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January 26, 2014

Have We Cultivated Compassion?

Classic inspiration right from the yoga books: Yoga Sutra I.33.

“Maitri Karuna Muditopeksanam Sukha-Dukha-Punyapunya Visayanam Bhavanatas Citta-Prasadanam”

Here is a semi fluid translation based on various texts:

“Cultivate friendship toward those who are happy/be happy for them. Be compassionate for those who are in pain/distress. Have delight for those who are lucky. Have equanimity/acceptance/neutrality for the wicked/bad etc.”

That’s a pretty tall order for anyone, especially during difficult moments when we come in conflict between the awareness of a negative conditioned habit and the desire to evolve from said habit.

A powerful sutra with an important word: cultivate. This points to the continuous, deliberate awareness of action and thought to eventually turn a practice into habit.

The contemplation of this word and the entire sutra itself posits looking deep into our habits.  If we read it often enough and begin to absorb it, we initiate intrinsic observation.

Looking at the first line: “Cultivate friendship toward those who are happy/be happy for them,” we explore the possibility of a compassionate mindset and friendship towards those that are successful, happy and joyous instead of feeling jealousy. It provides a peak into our own capacity to be self-less.

It gives us insight into the ability to be observers instead fusing ourselves in as participants.

The same applies to the third line as well—“Have delight for those who are lucky.”

Cultivating compassion also has the ability to pervade situations when anyone or anything is in pain or distress. To instill empathy/sympathy is another mechanism by which we explore ourselves and our reactions.

For those that are ‘wicked or bad’ as per our definitions and idealogies, it is easy to submit the ego to our own preconcieved notions and judgement. What happens when we decide to stand neutral about them/it? How much does the ego fight to categorize into ‘good’ or ‘bad’?

At the end of the day, these circumstances are opportunities to reflect.

Behaving and thinking from a place of compassion and love for others is easy in simple times. When difficult events occur and the habitual mind takes over—as it typically does—those moments are absolutely ripe with opportunity to let the real, authentic practice begin.

Practice makes progress.

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Courtesy of Dancing Realm, elephant journal archives

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