As we evolve spiritually, we cannot help but feel moved by the suffering we see in the world. The impulse to help alleviate it is a natural reflection of our inherent humanity. Our spiritual practice often gives rise to a greater sense of how connected we are, and as such, that our compassionate actions can serve the world.
We must remember, however, that compassion is a sophisticated state of being. It has what the Buddhists term a “near enemy” in pity, which is very different from compassion.
Along the road to compassion, we learn to empathize. We can open our hearts to others’ suffering. Compassion is not just a state of empathetic open-heartedness, but of no-self, that is, when all sense of divisiveness disappears. This is a beautiful and profound state, something we can aspire to, but most of us experience less frequently than we may think. It does not mean we should not strive for it! We need to. Our world is desperately hungry for more love and true compassion. We simply must not mistake our good intentions with true compassion.
The ego is a tricky thing and will find any window to slip through and express itself. We have all heard the popular aphorism, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Some of our “good deeds” may come from an aspect of our ego, our human shadow, feeling a self-righteous, self-inflated sense of “me”. Perhaps we perceive ourselves as “right” or “better than” others. No love can come from such divided thinking. The transformation or healing we wish to bring to the world will be of limited benefit. But when the ego is out of the way and compassion can flow, something greater than the small self is expressed.
I leave you with two quotes from a living master whose tireless, unconditional love and compassion are a miracle in their own right. The guidance of Sri Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma) from South India is an inspiration for us all to learn to live in compassion:
“For me, compassion is the most important factor in our lives. It is the first step. If we take this first step courageously, without fear, then all of our decisions and subsequent actions and their results will have a special beauty, spontaneity and power. Human calculations may be wrong, but actions born of true compassion can never be wrong because compassion is the law of nature, the power of God, the heart of creation. If we tune the individual mind with compassion, then we, as individuals, are no longer really performing actions, but are merely allowing creation to act through us. And this is the power of compassion. In truth, the spiritual path both begins and ends with compassion.”
”Compassion does not see the faults of others. It does not see the weaknesses of people. It makes no distinction between good and bad people. Compassion cannot draw a line between two countries, two faiths or two religions. Compassion has no ego; thus there is no fear, lust or passion. Compassion simply forgives and forgets. Compassion is like a passage. Everything passes through it. Nothing can stay there. Compassion is love expressed in all its fullness.”
To cultivate more compassion in your life, practice How to Connect with Your Natural Compassion, the Meditation article that I offer, from my heart to yours, in this issue.
Wishing you deep joy.
Parvati is an award-winning musician (I Am Light, Electro Yog, Yoga In The Nightclub), yogini (YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine), author (Aonani of Avalon, Three Supreme Secrets for Lasting Happiness) and founder of the not-for-profit Parvati.org. All her work is dedicated to protecting all life on Earth by establishing the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS).More info: parvati.tv; parvati.org.