Compassion and Understanding: Cornerstones of Spiritual Living
Notes from a talk at 2004 Convocation by Brother Achalananda
“Love the Lord with all thy heart, all thy soul, and all thy strength”
Let us clarify in our minds three definitions:
Compassion - sympathetic concern for the suffering of another, together with offering support
Love - kindness, brotherhood toward others
Understand - to “stand under”, to know, to be tolerant of, to be sympathetic toward.
So in essence, one word covers all three: LOVE.
are the same, as is wisdom.
The saints speak of the path of wisdom (jnana) and the path of love (bhakti) as being essentially the same; at the end of each path they merge and become one. Spiritual wisdom is needed for this to happen. Jesus said that the most important thing was to “love the Lord with all thy heart, all thy soul, and all thy strength” – to love God completely with every aspect of our being – and to “love thy neighbor as thyself”. We all want that kind of love and compassion – but do we treat others with that same kind of love and compassion? It’s an interesting fact of human behavior that we often don’t. People of all cultures, all creeds, all nationalities – everyone wants happiness, compassion and understanding.
The very nature of karma is that which we send out eventually returns back to us – sometimes instantly, or after 5 years, 10 years, or after a long time – perhaps even lifetimes.
To mitigate that karma we have to go through that same experience. The Gita says, “The best type of yogi is he who feels for others, whether in grief or pleasure, even as he feels for himself.”
And to love our neighbor as our self, we first have to understand what our “self” is. It is not the ego. It is our soul – our real Self. And the soul is compassionate – it automatically thinks of others. The ego thinks of itself first – “I, I, I”. We have to get rid of that ego-self. Jesus didn’t mean that we should love our neighbors in a narrow sense - narrow attachments, narrow personalities – that’s human love. Human love demands human meriting. Divine love is completely different.
Divine Love gives, gives, gives, and asks nothing in return.
Not remembering to think of God is ingratitude. Daya Mata said, “Think of all that God endowed us with that sets us apart from the tree or animal … no matter what I’m doing I can recollect my thoughts and say inwardly, ‘I love You, God.’ … I ask You always to give me enough strength, understanding, courage and compassion, that I might love my fellow beings in the same way as I feel Your love flowing over my consciousness.” (paraphrased)
“Never be ashamed to cry for God.”
Brother had been in the ashram for only a short time when they built new quarters for the monks at Mount Washington. Daya Ma joined them for a meditation in the new chapel. Brother said that during that meditation she went into a deep state of consciousness. “She must have known by intuition the undeveloped devotees she was with,” Brother said, “because for our benefit, she expressed verbally her inward prayers to Divine Mother, pouring out her heart with such love and devotion and yearning that I felt my own heart would break. To hear someone crying out that way to God in a plea so palatable – you would have to be a rock not to feel it.” Brother found himself thinking, “Lord, why can’t I love You that way?” Suddenly he started crying – sobbing just like a child. “But then something happened,” Brother said, “The ego reared its ugly head and I thought, ‘What will the other monks think of me? They will think I’m faking it, putting on a show.’” So he tried to stifle the sobs, but he could not stop. After the meditation was over Daya Ma blessed each one, and when she came to Brother she told him, “Never be ashamed to cry for God.”
The great master, Ramakrishna once said, “Love for God, those tears for God, washes away the mud of delusion.” Those tears will prepare the devotee to express in his life greater understanding and for unfoldment of the twenty-six soul qualities that make man God-like. (See Gita, Chapter XVI)
Daya Ma says, “We have within us the power to change this world. We must begin with ourselves through deep meditation.” But the usual human response is: “Why don’t they change? Why must they treat me that way?” But meditation goes hand-in-hand with how we behave. It starts here - we must change.
Talk to God and Guru
How often do we forget after practicing the techniques to talk to God and guru? Even devotees who have been meditating for a long time – sometimes they think, “Okay I’ve meditated, I’ve done the techniques. I took care of that and now I can go ahead with my business.” But no! After practicing the techniques, now you’ve prepared yourself – now you take time with God and Guru - now you pour out your heart and give your love to God and ask for help. You’ve made the connection – now take advantage of it! Master said there is so much we don’t receive because we don’t ask. But ask for wise things!
Master wrote in the Autobiography about an encounter he had with a wandering sadhu in Calcutta’s Kalighat Temple. As they stood silently before a temple image of Kali, this conversation ensued when the sadhu spoke to him:
"God is simple. Everything else is complex. Do not seek absolute values in the relative world of nature."
"You have indeed penetrated the bewilderment of my thoughts!" I smiled gratefully. "The confusion of benign and terrible aspects in nature, as symbolized by Kali, has puzzled wiser heads than mine!"
"Few there be who solve her mystery! Good and evil is the challenging riddle which life places sphinxlike before every intelligence. Attempting no solution, most men pay forfeit with their lives, penalty now even as in the days of Thebes. Here and there, a towering lonely figure never cries defeat. From the maya of duality he plucks the cleaveless truth of unity."
"You speak with conviction, sir."
"I have long exercised an honest introspection, the exquisitely painful approach to wisdom. Self-scrutiny, relentless observance of one's thoughts, is a stark and shattering experience. It pulverizes the stoutest ego. But true self-analysis mathematically operates to produce seers. The way of 'self-expression,' individual acknowledgments, results in egotists, sure of the right to their private interpretations of God and the universe."
"Truth humbly retires, no doubt, before such arrogant originality." I was enjoying the discussion.
"Man can understand no eternal verity until he has freed himself from pretensions. The human mind, bared to a centuried slime, is teeming with repulsive life of countless world-delusions. Struggles of the battlefields pale into insignificance here, when man first contends with inward enemies! No mortal foes these, to be overcome by harrowing array of might! Omnipresent, unresting, pursuing man even in sleep, subtly equipped with a miasmic weapon, these soldiers of ignorant lusts seek to slay us all. Thoughtless is the man who buries his ideals, surrendering to the common fate. Can he seem other than impotent, wooden, ignominious?"
"Respected Sir, have you no sympathy for the bewildered masses?"
The sage was silent for a moment, then answered obliquely.
"To love both the invisible God, Repository of All Virtues, and visible man, apparently possessed of none, is often baffling! But ingenuity is equal to the maze. Inner research soon exposes a unity in all human minds - the stalwart kinship of selfish motive. In one sense at least, the brotherhood of man stands revealed. An aghast humility follows this leveling discovery. It ripens into compassion for one's fellows, blind to the healing potencies of the soul awaiting exploration."
"The saints of every age, sir, have felt like yourself for the sorrows of the world."
"Only the shallow man loses responsiveness to the woes of others' lives, as he sinks into narrow suffering of his own." The sadhu’s austere face was noticeably softened. "The one who practices a scalpel self-dissection will know an expansion of universal pity. Release is given him from the deafening demands of his ego. The love of God flowers on such soil. The creature finally turns to his Creator, if for no other reason than to ask in anguish: 'Why, Lord, why?' By ignoble whips of pain, man is driven at last into the Infinite Presence, whose beauty alone should lure him."
This seems like quite a condemnation of human nature! But Brother said that is exactly what drove him to the spiritual path – pain – and he wasn’t so much seeking God as he was seeking escape from suffering, from those “whips of pain. “
Now, love is not the most powerful feeling we can have. Love is but the harbinger, the calling card of Bliss – of Joy indescribable.
“The satisfaction of love is not in the feeling itself, but in the joy that feeling brings. Love gives joy. We love love because it gives us such intoxicating happiness. So it is not the ultimate; the ultimate is bliss.” (The Divine Romance)
Surrender to God
Brother worked in the print shop in the early days. He worked long hours, and found himself resenting it, in part because he was the only one working those hours. Brother said, “As long as I resented it, I was miserable.” Then finally he surrendered to it. “Okay Lord, if that is what You want me to do, so be it,” he thought. And when he changed his attitude he saw that things changed for him. One night, late at night, he was alone setting type at the print shop. Suddenly he felt such joy that he couldn’t contain himself and he started singing at the top of lungs. He was so full of energy, working so fast, that he practically broke the type-setting machine! “So that’s it!” “Surrender to God.”
What is God?
SAT — is-ness, life, being, existence
CHIT — consciousness, awareness of that existence
ANANADA — Bliss
Sat-chit-ananda – God is ever existing, ever conscious, ever new Bliss. As souls, we are individualized rays of that. How often do we see someone reflecting that? Not often. This is because of delusion – there is always a fly in the ointment – and we might as well accept it and make peace with it. The more we keep our consciousness centered on God, the closer we draw to Him. Every thought either takes us further away from Him, or brings us closer to Him. He alone is real. He is all compassion, joy, all fulfillment. Don’t think you must wait until New Years to change your life. Make the effort now to become more focused in your spiritual efforts, more willing to express your feelings to God – and to express compassion for others. If we can do this, our lives will begin to change.
Our true nature is infinite. Joy comes from expanding yourself, your love and understanding. “He who is everywhere is joyous.” (Hindu sutra) Break the cage, let the soul go out - joy is a natural result of that. “From joy we came, in joy we move, live and have our being, and in that sacred joy we will one day melt again,”
Master said. Meditation is the best foundation. Our Guru gave us the tools, but we have to make the effort. And Master tells us, “You must live differently than the ordinary man, who is in touch only with sense consciousness. Spiritual consciousness lies in absolute victory over human consciousness.” Sri Yukteswar said, “Learn to behave.” That’s a hard one! We may find that we want all the other things we think will make us happy, even if they go against our spiritual growth.
We must learn to be forgiving. Often times it may be that we can forgive others, but not ourselves. Don’t do that! Don’t cling to mistakes. Learn from them and move on. Some people think so much about the mistakes they have made that they actually worship their mistakes. They place them on the altar and worship them, and then sometimes take them down and beat themselves with it! Instead, learn to forgive yourself. Learn the lesson and move on.
Never Be Treacherous
Never deceive or be treacherous. It is the worst thing we can do because it is deliberate, premeditated. As a result, it’s the one thing that is unforgiven – meaning you have to work it out the hard way - Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!
One man was treacherous with Master. He talked some of the early disciples into leaving the ashram and following him. He took money, furniture, and some devotees left the Guru. Imagine that kind of treachery! But every year Master sent him a Christmas present – and every year the gift was returned, unopened. This man forsook his swami vows, married, and became a professor of a university. But Master continued to offer his hand of friendship. Daya Mata once asked him, “Why do you keep on extending your hand of friendship when he keeps slapping you?” Master replied, “Because he is my disciple and someday he has to come back – it’s the only way he can get free. No matter what he does, he will have to go back to God through this channel.” Master did not just give his teaching in words - he walked the path!
Strengthen Your Love for God
We think we love God, we try to love God, but we’re still fickle because our own negative traits haven’t yet risen above maya. Master said that God is so great, He doesn’t know it. He has an inferiority complex. And He will test us. He will test our love for Him through our very own desires. He holds out a candy - dangles toys of worldly interests and material things right under our nose to see if we become distracted. Sometimes our material desires are granted in order to test us. He offers all kinds of things: “You can have this........” “Oh, I can??” we say. So then, understandably, God is a bit shy. Lesson: strengthen your love for God. Love God with all your soul and strength.
There is a story about a man who was smitten by a beautiful girl – love at first sight - and he told her, “Oh, you are so beautiful! I’m in love with you - marry me!” The girl, however, wisely tested him, saying, “But I have a sister and she is more beautiful than I. You should go and meet her.” Immediately the man left to seek out the sister. Later he returned and said to the girl, “Your sister was not more beautiful than you. You lied to me!” “And you lied to me!” the girl replied. “You told me you loved me, and then you left me.”
How many times have we done that to God?
Meditation plus Devotion
Meditation plus devotion – practice these two, and divine realization will come. Follow the Guru’s path to the best of your ability, and sooner or later, it will come. Someday you will realize, “Oh! It’s working!”
Dealing with Anger
Calmness and patience are the spiritual qualities we must develop, as well as learning to accept unpleasant experiences and not be upset by them. There will always be unpleasant situations caused by other people, so don’t become upset or angry.
Brother said it took him eight years to overcome anger - he was always losing it. He kept praying to Master, “You have to help me with this.” Then the idea came to him to pray for the other individual – to pray for those who were pushing his buttons. “When you pray that way,” Brother said, “a very interesting thing happens. You find that you have to give up one or the other. You can’t keep on feeling bad about them when you pray for them. It may or may not affect the other person, but it will change you.”
Don’t become discouraged if the results aren’t immediate. Keep on keeping on, and eventually you will see that you don’t react as you used to – you will realize that your consciousness has changed. After Brother came back from his trip to India, some of the devotees at Lake Shrine told him, “You’ve changed.” Brother said that something happened while he was in India which helped him to open up to love and compassion and understanding.
Divine Realization Is Unrelated To Academic Degrees
Another roadblock on the path is the rationalizing intellect which thinks it knows it all. God doesn't care about our social status or career status. He wants to know how much we love Him. He looks to see - are we kind, compassionate, loving, helpful to others?
Brother quoted the following from The Second Coming (pg 800-801): “I thank Thee, O heavenly Father, Thou infinite Lord pervading as Cosmic Consciousness behind all heavenly manifestations and in the vibrationless region beyond creation and as Christ Consciousness existing in all vibratory creation, that although You have hidden Yourself and Your omniscience from egotistically wise and theoretically prudent individuals, You have revealed the mystery of truth unto Your simple, guileless children, even though they are but babes in wisdom before Your incomparable Infinite Mind. Heavenly Father, the revealing of Yourself and ultimate truth unto Your devotees who are humbly simple and sincere – spiritual babes who surrender their sensate intelligence unto the unlimited intuitional inspiration that comes from Thee – is in accord with Thy proper judgment.”
“Divine realization, perception of the Infinite, is unrelated to academic degrees. It is good to have knowledge befitting a professor in preference to a doltish brain of an ignorant man; but if one’s intellect is so complacent in its scholastic distinction that one feels no need to seek wisdom in God, the evolution of that soul is laggardly compared to an illiterate who has devotion to the Lord.”
In the Autobiography, Master tells of the simple little postman, Brinda, who through his purity of heart and devotion to God was swimming in the sea of Spirit, filled with such intoxication that he could not deliver his letters. Master wrote of him, “The postman, who was an uneducated man, later developed his insight through Kriya to such an extent that scholars occasionally sought his interpretation on involved scriptural points. Innocent alike of sin and syntax, little Brinda won renown in the domain of learned pundits.”
Approach God With Pure Devotion
From The Second Coming, pg 801: “By drawing his disciples from among the common populace – even “publicans and sinners” and unlettered fishermen such as Peter, James, and John - Jesus showed that it was possible for any devotee to attain divine realization, for God is not a respecter of persons as to their status. Whoever approaches Him with pure devotion will attain Him.”
God chooses those who choose Him! Even though we receive the techniques, even if we practice perfectly, we cannot force God to come to us. If we could, that would mean that the technique was more perfect than God. Kriya Yoga will take you to the door, but only your devotion and surrender opens the door.
“God reveals Himself unto those who completely surrender themselves unto Him, those who have no intellectual or emotional resistance to Him. Before God, the most accomplished of humans is but a child; even the most brilliant scientist does not know why or how God created this world. The Lord is not interested in how much one knows, but in how much one loves Him. The only way to touch Him is by ardent devotion of the heart. That devotee finds God.” (The Second Coming, pg 801)
Keep On keeping On
“Attunement with the guru through devotion enables the devotee to progress steadily toward God-realization; doubters and habitual criticizers fall by the wayside. A guru does not seek to silence the disciple’s reason; but he can only help those who are willing to be taught, not those who self-assertively “know it all.” That devotee becomes filled with intuitive wisdom who is childlike in guilelessness, free of presumption and doubt, full of sincerity, humble and receptive. That devotee finds God.” (The Second Coming, pg 801)
“Be that devotee,” Brother said: There is not one devotee here who cannot do this.
Banat, banat, ban jai.
(Striving, striving, one day – behold!)
Keep on keeping on. Love your Guru. Don’t let him become just a picture on the wall. Let him become a reality in your heart.