Soul in Bloom

In 2000, after several decades of meditation practice,  I set out to understand the heart of the Buddhist teachings on compassion by tapping the hearts of Buddhist meditators and masters. I had one question: what moment in your life, inspired by the Buddhist teachings on karuna, compassion, truly opened your heart?

The response was as varied as the people I interviewed-- from Tibetan masters and Buddhist therapists to bus drivers, artists; there is even a story from a prisoner on Death Row. I also added nine stories of my own. My conclusion: no teaching is as rich and profound as the experience it inspires, and each of us is a Buddha in waiting.

I was most proud of the reviews of this book as they came from all people, all religions, all walks of life, who were inspired to new heights of insight. I’ve included reviews of the work below because some are as inspiring to read as the book! 

EXCERPT from The Power of Compassion

“From Victim to Liberator” by Pamela Bloom

I was on a meditation retreat in the south of France when a visiting master was introduced to the group. An audience of over three hundred Western students of Buddhism waited quietly for him to speak. He was about forty years old, quite tall and broad-shouldered for a Tibetan, with an enormous presence like a mountain, though he barely smiled. As he began to talk he repeatedly wiped at his draining right eye, as if something in him was constantly crying, but his voice remained strong. Soon his personal story unfolded.

For fifteen years, as a young man, this Rinpoche and his elderly master had been imprisoned inside Tibet as victims of Chinese persecution. Although he did not go into details, the conditions they had had to endure were of the roughest sort, with many days spent chained together in their dark, dirty cell. The Chinese, he said, not content with normal torture, had been determined to persecute devout Tibetans in the worst possible way by denying them the right to meditate; every time their eyes closed they were beaten.  


But because the Chinese did not understand that Tibetans actually meditate with their eyes open, the two were able to continue their prayers and meditations in secret. Unfortunately, as the years went by, the abuse only got worse; in fact, Rinpoche’s constantly tearing eye was the result of beatings from that time. He had even had to endure the loss of his master, who died next to him one night in their cell. After many years of torture, escape from this living hell had come to seem impossible.

But then one day, out of the blue, two of the jailers addressed him directly: “What are you doing?” they said. “No matter what we do to you, now matter how we hurt you, nothing moves you.” Apparently the jailers had practiced all sorts of martial arts, but they had finally met a power they didn’t understand. “You know something we don’t,” they told him, “and because we are the jailers, we must learn it in order to become stronger than you.”

So because he had no other weapon, he taught his jailers the very practice he and his master had been doing—the Tibetan meditation called Tonglen, which is the practice of breathing in the suffering of others and breathing out light. It was the same practice that many of us had been learning at this retreat with some struggle, for to actually take on the suffering of others with no sense of martyrdom or resentment is a great affront to one’s ego.

So, to imagine that this monk and his elderly master had found the inspiration to not only practice compassion but to teach it in the middle of hell to the very beings who were the agents of their suffering . . . well, that was a level of compassion that transcends the ordinary mind. And yet, that is the essence of Buddhist compassion. And as a result, as Rinpoche told it, the unbelievable happened. One day, some time later, the Chinese jailers suddenly announced to their Tibetan captive that they were releasing him from jail. No reason. Just his time was up. And they set him free. And that is how he came to be before us on that bright sunny day in the south of France, with his eye running like a persistent rain of remembrance, his gaze brilliantly clear, his posture immovable like a warrior’s.

In fact, as I remember it now, there was not even a trace of resentment in his voice, only perhaps the bittersweet irony that his master had not lived to see that somewhere between the in-breath and the out-breath, the boundary between persecutor and persecuted had finally dissolved.

—Pamela Bloom

“An effortless compassion can arise for all beings who have not realized their true nature. So limitless is that if tears could express it, you would cry without end.”

                                                            - Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche

A visual experience of this story can be found on YouTube: under the video "From Victim to Liberator.”

REVIEWS (verified purchase)

”The Power of Compassion” is one of the highest and clearest books I’ve ever read about Buddhism. It’s an extraordinary collection of stories from numerous sources that convey the profound compassion that is Buddhism’s heart and innermost essence. The stories come from many sources: high Tibetan lamas, monks and nuns, Western women, even a prisoner at San Quentin. A substantial portion of the stories were written by the author, and like the others these are gems, which sparkle with rare wisdom gleaned from the painful grit of everyday life. The book’s introduction is superb, as is the concluding section conveying two types of meditation on compassion. I also appreciated the numerous pearl-like quotes from Buddhist masters such as the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, which ornament and illumine the space between the stories. To say that Pamela Bloom’s writing is excellent doesn’t really touch it; this isn’t just writing, it’s bodhichitta itself blossoming before your eyes like buds on a cherry tree in a Zen painting. It deepened my understanding of the role of compassion in spirituality, and inspired me to intensify my compassion for all beings, live it moment to moment, and put it into action, for God’s (and Buddha’s) sake. Pranams to you, Pamela Bloom, this is awesome work.

~Ram Das Batchelder, author of “Rising in Love”

Spirituality & Health magazine, by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


In the foreword to Pamela Bloom’s sterling collection of 40 stories, Joan Halifax Roshi writes: "Whether exalted lamas or ordinary students, the practitioners in this book have taken daring leaps into the unknown of their own being — into what might be called 'visionary compassion.' That is to say, compassion that goes the extra mile beyond one's comfort level, compassion that embraces self and other as one continuum."

Author Pamela Bloom is a meditator of 20 years with a special interest in spiritual healing. She learned about compassion while serving as a hospital chaplain, an interfaith minister, and a music critic, and by encountering the living Buddha in others. Selfless acts of love are a form of active prayer and that is why this volume can be seen as a devotional resource.

Here you can read about the ways in which a husband and a wife, a Tibetan Buddhist prisoner, a meditation master, a Buddhist nun, and many others show how it is possible to love without bias, to transform anger, to liberate beings, to take on the suffering of others, and to heal body and soul with compassion.

The book also contains meditations for developing compassion via metta practice and tonglen. An extra treat is a potpourri of soul-stretching quotations throughout the text like the following one by Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche: "Could we exclude any from our compassion any more than the sun could exclude any from the warmth and radiance of its rays?"


Review by Marta Freundlich, New Consciousness Review,

December 01, 2010

We all experience distressful situations in our lives. Usually we want to avoid them or wish they had never happened: rarely do we believe they are a pathway to greater peace and happiness for ourselves and for others. In The Power of Compassion, Pamela Bloom, a practicing Buddhist and Minister shows us that through the transformational power of compassionate acts, every experience can become a vehicle for greater understanding and healing.

Bloom's beautifully compiled and written book, is full of wisdom and profound insights and yet, like all good books, is easy to read. It consists of forty inspirational stories of kindness and love told by the famous and the not so famous. They range from simple acts of compassion to ones dealing with torture and even life and death situations. The more challenging situations are just as compelling to read, as there is nothing gratuitous in the graphic details. They merely serve to further illustrate that by opening our hearts and letting love govern our actions, we are able to heal even the greatest horrors in this world.

Bloom’s book is a gentle introduction to Buddhism for those unfamiliar with its teachings. It is not about doctrines but shows clearly how a deeply reflective understanding of the interconnectedness and the goodness of life, coupled with compassionate action, brings great healing and blessings to the giver too and can be a path to enlightenment. As the Dalai Lama says, "My religion is compassion."

To help us to become more compassionate with others and just as importantly with ourselves, Bloom offers practical help by including several meditations. However, I found that reading this inspiring book is a meditation in itself as it opened my heart. Whether it is read from cover to cover, or used as a daily dip into healing waters, The Power of Compassion will help you to remember that no matter what type of loving-kindness action is taken, what is important, is the purity of intention underlying it, coupled with the understanding that when we serve others, we are truly serving ourselves.

CREATIONS magazine, John Calabrese

Any book about compassion is a sigh of relief, especially for those of us living in the busy and complex New York metro area, with all the, um… challenges, shall we say, to our daily peace of mind. Yet, every day, as the masters say, brings new opportunities to practice compassion – and although we know this is a good thing to have in our lives, do we really and truly understand all the reasons why?

The Power of Compassion is a series of gentle reminders, from a fascinatingly diverse group of teachers and meditators, about why this “C” word needs to be part of our path in life. From rescuing ourselves from our own demons, to recognizing how much others struggle with the same issues so we can let go of our judgments and anger towards them; from recognizing how much our health, everyone’s health, and the very health of our planet depend on how much we can practice compassion – the immediate and long-term value of this collection becomes dumbfoundingly clear.

The brief, heartfelt, and potentially “mind-altering” stories packed into this small book represent a vast storehouse of knowledge. It would be impossible, therefore, not to be spiritually and mentally enlarged by its wisdom.


John Calabrese is the Editor-at-Large at Creations Magazine and has a private counseling practice in Huntington, NY.

INNER CHANGE magazine, By Kathryn Lanier

Rinpoche is defined in the glossary of this beautiful anthology as "Literally 'most precious one,' a form of address used in Tibetan Buddhism for.respected teachers." Buddhist Acts of Compassion is truly a precious teacher. Pamela Bloom states in the introduction that "the greatest merit a book like this can achieve is to inspire you to delve more deeply into the traditional teachings."

With just a rudimentary knowledge of Buddhism, I found myself touched again and again by the deeply personal stories related by masters and students alike of their journeys to the real meaning of compassion and the often severe tests of their desire to relieve the suffering of all sentient beings. The individual stories are short, and quotes from the great Buddhist teachers are interspersed throughout. Even the design of this small book is beautiful.

There are many lessons offered in this anthology. One of the most powerful is that the practice of Buddhism is to be compassionate in your very nature. Several of the stories are written by the rinpoches, who have spent many years imprisoned by the occupying armies in Tibet. As I read of their ability to overcome the extreme physical and mental torture by practicing Tonglen (breathing in the suffering of others, breathing out compassion and light), I was in awe of their complete dedication to uncompromisingly relieving the suffering of all sentient beings-even that of their tormentors.

It was in this small book that I first read of the concept that anger and compassion were not mutually exclusive. However, according to the Buddhist definition of karma, anger often leads to non-virtuous acts, creating negative karma, but compassion is a state of great merit, creating positive karma. The philosophy of nonjudgmental acceptance of all beings and always being kind led one writer to muse when meeting one of the Dalai Lama's tutors that "His magnanimity offended the part of my mind that wanted him to value me specially."

The Power of Compassion has over 50 short stories interspersed with quotations, a guide to Metta meditation, a guide to Tonglen meditation, a brief glossary, and a brief biography of each of the individual contributors. The stories can be read in order from front to back, or the book can be flipped open to see what message the Universe may have today. This is a book that can be read again and again, and the message will be different each time. The daguerreotype photo of a monk's beautiful hand holding a mala, the ivory paper, and the clean, delicate type all add to the tangible pleasure of experiencing this book. Pamela Bloom has indeed inspired me to learn more about the traditions of Buddhism.

Kathryn Lanier lives in Greeley, CO with her seven year old twins. She is a freelance writer and editor educated at UNC-Chapel Hill and the College of Charleston. She has been published in national and local publications and is the publisher of Nourishing the Trinity newsletter.

GOOD READS , Naomi's review

Jan 19, 2013, 5 stars out of 5

Bloom shares a wonderful collection of Buddhist teaching stories, many from her own life and practice, that invite us into understanding how compassion is a force of transformation and hope. The stories are accompanied by introductions to two forms of meditation practice. Highly recommended. From the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

MIND AND SPIRIT, reviewed by Gail Lord

Compassion is universal. And yet, says Pamela Bloom, there is a "special flavor" Buddhist teachings can bring to the understanding and experience of compassion. First published a decade ago, The Power of Compassion: Stories that Open the Heart, Heal the Soul, and Change the World is much needed in these perplexing times. Bloom's compilation of stories gathered pre-9/11, pre-Katrina, pre-war in Iraq and Afghanistan, remind us that compassion is transformative. It helps us deal with anger and grief when we are seething with outrage and stung by betrayal. Through compassion we find the dynamic healing power of acting on behalf of others.

Humanity, more connected than ever before, has a larger opportunity and mandate to practice compassion than ever before. Around the globe, cell phones and satellites can be used to start wars and riots, but they can also be a means to organize peace rallies and heal long-distance wounds. Bloom's passages travel from John F. Kennedy, Jr.'s experience meeting the Dali Lama in Dharamsala, to convicted felon Jarvis Jay Master's experience of being a Buddhist on death row in San Quentin. Other stories reveal unexpected peace, such as Michael Damian's experience with his devout Catholic, terminally ill mother. Always loving to others and eager to serve, Michael's mother didn't treat her own Buddhist son with the same kindness. This left him with much confusion. Yet as Michael attended to his suffering mother, he truly wanted her to find peace in her Christian practice. At her bedside, praying first with his own mala beads, then with his mother's rosary beads, the son's two prayers became one. The differences between traditions, between child and mother, simply dissolved. The woman took her last breath, dying easily on Mother's Day. As Mother Theresa said, "Religion has nothing to do with compassion."   -                                   


5.0 out of 5 stars Truly inspiring - No Truly! Really gets to the heart

By Isabel Losada, best-selling British author

It amazes me when I look at what is out there.. what people are reading - what people are watching... when they could be reading something as wonderful and life changing as this little book. The creator Pamela Bloom, who admits to having been disappointed when Christened with the Buddhist name 'Compassion Dharma Lake' by a Buddhist master - is trying to understand what compassion really is. To do this she has interviewed and gathered together stories and teachings by many great Buddhist teachers including Sogyal Rinpoche and His Holiness The Dalai Lama as well as many others.

The New Testament implores Christians 'whatever is good, whatever is true - think about these things.' For those of us that seek to put our focus on learning how to be people that can bring love, kindness, compassion and peace to the world by influencing our own hearts - this book makes welcome reading. The greatest teachings are all here and expressed with humility and humour by a wealth of extraordinary contributors.

In reading this book I had to hold back my desire instantly to purchase ten copies as I know so many who will be touched, encouraged, warmed and inspired by what is here. The book even ends with descriptions of how to begin the two great Buddhist meditations - the meditation of loving-kindness and that of tonglen which - if practised with love and patience, as is suggested in the book, have the power to transform all our human relationships - even those which appear beyond hope.

Absolutely wonderful book. As they say in the five star reviews - if you only read one book this year - let it be this one.

5.0 out of 5 stars you lift me up ... 10 Aug 2010, by Sara V

I believe there is little as compelling, or courageous, as a personal story. And this book is an excellent collection of varied stories; achieving a happy balance of depth, simplicity, amazing and sometimes even routine. I did not feel I was being lectured on how to live a more spiritual life, or how to have a better attitude. Yet the individual life-changing experiences shared here are often based on tiny details; slight adjustments that seem entirely possible.

If you are looking for a feel-good, uplifting read then I suggest you pick up this delightful little book. It made me smile; learning more about being compassionate to others has instantly benefitted me!

AMAZON.COM reviews

Wonderful book, November 8, 2000

Bryan Lowe, (Seattle, WA USA)

I have been on the Buddhist path for more than a year now, with many breaks in my journey! For some reason this book struck a nerve, clicked for me. Really just a collection of stories or examples of Buddhist compassion, many of them have rung true for me, really opened an understanding for me in ways some other books have not. Were those other books required to lay the groundwork for my understanding? Perhaps. This may be a wonderful SECOND book on Buddhism. Find a general introduction to buddhism or two... then get this one. It has been said the goal of Buddhism is to awaken... and the goal of awakening is compassion. This book helped me to understand the power of that. I don't know for sure if this book will have the impact on you that it did on me. I can say that at a minimum you will enjoy the book and find many of the stories enlightening and interesting. A very quick read if you do not stop and let it sink in. Much longer read with some self reflection.

See more reviews on AMAZON.COM



The Power of Compassion: Stories that Open

the Heart, Heal the Soul and Change the World