Opening Your Heart to Compassion


By Jayaram V

Compassion means having kindness, feeling other people's pain and suffering, and avoiding hurting or harming others for one's own ends. Compassion thrives in a person who rises above his selfishness and egoism and who finds enough virtue in others to appreciate them and understand them. He radiates compassion like the sun radiates light. He is never separate from it and never unmindful of it.

Even when he is inadvertent, his compassion shows throw. A compassionate person has great sensitivity to the problems and feelings of others. He does not take advantage of their weakness. He does not criticize them. He does not give them a reason to feel guilty or ashamed of themselves. He is well aware of the evil and the darkness that clouds the humanity and their helplessness in dealing with it. Thereby, with an exemplary understanding, he shows extreme kindness and forgiveness to everyone who lives upon earth, without exception.

You can literarily trace every problem that we have today to lack of compassion. Whether, it is increasing crime, domestic or street violence, divorce, terrorism, wars, environmental destruction, greed, hatred, enmity, cruelty, economic and social disparity, drug trafficking, women trafficking, police brutality, road accidents, child abuse, rape, abortion, racism, casteism, these and many other problems exist and vex our lives because of lack of compassion among people and authorities alike. Compassion is what makes a human being human, a father a father and a mother a mother, what gives them humanity, what prevents them from being too selfish and animal like to ignore the value of life and liberty.

You do not have to see God in everything if you lack conviction. But if you can see in everything with compassion the agony of the soul and treat everything with gentle and unassuming compassion, that is the greatest solace you can provide to others without they even knowing it. Sometimes gentle and soothing words may hurt others, but the silent compassion of a tender heart never. Compassion is extolled in all religions. It is one of the striking qualities of enlightened people. The Christ holding a lamb in his hands is a powerful symbol of compassion. Lord Vishnu rushing to rescue an elephant in distress was an act of extreme kindness.

No one can ever be spiritual or realize their highest truth without being compassionate. None can ever achieve enlightenment without being compassionate. A person with a lot of wealth may manage to pass through the gates of heaven, but not a person without compassion. Whether you remember Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln, it is because they had compassion and they personified this noble quality in their thoughts and actions. A world without compassion would be a brutal place to live. None can ever live in peace in that world. The world becomes heaven or hell to the extent people practice compassion. If you have compassion but no wealth, you are blessed. If you have a lot of wealth but no compassion, you are cursed.

It is better to stay away from people who lack compassion, even if they are wealthy and powerful. If you want to marry, ask yourself, does he or she have compassion? If you want to be friendly with someone, ask, does he or she have compassion? You can trust anyone who has compassion because his compassion will protect you even from yourself. You can vote for anyone who has compassion because you can be sure that he or she will be interested in your welfare and progress more that his or her own. If you have compassion you will hold all life sacred. You will be in harmony with Nature and the world. Your actions will not cause pain and destruction but peace and happiness. You will protect the weak and the helpless. Your will protect the environment. You will treat everyone and everything with gentle care. You will be so gentle that even the earth under your feet would not be hurt. If you have children, if you love them deeply and want to see them become good human beings, help them to cultivate a compassionate heart by treating them compassionately. That is the most valuable inheritence you can bequeath to your children.

We all show compassion at one time or the other. But our compassion is mostly conditional and limited. We feel compassion for those whom we love, whom we like or to whom we feel related. True compassion is free from these conditions and attachments. It extends and touches everyone universally, independent of the people and their nature and independent of circumstances.

Like the light of the sun or the rain from the heavens, it falls upon everyone and everything equally and gently, giving them hope to live, reason to believe in themselves and feel safe the world. If you have compassion in your heart, know that you are an ancient and advanced soul ready for liberation. If you have compassion, feel assured that you have already cleansed your heart.

If you are not sure whether you have compassion or not, you can make an effort to cultivate compassion in one or more of the following ways, not necessarily in the same order.

  • by restraining your speech and using kind words
  • by restraining your hurtful and negative thoughts
  • by contemplating upon suffering
  • by understanding suffering
  • by understanding how every living being is subject to suffering upon earth
  • by knowing how much people and other life forms need our love and attention
  • by withholding judgment
  • by rising above our selfishness and self-centeredness
  • by practicing friendliness
  • by cultivating a loving heart
  • by avoiding negative talk and calumny
  • by appreciating ourselves and not criticizing ourselves with negative self-talk
  • by learning to forgive
  • by seeking forgiveness
  • by giving charity
  • by opening our heart to the love of the universe
  • by being thoughtful and gentle
  • by seeing oneself in others
  • by knowing that an individual is caught in the phenomenal world and helplessly driven by his desires and ignorance
  • by contemplation and meditation
  • by ridding the mind of the impurities of selfishness, egoism, cruelty, greed, pride and passion
  • by practicing compassion towards those you love
  • by practicing compassion towards those you dislike or hate
  • by practicing compassion towards those you do not know
  • by practicing compassion towards plants and animals
  • by practicing compassion towards those who harmed your ill-treated you
  • by practicing compassion towards yourself

You do not have to express your compassion in words. You may speak kind and healing to others, but it should be done without any personal motive. Your compassion should radiate itself without you making any conscious effort. You may wonder how you may accomplish that. You radiate what you have. If a flower has fragrance, it radiates. If you have compassion in your heart, if you are filled with the thoughts of compassion, you will radiate compassion even when you are silent and detached. Your compassion should speak for itself and it should rightly so.

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