Just as a river is geographically conditioned to flow in a certain direction, [compassionate] efforts are predetermined to move toward success (as sentient beings are endowed with Buddha nature). But just as a river will never dry up, their project will never end.

A lengthy summary of Tan Sitong’s 仁學 (Rénxué), which outlined his eclectic Buddhist defense of non-discriminating compassion’s agency in the unfolding of history, this paper shows how one Chinese philosopher grappled with the challenges of modernity emerging at his time and how his themes continue in the work of Buddhists such as Thich Nhat Hanh.