The Buddha supposedly said, “What is that one thing, which when you possess, you have all other virtues? It is compassion.”
The Book of Joy (pp.251-252)
After the Dalai Lama recounts watching an exhausted mother stay up all night to tend her toddler and baby during a flight, he remarks that he might not have the patience to do that. Douglas Abrams continues by writing: The Dalai Lama’s comment echoed a topic I have discussed with quite a few religious seekers and parents: It probably takes many years of monastic practice to equal the spiritual growth generated by one sleepless night with a sick child. (p.253)
Living a monastic life, rising early and stopping at regular intervals for prayers, interrupts whatever else is being done. Outside of critical work (tending the sick, recuperating, etc.), no activity is considered important enough to skip the daily cycle of prayers.
In either case, something beyond our own aims and goals sets our parameters. We are asked to be fully present for someone (a child or God) else, and we are relieved of being the center of our own universe. We invest ourselves in someone beyond our limited human life. When this is done in love and for love, it offers us a joyful life.
Perhaps, with this life, we will stretch our compassion to include those well beyond our own family and faith. At the same time, perhaps we will stretch our compassion to include ourselves.
God, self, neighbor. Holiness and joy all boil down to these same three things. Thank God.