Compassion and finding the Servant Heart
Am I a heretic? If there is a hell, am I going there?
That was a question I asked myself with a lot of amusement, one night as I sat down to meditate. I come from a family of devout Christians, and my recent foray into the eastern religions have been met with mixed reactions.
Is any of what Im exploring and writing about – the ego, enlightenment offensive to Christians? As if on cue, a Christian blogger made contact the next day, and we entered into an email conversation about the servant heart – Compassion, and the contrast between self sacrifice and self love. The results were very interesting – and Id like to share them here.
Stephen M was the man who contacted me; hes an intelligent blogger, and he has a huge heart. He runs AltNoise.Net – an inspirational blog with a Christian focus. Amongst other things, Stephen is also a church consultant and public speaker. And as he describes in his biography, Miracle really is his name. (Now Im feeling a bit insecure about how plain and boring my name is, so Im changing it. Please refer to me as Gorgeous Foong from now on.) You can find his contribution to the discussion at The Secret to True Personal Development.
Finding compassion within
Our discussions focused on the balance between working on yourself – finding Love within – and finding love for others. His approach – a very beautiful and commendable one – was to do both at the same time. Heal yourself, find compassion for your own being, and at the same time, find love for others.
In the Flower of Love, I wondered about the same thing – is it possible to find unconditional Love by practicing it? Is it possible that compassion is a skill to be learnt, a habit to be developed – until one day practice love gives way to Love?
The path that I am on, is to find Aloneness. To heal all your own wounds, to find yourself, to accept yourself so completely that Love begins to arise. And from then on, as you begin to find joy and peace your actions, your thoughts, will begin to change.
When that happens, compassion is no longer a choice, but something that is beyond your control. For as you go deeper into yourself, you find there is no difference between loving yourself and loving others.
A hungry man, straight out of a long ordeal alone in a desert – the first thing he seeks is food and water. He seeks to fill his own stomach first. Tell him to give the water he finds to those around him, and what are the chances he would agree? If he was full, happy, rested – perhaps he would have done it of his own accord. What of the rich misers, you might ask? What of those who burn their stores of food rather than affect the market prices?
Love is the answer – Love is nourishment for our soul, the same way water rescues our bodies from death. Once Love overflows, then no one has to tell us – we begin sharing naturally. Perhaps the misers, the Ebenezer Scrooges of the world, have all their riches in the world but have nothing inside themselves. How can someone who is happy not share it? A happy man smiles and makes others do the same, a sad man frowns and wants everyone to do the same. A happy woman creates and sings, an angry woman destroys and screams.
Finding compassion without
Stephen then offered what if it became a habit? None of us are born with the habit of waking up and brushing our teeth. What if we pushed ourselves until serving others became second nature? It struck me as a very good point – Ive always said that there was no difference between being kind to others and to ourselves. We are all interconnected ; all the separation they are artificial.
Ive mentioned before, in the Love and Compassion meditation, that everything is in our head, and modern science agrees. Our brains are cut off from the world; it sits inside our bodies. The senses pick up information from the world and constructs an image with our own mind-stuff. We have no idea whats out there; everything we think we see is merely an internal construct. And so when we hate someone – we are hating a portion of our own mind, a section that has been given the appearance of someone external. And with that same logic when we develop kindness, who is it really directed towards?
When does Compassion arrive?
And another brilliant point from Miracle – when do we return to the outside world? How long does one need before he finds compassion? What if a woman needs ten years to find her servant heart?
A great question, and one that I have no personal experience to answer with. I would say that if it takes ten years, then let it take ten years. It would be ten years well spent. The Buddha took six years; the impact he left behind can still be seen today. But the problem is obvious we live in a different era, we have different demands and expectations. Contemplatives no longer have a place in our society.
But perhaps the mere act of working on ourselves is already a benefit to others. How so? Just a small example, perhaps a silly one that means nothing, but the only one I can offer at this moment.
I have always tried to give some coins to the beggars on the street. But why? A varied mix of emotions and motivations. A touch of fear what if they bit me or harassed me? If I had someone next to me, especially a woman – then I simply wanted to appear generous. And when I heard of Karma, when I studied the various spiritual Laws that are said to govern our existence, what was I thinking then? Perhaps God will give me something worth ten times as much in return. If I ever fell down, God would send someone to pick me up, just as I am picking someone else up right now. It was nothing more than a cold calculation; I was putting money in the spiritual bank, hoping to accrue interest.
But recently, Ive been coming out of my aloneness. I had not yet found the Love within, but the urge was just too strong. And this time everything felt different. I saw a homeless man one night, strumming his guitar outside a 24 hour convenience store. No longer did I have to tell myself to give; in fact I had to remind myself not to give too much I needed the money to buy petrol. It was just a natural reaction; no different to sneezing when my nose was tickled. Without thinking, I just sat down next to him, giving him all the coins I had. I wanted to hear his song, to listen to his story, turn his frown into a smile. Just a minor action, was I a saint for doing so? No. But it was quite possibly the first time in my life that an act of kindness had not been premeditated – and as such, an act that was truly selfless.
Osho called us all carbon; hard, solid, impenetrable. We cast shadows underneath the sun – everywhere we go, we block off the light that sustains those around us. But as we begin to find Love – the rock begins to change into a diamond, and then we let the light through. But we have nothing to do with it – we are not the source of the light, we are just an instrument. We simply allow the light to come through – and it is perhaps made all the more brilliant for our presence. I was reading some Christian literature recently, and everywhere I go I find this saying: “God works through me. I am merely His instrument.” Is it possible this is what they are pointing to?
I would love to hear what my readers think.
Just one today, because its a special one. I want to say thank you to Consigno, who recently contacted me and we discussed a bit of literature and spirituality. And then, for no reason at all, sent me his own copy of a very rare book, one that I couldnt find anywhere else, the Book of Mirdad. I really appreciate it – what a precious gift!
The pifalls of compassion. Yes – you read that right. Tickled your curiosity? Stay tuned!