< at this Bodhisattva of Compassion with a thousand hands . . ., but here our focus is on the answer: an outstretched hand adjusting a pillow in the middle of the night. It is the middle of the night, the night of emptiness, the night of unknowing. One is asleep. In short, there is no trace of self-consciousness as to what is going on. And in the middle of this, somehow, as my pillow slips off, and my head feels displaced, spontaneously, my hand reaches out to adjust the pillow, and I go back to sleep. That’s all. This koan is saying, “That’s compassion.” . . .
What we “need to do” to enter eternal life is presented to us in this story. But it is not translated into the prescription to “help our neighbor in need,” though we are certainly not saying that one should not do so. All the Samaritan “did” was simply the most natural and spontaneous action that would follow upon breaking through the dualistic perception of “I” and “other.” It was the pain of the wounded traveler that, to use a Zen term here, became the “turning word” for the Samaritan, opening his heart and mind to enlightened action, activating the power of compassion.
As we look around us, the world is filled with all kinds of possible “turning words” that can open our eyes to this world of nonduality. The trees, the mountains, the sky, stones, rivers, are all saying, “Look at me, and see!” Can you hear them? For some of us whose hearts have been hardened by our own self-preoccupations, or by idealistic expectations that keep us dissatisfied with what is available, or else for those of us who have come to take these wonders for granted, we need to be thrown off our donkey, as it were, by something a little more jolting, like the very real and concrete pain of the trees of the Amazon being felled, the mountains being leveled by mining companies to get the minerals underneath, the earth being polluted by industrial waste. The pain of the refugees in war-torn countries, the pain of the starving children. The pain of those harassed or treated with discrimination due to ethnic origin or skin color or gender or sexual orientation. Or the pain of a friend who has lost a loved one in death. In the last part of the story, Jesus asked, “And who do you think was neighbor to that man in pain?” The lawyer’s answer was, “The one who had mercy.” Jesus responded, “Go and do as he did.”