Compassion is addressed in all spiritual traditions. The Bible has many references and here are just a couple:
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment, you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”(karma) Matthew 7:1-2
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful….” 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Buddhist teachings center around compassion and here is a great quote:
In The Essence of the Heart Sutra, His Holiness the Dali Lama wrote,
“According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It’s not passive — it’s not empathy alone — but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness).”
Cited from: O’Brien, Barbara. “Buddhism and Compassion.” Learn Religions, Aug. 25, 2020, learnreligions.com/buddhism-and-compassion-449719.
I want to call attention to the reference to intimacy and remind you one of our scales is Intimacy. Hopefully, you can see how these elements are all interconnected, hence the need to consider all the results from the various scales and paint a bigger picture.
In this reference, the Dali Lama refers to wisdom as a necessary component for genuine compassion.
In our Compassion scale there are several items that relate to wisdom. I don’t want to reveal too many of the items in case you take the LFI again. However, here are a couple of them that address the wisdom aspect of compassion.
- I have learned a great deal from the trials and tribulations which I have experienced in this lifetime.
- When I am suffering, I know that I am given an opportunity to grow spiritually.
Wisdom becomes an important element because without it, an individual might intervene in any given situation and not be making the highest choice in that moment based upon a deeper intuitive perception and understanding of the circumstances.
The LFI draws upon various spiritual traditions that regard wisdom as a mechanism of the soul. The mind and intellect are not always wise. The mind can be cold and detached. Compassion comes from the heart and soul.
The Dali Lama’s reference to deep intimacy and empathy is also aligned with our understanding and interpretation of compassion. How does one feel for others? Not with the mind, but with the heart. Intimacy, one of our scales, explores how well a person can feel for another and experience their reality. Compassion requires, along with wisdom, the ability to move beyond one’s own ideas and preconceptions to see the world from another’s point of view (empathy). Only then, can we gain a deeper perspective and understanding.
In the Hindu scriptures, the Bhagavad Gita, compassion is also discussed as one of the soul qualities that make a person God Like.
Paramahansa Yogananda wrote an extensive interpretation of the Gita in his two-volume work, God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita. The Royal Science of God-Realization.
“Compassion toward all beings (daya) is necessary for divine realization, for God Himself is overflowing with this quality. Those with a tender heart can put themselves in the place of others, feel their suffering, and try to alleviate it. By daya the law of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” and the stern exactions of karma are modified.” (p. 964)
From this perspective, compassion becomes an important quality to embrace and develop on the path towards self-realization. If the goal is to be One with God, then how could we obtain such state if we fail to realize one of the important qualities that is God?
Yoganandaji also touches on a very important and profound benefit or boon from the spiritual path; we can modify karma. The spiritual path provides real hope that we are not victims and trapped by our past circumstances. In an apparent act of compassion, God offers us a way out from our suffering and ignorance. The spiritual path of meditation (Kriya Yoga), devotion, selflessness, and compassion can neutralize the effects of our past actions. We do not have to be defined by our past actions.
We can see that the various spiritual traditions all value and discuss the importance of compassion in the development and expression of Divine realization. You can easily look at your compassion score and see where you fall in relation to our national sample. Your percentile score will suggest how well integrated this spiritual quality is in your daily life. It is not enough to merely exclaim, “I am compassionate and care about others.” Your actions speak louder than words! It is important to note that actions also refer to prayer. Your consciousness, directed through sincere thought (prayer) is a powerful force. It is important to know that prayer becomes more effective when the mind is still, the heart is open, and the attunement with God is strong.
If your compassion score is lower than you would have predicted, then there are actions and practices that you can employ that will help you develop this quality. Please refer to the Suggestions for Further Growth and Development for helpful suggestions.
Hopefully, we see the integration and expression of our inner self or soul realization with our everyday life. If your Spiritual scale score is high, but your Compassion score is low, then perhaps you might consider how to ground your awareness into everyday life and be more active in your expression of compassion.
When your heart is open and you are filled with the love of Spirit, it naturally wants to flow out to others. Once again, if there is something blocking this divine flow, then you might want to explore deeper within your psyche to discover unresolved issues that are holding you back. These issues might be from early childhood or past life issues (samskaras) that have followed you into this life. If you are interested, you can read more about samskaras in the section, “The Subtle Nervous System,” found in Sacred Healing: Integrating Spirituality with Psychotherapy. (page 144).
The spiritual path is the most powerful way to address samskaras. These past life tendencies reside in the subtle astral spine and can be transformed through the practice of meditation and pranayama (life force control) techniques. Kriya Yoga as taught by Paramahansa Yogananda is one of the most powerful methods to transform consciousness and burn up the past karma that inhibits our greater spiritual realization. If you want to find out more about Kriya Yoga, please visit the Self Realization Fellowship website at www.yogananda.org or read the classic book, “Autobiography of a Yogi.”
On a personal note, as a psychologist I wanted to fully understand the depth, scope, and process of psychotherapy. As such, I had about ten years of psychotherapy. In spite of all that psychotherapy, there were issues that were never resolved until I began meditating and practicing Kriya Yoga. The actual practice, along with the Grace of God and Guru, graciously lifted many of my unresolved personal issues.