When Geshe Rabten was explaining the difference between boundless compassion and great compassion to a small group of students in a monastery in Switzerland, he gave the analogy of different ways of responding to a cow that has gotten bogged down in a sewage pit. A person who had cultivated boundless compassion would view the cow as if it were his dear friend, and he would try and free it with ropes and the assistance of other people helping out from the firm ground outside the pit. But a bodhisattva with great compassion, taking personal responsibility for the cow’s rescue, would do everything possible to free it, including jumping down into the pit.

When one of his students asked whether we should regard ourselves as being like the bodhisattva, Geshe Rabten said bluntly, “You’re the cow!”

From “Genuine Happiness: Meditation as the Path to Fulfillment,” by B. Alan Wallace. Reprinted with permission.

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