Before compassion can be expressed for others, it must be expressed for yourself. You must be able to forgive and engage your own shortcomings else they will manifest in every interaction you have. That is karma. Not obvious during the pleasant moments of this life but as soon as things become tangled and samsara tightens its grasp; you will fall back into those bad patterns like an addiction. Hungrily puffing away at delusions and filling ourselves with the smoke of ignorance, we desperately try to change samsara rather than ourselves. Meanwhile every hurried, fearful and hacking breath just brings the coils around tighter. Like waving away clouds of cigarette smoke; fanning away at samsara only brings about momentary aleviation of suffering.
Similarly, zazen doesn’t break the coils of samsara. There is no actionable goal in Zen practice; just one giant exhale followed by relief but it can quickly tighten up again. But with each breath we expereince wisdom and clarity. The wisdom that comes from zazen is an encompassing compassion for our own faults followed by forgiveness. It isn’t the realization of some divine, universal conductor that is driving this runaway train and it isn’t a nihilistic laying of ourselves upon the tracks. It is just us taking control of the train by releasing just a little bit of that control and letting it run at its own speed and pace. There is no need to feed the engine anymore. We allow ourselves and samsara to just be. No train to drive and no tracks to lay. Just along for the ride.
We manifest some divine conductor to placate our own ego in a faulty attempt to quell our own fear. Ego masquerading as a god. When we grovel at the feet of our god; when we beg for forgiveness or plead for hope; we are begging our own ego to release us and for our own fears to comfort us. Ego will never release us and fear provides no comfort. It serves no purpose but to tighten the coils around our own neck. Each breath in zazen loosens a coil. Slowly each breath releases the grasp of samsara not by changing it but by accepting that it has always been there. It never had a grasp. We choke ourselves until we pass out and then awaken and call it enightenment.
There is no-one to release us. No-one that binds us.