Mahayana Buddhism, in all its fantastical detail and complexity, is an attempt to answer two questions.
The first: “Isn’t the wish to be free from desire a sort of desire?”
The second: “If we accept the radical interdependence of all being, isn’t the wish to be liberated from that interdependence a kind of ignorance?”
In the attempt to answer these questions we can see the central place of compassion.
But we need to understand what compassion means.
Primarily, we need to understand that compassion is not a personal quality. It’s not something which you cultivate or accumulate. It’s not kindness or pity or generosity.
It’s feeling with, the self, as it were, is unfolded and recorded into this feeling with.
It’s from that starting point that we can understand some of the more fantastical, or apparently fantastical aspects of Mahayana.
We can start to understand both how practitioners can be viewed as bodhisattvas and how the world as a whole and the beings in that world can likewise be seen as bodhisattvas—as having a liberative capacity. Because compassion is a universal quality that transiently locates itself within particular beings, like the air in our lungs, then it is continually being expressed everywhere.