I first experienced it when I looked at a photograph of Ramana Maharishi, the intense compassion in those eyes. I understood it in Buddha’s words “Compassion is that which makes the heart of the good move at the pain of others. It crushes and destroys pain of others. It shelters and embraces the distressed”.
28th June is now designated as ‘Compassion Day’. As I sat down to read the newspaper in the morning, with my cup of coffee, I stopped before I took the first sip. The first page of the ‘Times of India’ read “You can turn the page or turn a life around” in bold letters. I did turn the page for it was easier to do that than turn a life around and it did not stop me from having my coffee. The paper also said ‘Today is not just a new day, but a new beginning’. How many times have I told myself that I should do something that could alleviate the sufferings of others? That thought has only stayed in my mind but never executed. There is a certain inertia which I guess arises out of the fact that I fear it may destabilise my position of comfort.
The first question I ask myself is ‘Can compassion be taught?’ No, you cannot teach a person to be compassionate because it is innate and rises from the core of your heart. You may pity a person for the suffering he is undergoing and try to mitigate this by offering your help in which ever way it is possible for you. But in all this a sense of doership arises. You can always pity someone but you can only ‘be’ compassionate. Compassion arises out of selflessness and when I say this I am reminded of Mother Theresa who had dedicated her entire life caring for the less fortunate amongst us. A touch or a look is enough to convey compassion or even lending an ear to the sufferings of others. The healing touch we call it.
The second question that arose was ‘How do I become compassionate?’ when I said that compassion rises from the core of one’s heart I recognise that it is innate in every being like all other qualities that we attribute as a characteristic of an individual. That it is not recognised is because it has been buried under layers of all our selfish impulses cultivated during the process of our growing up. How do I dig out that compassion from the depths, I find the burden heavy.
Why did I have to write all this down? It is because after the disaster that struck Uttarkhand when thousands of lives have been literally washed away something has been tugging at my heart, not that there have been no disasters in the past, in fact I was there in Ahmedabad at the time of the earthquake. Every time such a thing happens there is an initial shock and a sense of pity at the suffering that had been unleashed. Subsequently I may have even nurtured the feeling that I was lucky not having been there at the scene of disaster and thanked God that my near and dear ones were safe. I speak for myself for I find that I drift back to my world of comfort and may be waiting for the next disaster to feel bad again. I have always found excuses as to why it has not been possible to sustain that initial surge of pity that engulfed me
This is a confession, for I realise that the answer to my second question lies in the acceptance of that element of hypocrisy that governs my life. That perhaps is the new beginning and the way to becoming a person capable of compassion