top of page

From Behind the Fence

Hello, may this letter find you happy and at peace…  I want to start this letter off by sharing an insight I had the other day or so… In one of my last letters I had asked the question: When does compassion not carry with it a sense of helplessness? (Not those exact words but…)  Well, I finished reading a small book entitled Zen Letters-Teachings of Yuanwu (1063-1135) his most famous work is The Blue Cliff Record.

And in there he used a term “objectless compassion” as pertaining to a quality people possesses when their true nature is directly experienced.  This hit me and then I understood the true meaning behind equanimity.  It is a peace and calm that arises spontaneously when needed and is not based on circumstances/situations present.  So, compassion lies latent and will arise to perfume the wise actions that come forth from our true nature. There is no likes/dislikes involved; no yardstick to measure with, no “degree” of compassion—just compassion itself!

As soon as we try to look at it or direct it or hold it—it’s gone.  Any time any virtue arises and we still hold a subject/object mentality there will be a sense of helplessness, hopelessness and frustration.  So, I know how to deal with the sangha member we discussed or with anybody else for that matter.  It’s simply allowing someone to be the expression he is and for me to be empty enough so that compassion can arise freely, if needed.

This doesn’t mean that I just sit back and do nothing.  There is a constant checking of my deeds of speech, thought and action to make sure the intentions are pure and come from a spirit of unity, not separatism. This is moment by moment mindfulness!!


This essay came to us from Michael W. who is soon to receive jukai.  His dedication to practice, study, reflection, and creative expression is inspiring.   

From time to time we will share with you more prose, poems, notes, and thoughts from our prison Sangha members.  If their writings touch you in some way please let us know and we can help you become a pen pal or help you get involved in some way that would be beneficial for both you and them.


bottom of page