Why compassion is the best expression of spirituality

Compassion has the power to change the world and make it a better place

Woman sitting next to an old lady who is bed ridden, compassion

Compassion is the litmus test of spirituality. Rituals do not constitute religion. Singing bhajans and clapping hands is not religion. These are but outward forms of expression. The essence of religion is spirituality. And spirituality is best expressed through compassion.

In a little story, we read that the Angels asked God if there was anything in the world stronger than rocks.

“Yes,” answered God, “stronger than rocks is iron; for iron can break rock.”

“Is there anything stronger than iron?” asked the Angels.

And the Lord answered, “Fire; for iron may be melted in fire.”

“Anything stronger than Fire?” asked the Angels.

And the Lord said, “Yes, water; for fire is quenched by water.”

“Anything stronger than water?” the Angels asked again.

And the Lord answered, “Yes, wind; for wind may scatter water.”

“Anything stronger than wind?” asked the Angels.

“Yes,” said the Lord, “sympathy is stronger. And nothing there be that is stronger than the compassionate heart.”

I believe that in the coming years, compassion, maitri, will be the key to the new social order. Today, our hearts have become hard as stones. But once our hearts are lit with devotion and love, the hard crust falls off. When the heart is filled with love it becomes soft, it acquires the capacity to sympathise and empathise with those in sorrow and suffering and with those in distress.

I would describe compassion as the crown of all virtues. I believe it is this quality that takes us closest to the Divine within each one of usCrown of virtues

Here is a beautiful but simple definition of compassion that a friend shared with me: “Compassion is the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it.”

I would describe compassion as the crown of all virtues. I believe it is this quality that takes us closest to the Divine within each one of us. When we practise, not just feel, compassion, when we go out of ourselves to reach out to others and alleviate their suffering, we rise to the Highest Self in us. Need I say that at such times, negative feelings of strife and disharmony are totally nullified in our hearts and minds? And when more and more of us practise the divine quality of compassion, will our world not move towards lasting peace?

Compassion is the root of every religion. Because compassion brings with it kindness, it brings love, it brings fellowship, and it brings service. A man whose heart is filled with compassion is a friend of all, he is kind and loving to all. Such a man is kind not only to human beings but even to birds, animals and insects.

Can you read? Then read to a blind student. Can you write? Then write a letter, fill a form for someone who is not as lucky as you are

Everyone has something to give

Albert Schweitzer was always pained to hear people say, “If only I were rich, I would do great things to help and serve others.” He would promptly point out to them that all of us could be rich in love, generosity and compassion; and that we could always extend our loving care and compassion to others. This, he said, was worth more than all the money in the world!

All of us have something to give. Let us give what we can to others—our time, our talent and know-how, our effort, our understanding, our love, our concern, our sympathy, our smiles. Let us give with love and compassion. Even if one man is comforted by your words, even if one woman’s broken heart is healed by your understanding, even if one soul’s misery is wiped out by your kindness—you have made a difference!

Can you read? Then read to a blind student. Can you write? Then write a letter, fill a form for someone who is not as lucky as you are. If you are not very hungry, share your food with someone who is. If you are at peace with yourself, reach out to those who are in pain and disturbed by their suffering.

The distinguished American author and lecturer, Leo Buscaglia, once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was a four-year-old child whose next-door neighbour was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbour, the little boy said, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.”

As the Dalai Lama says, “If you want others to be happy, practise compassion. If you want to be happy, practise compassion.”


This was first published in the November 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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