Passion for Compassion

In a Journey from a point of origin to a destination, milestones achieved is far more important than reaching destination. Lord Mahavira, who constantly enlightened Gautama, spoke about the stability and sublimity of the soul, and talked about compassion for other beings.  We observe very commonly people performing acts of compassion on an episodic manner (on a special day or while visiting a special place).  But journey from this episodic behaviour to a point where compassion becomes an intrinsic part of one’s nature is extremely difficult. However, this transformation is absolutely essential. 

Compassion and religion are two sides of the same coin. Just as a person needs to purify his mind, he needs to be compassionate towards others as well. There is a fundamental difference between ‘kindness’ and ‘compassion’. Compassion has love, affection and care. The mind flows instinctively and compassion for all beings is generated naturally. At times, problems are caused by not understanding the difference between kindness and compassion. Ego is heavier in ‘kindness’, the ‘I- element’ is the doer. Person with such kindness carries a sense of power and authority. 

To understand more about that power, we need to talk about Michel Foucault. But I don’t intend to talk about psychology and human nature. When the mind starts taking charge, everything begins to purify soul and character by channelizing its incessant powers, it can see a true reflection of itself. Now let’s understand the true nature of ‘nonviolence’.  Non-violence doesn’t only mean refraining from physical violence.  It should be reflected in every thought and action of a human being. For instance, one may not be physically violent although may harbour ill feelings towards others, which is an act of violence. Hence, one should try to imbibe the principles of non-violence in every thought and action.

We can solve all social problems through compassion. Even differences in opinions can be dissolved by compassion. It leads to non-discrimination. Instead of boasting about superficial compassion, one should focus on understanding the true meaning of the word. 

Two things matter here: self-awareness and compassion for others. People are full of consciousness, prudence and ideas. They understand their good and bad with a range of choices and opinions. They can attain highest states of being and might fall into deepest pits.

इच्छा हु आगससमां अणिन्तिया

Humans are distracted by an infinite pool of desires and they are blinded by beautiful illusions wherein they cannot see anything beyond their reflections. We need to transcend the reflection and immerse into region of soul; we need to be seekers on the path of spirituality. Jainism talks about winning over jealousy and desires.

The next step after subduing senses through penance and restraint is compassion. To become compassionate, one needs to have complete control over his/her body, desires, indulgences. Subsequently, a human being can follow the path of complete devotion which will then lead to the coveted state of compassion. Work that cannot be done with power and devotion can be easily done with innate compassion. Compassion is not just about non-violence, it is about accepting the existence of another soul and looking at it with love.

Chandkoshiya, the most poisonous snake can be shown the path of love with compassion. The answer to many of the world’s most pressing questions lies in compassion. In a temple, we feel security / warmth by looking at a God’s idol. It’s not due to its charming or visually appealing form that we feel this sense of security, it’s due to the compassion we experience through the eyes of that idol. Compassion discards the notion of authority, rank, title. Hence, every human being is considered to be on an equal footing with others and there’s no special or differential treatment for a particular group of people.

The bubble of one’s ego stays awake for 24 hours. It sometimes wears a mask to show a little bit of compassion and love, but the action of reaching inner peace from the mask is compassion. Ego is like a human nail; it keeps on growing even after cutting it.  It can be decorated with different colours but it’s important to remember that its original nature is to grow. We need to defeat this hidden enemy – ego – that has become a part of our very existence. Letting go of one’s ego is a path that only a few have completed due to its inherent struggles. However, the joys and happiness awaiting us at the end of this path are worth it. Compassion awaits us at the end of this path. 

My soul will be enlightened by penance and with the acceptance of other souls, I will also feel compassion for all. Only the traveller of this path knows what the highest state of humanity is created for. This state is unaware of feelings like resentment, anger and injustice. The mind is more generous and accepts and thinks with the soul.

This issue is an attempt for a generation of people who have begun to think about humanitarian and compassionate way of life. Ever since we announced the theme of this issue, we have been flooded with diverse perspectives on the topic. First and foremost, I would like to thank all the writers and readers. Dr. Bipin Doshi and Dilip Shah have connected us with several luminaries of different fields. Kavita Shah, Amol Shah and Rajvi Shah helped us prepare the ground work for this issue. Although all of them are part of the Jain Avenue family, I, most humbly, would like extend my deep sense of gratitude to them.

I am sure readers will have an incredible experience reading how writers have related compassion with our lives. 

Dr. Sejal Shah