2023 Theme: Karuna (Compassion)
Karuna (Compassion) can be experienced as the nuanced quivering of an awakened, unified, and caring heart. We are in the 2nd year of a 4-year cycle where we are exploring the 4 Brahma Viharas or Radiant Abodes. With the support of our Teacher’s, Nuns, Monks, and Lay Leaders we have embarked on a journey into these essential qualities of our Heart that are said to be innate and the essence of our true nature. When we are free and at peace, we naturally express these boundless qualities of Heart. While they come naturally and freely when we are liberated, they can also be cultivated systematically over time so that they become our inclination and our disposition.
Our humble aspirational slogan this year is: “Cultivating Compassion in All Situations”
Whenever we ride our bicycles, we can practice Compassion. We can offer compassion to ourselves when we encounter a flat tire, a difficult climb, or fatigue. We can offer compassionate assistance to other Pilgrims whether it is physically supporting them or being with their stories and emotional states. Each moment is an opportunity for practice.
We can practice Compassion by reflecting on why we are getting on our bicycles today. What kind of cyclist do we want to be? Who could we dedicate the merits of our ride and our practice to? Could our intention be to awaken, or to be in service and support of other pilgrims? Could we ultimately dedicate each action and each moment of our lives to relieving the suffering of all sentient beings? We may want to wish that all beings be free from suffering. Can each moment and skillful action arise out of this deepest benevolent intention?
Compassion can be cultivated and practiced wisely with skillfulness. We need to be aware if we become overwhelmed by the suffering of others and by the suffering of the World. Healthy Compassion has the capacity to be with suffering and simultaneously be centered in our mindfulness, wisdom, and wholeness. We must also guard against the near enemies of Compassion which would be to pity or feel sorry for another person. In this situation we place ourselves above another and miss an opportunity for connection. The true enemy of compassion is indifference which can arise from insensitivity and overwhelm. At the most basic level Compassion is the capacity to be with another and with situations as they arise. Eventually if it is appropriate, we aspire to move towards Compassionate action and to relieving the suffering we encounter.
Below is an overview of the 4 Year Cycle DharmaWheels are in. Be mindful that these qualities balance each other and are expressed within a unified and nuanced presence.
The Four Brahma Viharas are:
Metta – LovingKindness – 2022 Theme
Karuna – Compassion – 2023 Theme
Mudita – Empathetic Joy – 2024 Theme
Upekkha – Equanimity – 2025 Theme
The Brahma Viharas are essential qualities and capacities that would be wise to cultivate and strengthen as we face a World going through transformations of Culture, Environment, Biology and Spirit. It is our heartfelt intention to provide Teachings and Practices leading up to, and on the Pilgrimage that will give rise to a lived sense of Karuna and a way to embody that heartfelt wisdom.
The Brahma Viharas provide us with skillful ways to express our Love and Wisdom. Metta (LovingKindness) is a basic goodwill towards all beings and situations. Karuna (Compassion) is our Love responding to suffering in the world. Mudita (Empathetic Joy) is our Love appreciating and sharing selflessly in another’s good fortune and happiness. Upekkha (Equanimity) is a way to be Loving in a situation or with a person by allowing it to be as it is. Equanimity has the wisdom of perspective and the courage to be intimately engaged with whatever arises.
This year our Theme and Practices will focus on Karuna (Compassion). It is important to keep in mind that we can still be aware of loving kindness, empathetic joy, and equanimity as they naturally occur in our lives even as we focus on Karuna. They are part of this unbounded integrated heart that has the capacity to meet life with benevolence. When we perceive and experience the Interconnectedness of all existence (a felt sense of oneness), we can Love all things as ourselves. This arises out of the teaching and truth of no-self. (Anatta). On a relative level we are a self with a narrative and unique ways of being in the world. On an absolute level we are unbounded consciousness encountering itself and falling in love over and over again. A being, and heart free of delusion, hatred, and greed naturally acts and becomes an embodiment of Compassion.
Our formal Meditation and Compassion practices have the potential to lead us into a lived experience and embodiment of the Dharma. We invite you to Ride, Practice and Cultivate Karuna together in person on our Annual Buddhist Bicycle Pilgrimage. As a collective group of Pilgrims with a range of cycling skills, and Buddhist knowledge, we join together to support each other on the spiritual path, physical trails, and roadways.
Spiritual Theme Committee : Peter Crrimmin, Joh Ungvarsky, Scott Green