The Practice of Compassion
As we access and grow on the spiritual path, we inevitably prepare ourselves for the understanding of the requirements needed for our final liberation from the Wheel of Samsara.
Above all, the foremost prerequisite for this realization is the knowing of self. It is no surprise there was written on the top of the gates of the temple of Delphi the inscription that said: “Know Thyself”. This is no doubt the beginning of a life-long journey of self-discovery.
On this voyage through the many aspects and phases of life, we discover that we are not condemned to live at the mercy of the waves of fate as mere animals. One of the primary lessons we are to learn by living a human experience is the knowledge of Compassion.
What is the exact meaning of Compassion?
There is a Zen Buddhist story that illustrates the feeling of Compassion:
“Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung. The other monk asked him, “Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?”
“Because,” the monk replied, “to save it is my nature.”
True Happiness – True Compassion
The true understanding of Compassion arises from the realization that every sentient being on this life journey is after the pursuit of happiness and the ceasing of all pains and sufferings. This is the inherent desire behind all actions. Sometimes, the real requisite of happiness is mascaraed by the demands of the Ego, creating a plethora of factual needs based on external situations and material goods that are, in the end, altogether incapable to provide the soul with the nourishment that it is really after. The Ego creates a veil of illusion, where everything and everybody exists from a pinpoint view of self-reference, always geared towards the individual’s idea of his own happiness.
Often, the Ego feels threatened and vigorously tries to defend its views, victories and conquered territories; and quite often immerses into a blindness of action that causes the suffering and pain of others, all in the name of its self-preservation and personal rights.
True happiness only can exist through a process of integration, understanding and healing. Every sentient being, Human, animal, plant, mineral; are all part of One Universal Cosmic essence: whatever transformation that may occur to any of these parts affects the rest of the Creation.
“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.”
~ Walt Whitman
In this way we can say that if some beings are upholding their rights and means to be happy for themselves while excluding others, they are, in truth, only accentuating a created systemic unbalance inside of the Universal Laws. When we speak of happiness, we are not referring, per se, to what can be reached materially and incite temporary satisfaction of our senses and Egoic anxieties; we are discussing the transcendent pursuit of bliss and liberation that thrives as an instinctive necessity underlining human nature.
Only after one awakens to the journey of spiritual life and self-development, it is possible to understand our true nature and origin. Only then we are able to fully perceive the depth and width of free will, the immutable Cosmic Laws, the requirements of being a true co-creator and the realization that we are all different manifestations from the same Source. Only through the acceptance of common ground and rights of happiness, can we safely journey towards liberation from the worlds of Samsara.
Compassion versus Sympathy
Even though many people tend to mistake these two concepts as the same thing, Compassion originates from a different place than sympathy. Sympathy comes from the realms of the personality, of the Ego. It is often accompanied by the feeling of pity and superiority with heavy tones of judgment and discrimination. Sometimes one is moved to help another less fortunate as a means of broadcasting their “goodness” and “piety” and in doing so, they deepen the differences between the beings. This is because rarely is the gesture sponsored by the true understanding of the suffering of the other, which comes from a sincere heart.
Compassion is, on the other hand, a spiritual skill and a “Fruit of the Spirit” and is a natural offshoot of a mature heart. It is the ability to connect at a heart level with another and it comes from the unconditional understanding of the nature of suffering on a personal level. Its actions are based on ways to mitigate sorrow, pain and fear through one’s own experience over sufferings. It is said that pain is one of the great teachers, and certainly suffering as well are the masters that instill the lessons of Compassion inside of one’s heart.
Having said that, one does not need to have experienced a particular pain for one to feel Compassion for others in that state. When we connect at a heart level to another with the full understanding of Oneness with the other, Compassion flows.
Compassion involves the unconditional opening of the heart. It is a donation of one’s energy, without preconditions or requirements or judgments. It requires the strength of soul to withstand within itself the suffering of others, until the relief and real healing can start. We usually see this soul skill present in the daily life of first responders of tragedies. Independently of the fact that these individual perform their daily tasks professionally, we nevertheless perceive the immanent soul skill at work.
The ayurvedic wisdom teaches that there are different stages of the Compassionate aptitude, according with the physical and diverse spiritual condition of each individual. For Instance, they classify as Pravaram the natural ability of an individual to withstand a high degree of hardship and suffering, along with adverse conditions, while generally facing them with a degree of grace and hope. They also classify a second level of this skill asMadhyamam, which is the individual ability to endure other’s suffering only when the individual has a personal web of love and support himself and the need for continuous reassurance that they are not the only ones that are experiencing suffering.
In any case, Compassion requires action and mindfulness. To simply be upset about a tragic situation, such as hearing about a natural disaster or tragedy, and then to decide to do nothing about it and go about the own daily activities is not what Compassion is about. Compassion incites our souls to move ourselves out of our comfort zone, acting on the knowledge that something from you can relieve and bring a discharge of a hardship of someone’s life. It is a true communion and connection of hearts. Through this soul skill one can create etheric cords that will facilitate the pulling of other’s heart, facilitating the removal of the pains that are oppressing their being. It does not mean to enter into the frequency of another’s suffering, but a resolution in changing the vibration of these emotions.
It should be noted that when we say “Compassion requires action”, we are not talking about violent action. Compassion and violence are anathema to each other. Helping a being, human or animal, by committing violence towards another, directly or indirectly, is an action not rooted in the heart, but in the Ego, and typically done for self-promotion.
Compassion is more than just an attitude; it is a way of living, a way of mature souls, ready to help others back onto the path towards their own liberation.