The definition of compassion and loving-kindness
What makes you happy? What defines a good, meaningful life?
You can probably guess the common answer. Most people will base this on some sort of external accomplishment – gaining a measure of wealth, popularity, or finding sensory pleasure. Those of a bigger heart will attribute it to a meaningful contribution, to their family, to their society, or to the world.
But if you look deeply – none of these cause genuine, lasting happiness. They don’t allow for the discovery of meaning inside your lives. They are merely contributing factors. And so these common answers are subject to the common mistake – the horse has been placed before the carriage.
Compassion is Happiness
What has this got to do with compassion? Many of my readers are healers, and yet others are making their own journey out of suffering, healing themselves.
And these two are inextricably entwined. I have always equated true compassion with inner peace; love with a rising consciousness. The more peacefulness and blissfulness you have found within, the more loving-kindness you will find for others.
In other words: Compassion is a state of personal happiness.
It is the one mental and emotional state that allows for a truly meaningful life. We’ve spoken so much, in the previous articles, of what compassion is not. Most of those errors come from those who have not made their own journey.
To be of great help to others – first we must find our own happiness. When that happens, it shines through your very being. It permeates your every action and word – and your very presence will become a healing force.
What Happiness is not
How do we find that happiness? First we must see clearly what happiness is, and what it is not.
Happiness does not come from all the external symbols society has always upheld. We’ve all heard stories of men and women who have all these things, and yet are depressed. Celebrities are the most common example – young, beautiful, handsome, rich. And yet… so many are still so angry, so bitter. These personalities have almost become a cliché.
What about those who point towards friends and family as a cause of happiness? What about those who find their meaning in charity work? I’m not saying they are wrong, or should be avoided. But as Lorne Ladner says in The Lost Art of Compassion, they are the conditions supporting the development of happiness, not the cause of happiness themselves!
A loving and warm state of mind is the cause of a happy holiday, a successful family reunion, a romantic date. The truth of this is easy to see – you are on a perfect date with a perfect partner, but your mind is thinking of all the unhappy things. Your thoughts are full of yesterday’s sorrows, and everything has gone to waste. Or you’ve seen it in the other – you’ve set up the perfect dinner or the perfect party, but your lover has his mind on insults long gone, and he barely sees your flowers, he barely tastes the wine.
Search first and last your eye
The Book of Mirdad was recently given to me by a reader; it is one of the most beautiful spiritual books I have ever read. And this quote sums it up:
“Let things alone and labour not to change them. For they seem what they seem only because you seem what you seem. They neither see nor speak except you lend them sight and speech. If they be harsh of speech, look only to your tongue. If they be ugly of appearance, search first and last your eye.”
Your unhappiness are merely products of your own mind. If you think those around you make you unhappy, if you think your surroundings have caused your darkness, then you are wrong. You are unhappy already. You have projected your unhappiness onto them; they only reflect what is inside you. Even if you were surrounded by adoring angels, mansions of marble, you would still be unhappy.
We’ve confused the carriage and the horse. Meaningful friendships, relationships, material goods, passions in life – they don’t cause happiness. They are the result of happiness. External conditions contribute to it, support it – it is easier to be content in a house than a cardboard box – but they do not cause it.
And this is the most beautiful thing, because the opposite is also true. When your mind is serene, when your thoughts are tranquil – even the roughest and most adverse surroundings can be enjoyable. And from there, everything you seek become so much easier.
Compassion is a state of mind, a shape of the heart.
What is compassion then?
“Love is the Law of God. You live that you may learn to love. You love that you may learn to live. No other lesson is required of Man.”
~ The Book of Mirdad
And so, again we return to my controversial statement: That it has to begin with oneself. Search first and last your eye – and once you have burnt out the seeds of anger and sadness and everything else that you have found, what is left? Happiness – unconditional happiness, regardless of wealth, or health, or any of that. And that means Compassion.
When Compassion arrives, it is spontaneous, there is no desire to help. It simply happens. It is the same with anger, or any other predominant state of being. When you meet someone who is angry – not just in the moment, but a truly angry person – the abuse they give you is never personal. You just happened to be there, and if you weren’t, then someone else would have been their victim.
It is the same with Compassion, exactly the same. It is not done, it happens. It comes from beyond you – it simply works through you. You have nothing to do with it. You are a puppet on strings, played by divine hands. “God works through me”, says the Christian texts. “I am merely his instrument.” And how can God discriminate? How can God aim his compassion at one of his children, and exclude the others? Just like anger, it is not directed at anyone in particular – if someone is not there to receive it, then it will simply flow onwards until it does find someone.
Compassion cannot be forced, in the same way that Love cannot be forced. How can we tell someone to love us? How can we stick a gun to someone’s head and say: Love! You can force someone to turn left, turn right, and jump. Put a gun to their head and they will ask – “How high?” But you put a gun to someone’s head and you say “Love!” How do they do it?
A reader recently left a comment stating this beautifully – the more we tell ourselves to be compassionate, the harder it is, the more internal resistance we feel. If someone comes crying for help, and you feel irritated – it is because you are not happy inside you. Something inside is saying – “I have my own troubles to deal with! Find someone else!”
But when you are a wealthy man, it is easy to give. You can give all you want, and never run out, because Love is different from money. In fact, they are the exact opposites – the more you give, the more you have!