevated form of kindness.
But there is a limit to human wisdom. There are many forests. In each forest, there are many trees. On each tree, there are many leaves. Our immature compassion, even when taking the longer view, still obsesses with just a leaf. Another expansion of mind, and we obsess on a single tree. Another, a single forest. But where is the man who can hold in his heart all the forests of the world?
There are too many variables. Your body is a meeting place where the rays of light and water and soil have met, and from another angle your form is the holographic combination of your ancestors, and from yet another your mind is the junction point of universal consciousness and time. All this and more, for every leaf! We still have immature compassion so long as we imagine that we can decipher the ultimate good for any being, even ourselves, as we manifest in this place.
In mature compassion, we separate pain from suffering. We endeavor to aid all beings to set aside the suffering they impose upon themselves while holding in our hearts the wisdom of ignorance: we do not know which pains come about from the Painter perfecting His Work, we do not wish to seek to separate the loved from the Beloved. We do the best we know to do for these lovely creations, which often means only offering our silent space and presence to those burning in the fires of creation, but we do not wish the end of pain. Only the end of self-inflicted suffering and blindness. To wish for the end of pain is to wish that the Painter did not love His Art, that all His Works be mere hasty and sloppy sketches. That the paintings are never finished shows that the Painter loves His Art.
Ah, look at these forests! New leaves budding everywhere, old leaves falling into the river just below. There is no meaning to the forest without the leaves, and no meanings to a leaf without the forest. Let us not wish that leaves stop falling, which would kill the forests. Instead, let us work together to abolish the fear of the river… for we are the forests and the leaves, but we are the river too.