“Compassion can evolve from something small and specific into something as vast as the sky. We may start with a simple sense of appreciation for a piece of art or for our pet and find that we’re gradually opening our hearts and appreciating more of our world. If we don’t hold back from this process, then our sense of appreciation and empathy can expand to encompass the entire world and each and every person in it. But first we have to be willing to open our heart. That very willingness can then evolve all the way into a state of fearlessness. Why do we need to be fearless in order to go where we’re going? Because when we open our heart, we expose who we are to the world. We don’t open our heart only in private, behind closed doors. It’s an act of courage to be who we are in any situation, without retreating behind a barrier. Although it may sound contradictory, we can actually be vulnerable and fearless at the same time.

This kind of vulnerability is sometimes misunderstood as weakness instead of an expression of strength. In ordinary terms, being open could mean that we’re defenseless, at risk of being attacked. It would follow, then, that without some kind of defensive system in place, we’re inviting trouble. This is so ingrained in us that we often react defensively even when we don’t know what we’re protecting; it may simply be our neurosis. Nevertheless, this shield of defense must come down on the spiritual journey, and the only way we can really do that is by trusting ourselves. In this case, trusting ourselves means that we not only trust that we can work effectively with our own neurosis, but also that we can work with the neuroses coming at us. Then the whole environment becomes workable. When we lose sight of this view, then the whole thing feels oppressive and there’s no real sense of opening. To be fearless doesn’t mean that we become more aggressive, solidify our self-fixation, or increase our self-importance. It simply means that we’re willing to be open, genuine, and truthful with ourselves and others. If we can do that, then there’s nothing to fear. If, however, we are putting up a façade of being a good and helpful person and concealing an agenda of self-interest, then there will always be a reason to hide and something to fear. As long as our intentions are pure, as long as our vision is clear, as long as we stand on the ground of trust, there’s nothing to worry about.”

Ponlop Rinpoche, Dzogchen (2010-11-09). Rebel Buddha: A Guide to a Revolution of Mind. Shambhala Publications.