"Compassion is the basis of connection, intimacy, openness, kindness, hospitality, and joy. It is an expression of human freedom, flowing from a sound intuition of the unity of life and all living things. [Stephen Batchelor says] 'Even when we are physically alone and experiencing loneliness we are still essentially with others; indeed, the very fact that we can feel lonely indicates that participation is a basic structural element in our being.' Our connection to others does not negate our aloneness. We are simultaneously separate and in relation, and these two truths are ultimately revealed as coexistent and non-contradictory. We are, in the very midst of our aloneness, inextricably connected to others.

"This dimension of being does not derive from external factors. We are by nature embedded in relationship with the world, in all its sorrow and beauty. Jung commented on this, saying, 'The individual is not just a single separate being, but by his very existence presupposes a collective relationship.'

"Compassion is at once both deeply personal and thoroughly social. It is the finest expression of our relationship to self and others. It begins with a willingness to open to ourselves and to life as it is. Instead of rejecting one part of life and grasping at another, compassion moves closer to all of life. It resolves the continual struggle against reality by fostering a willingness to be unconditionally present to the whole range of human experience. Compassion is, in part, a practice of unconditional presence. Being unconditionally present means not only seeing ourselves and others, but feeling ourselves and others. Unconditional presence is both receptive and penetrating, it is both discerning and tender-hearted. Like the sun, it simultaneously illuminates and warms.

"Compassion dissolves barriers and distance. Unlike pity, [Rimpoche Nawang Gehlek says] 'compassion has the quality of respect.' Respect for others comes from a sure knowledge of both our closeness with others and our likeness to them. The Dalai Lama, in his appeal at the end of Ethics for the New Millennium, makes this point by reminding us of the profound similarity we have to others, and the respect we need to cultivate toward those who are downtrodden, impoverished, or beleaguered. 'Try not to think of yourself as better than even the humblest beggar,' he entreats. 'You will look the same in your grave.'

"Compassion is the foundation, process, and goal of psychological health and wholeness. It grounds and guides us, and is the fruit of psychological work. Joseph Campbell refers to it as 'the purpose of the journey.' He then adds that 'once you have come past the pair of opposites you have reached compassion.' Arriving past the pair of opposites marks the apex of Jung's psychological goal of individuation. According to Jung, this goal is achieved through what he called the transcendent function, or a 'quality of conjoined opposites.' Conjoining the opposites or arriving past them are simply different ways of describing the same thing. In either case, a dynamic unity emerges out of what was before a warring tension. Drawing on Jung's alchemical metaphor for this phenomenon, we could say that compassion is the alchemical vessel holding the turbulent prima materia. Compassion transforms the original base substance, and compassion is the purified gold that results."