July 8, 2015
Life Is Hard: Zoketsu Norman Fischer on the Necessity of Love and Compassion

“One of the worst feelings is to feel utterly alone,” says former SFZC abbot Zoketsu Norman Fischer, “but it’s impossible to ever be alone.” In the brief excerpt below transcribed from video, Norman tells us why love and compassion are simply necessities, especially in these difficult times. His workshop Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong at City Center on August 7 is based on his 2013 book by the same name. In the workshop, he will offer practical exercises for reducing self-centeredness—which comes so naturally to us, yet causes us so much pain—and developing compassion.

Avalokiteshvara (photo: Clare Hollander)

Avalokiteshvara (photo: Clare Hollander)

Life is tough. It is.

It’s always been tough, but somebody could make a case that it’s tougher now than ever. Because now we think we’re facing our human limits, our planetary limits, and you know the problems we face in regard to this are absolutely overwhelming. But we don’t even have an ounce of political will to even start, which everybody in the world knows, even though we try not to think about it.

That’s why I’m absolutely convinced that it’s impossible for any of us to go on with our usual way of living and our usual way of viewing our lives. I am 100% convinced that everybody now needs to be serious spiritual practitioners. Everybody needs a strong spiritual vision for their lives. I’m not saying that everybody has to be a Buddhist or even be in any religion. That’s really not the point. The point is we need an alternative powerful vision for our lives beyond the usual ideas of success and failure, and beyond our limited materialist point of view. And everybody needs to do what it takes to develop and sustain such a vision. To me, this is nothing fancy, this is just a practical necessity. I myself, I don’t imagine how I could get through the next week without something like this in my life.

The essence of this view, I think, is love and compassion. That’s the main point. When you face a difficulty alone, it’s overwhelming. Face that same difficulty in the company of many others whom you love and respect and who love and respect you, and who you know will help you somehow, and that you’re willing to help—that same difficulty with that situation is now inspiring, and it brings out the best in us. And it makes us happy, even when we’re in the midst of difficulty.


You can watch the full video below, and see more about the upcoming workshop here.


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