Great Master Hongyi’s (弘一大师) ex-wife was reluctant to let go of him, and was puzzled by the nature of love. She thus asked him – ‘Please tell me, what is love?’ (请告诉我，什么叫爱？) If she really loved him, how could she let him go? Perhaps, the love she had in mind was to have and to hold on to the beloved with a closed fist, but his perspective of love had already transcended that. True Love is the ever open hand, that lets go of the beloved, that gives freely to all, and not just one, without attachment to any.
He answers, ‘Love is compassion.’ (爱就是慈悲。) It is a short yet profound answer indeed. Compassion does not cause suffering by clinging to the beloved, while not forgoing care and concern. It was perhaps his way to urge her to compassionately transform her worldly love to True Love, by letting him go, just as he already let her go. It would be compassion for herself too, to no longer suffer with her attachment.
‘A Full Bright Moon’ Radiant With Compassion