Why Is Life Inherently Special?

This post was first published in February 2010
I thought this short correspondence would be of interest to others. Published with permission. There is the question that is asked and the question that is behind the question. And then there is the question one doesn’t even know is there. I attempted to answer the third level question.

Dear Rev. Mugo
Why is life inherently special? If nothing permanent exists, and everything exists only relative to other things, what’s the difference between a person and a rock?

Dear Friend,
In response to your email:
At the heart of Buddhist practice is Compassion. One can understand that word as unconditional acceptance of what is this – here and now. This is not a theory. Compassion is known (and understood) to be the fundamental nature of existence. And so the answer to your question is Compassion. And the only person who can really and truly appreciate, and fully understand this is you, in your depths. Compassion by the way starts with deep acceptance of oneself, with all that one is and has been. It is here that formal meditation comes into it’s own. Sitting still, within compassion, is the heart of it

Living calls forth a response from us and in our lives there is an imperative to act, appropriately and with honour and integrity. So, living within the heart of compassion means one is more likely to take action that honours and respects the conditions that are constantly presenting themselves.

I know this is not a direct answer your question. Perhaps it might spark some recognition in yourself of the bases of your question.

Dear Rev. Mugo
I think I understand your answer. Compassion is acceptance of what is. Living creatures are as they are, so living compassionately means you accept them as they are, and wouldn’t wish to do anything to hurt them. I guess in this same way, you also would not want to dynamite a mountainside, even though it wouldn’t be violence against a living creature?

You said that Compassion is the nature of existence. Does that go back to the principle of non-duality? There is no real subject or object, meaning everything just is, and if you understand that, there is no reason not to be compassionate, since, by hurting something else, you are just hurting yourself. Let me know if I’m on the right track.

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5 thoughts on “Why Is Life Inherently Special?”

  1. Thank you Reverend Master Mugo,
    I was moved by the question, the answer, and the response. It’s wonderful and re-affirming to see an exchange like this.
    What came up for me instantly was that meditation not only allows us to have compassion for ourselves but also for a rock, that, like the mountain seen from a distance, may not appear to have life, but nevertheless contains it (It).
    In Gassho,

  2. Yes. Living rocks. Last night as I was publishing this post I looked and looked for the image of a particularly wonderful rock I saw a week ago when out for a walk. No doubt it will turn up, along with a bunch of other pictures I’d intended to share.

    Years ago at a spiritual direction ceremony (where monks individually asked a spiritual question as you know) and the answer to one questioner was something like, ‘I began to appreciate compassion when I started to REALLY take care of my boots’!

  3. Thanks for that exchange too. And I really like that line, ‘I began to appreciate compassion when I started to REALLY take care of my boots’! Not that I understand Compassion, but I had that kind of feeling while up there at Throssel – I wanted to be kind to everything I was doing…


  4. For me it’s like this;

    Life is special because it affords the Oneness knowing. And the best knowing is the feeling of loving connection – compassion. The rock and me, we show each other part of each other.

    I’ve just come back from the lake district where the rocks are so beautiful I smiled when they first come into view around the bend in the road. Then I saw my friends, came into relationship and smiled right through.

    Special?! Having lost it for a bit and come back to it and the ‘special’ is like the sun after the rain.

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