Healing Through Compassion

Spirituality and Spiritual Practice

by Jayaram V

Compassion means showing love, kindness, sensitivity, pity, mercy and sympathy to others, feeling in your heart their sorrow and suffering as if it is your own. A truly compassionate person not only recognizes and feels for the suffering of others but also tries to alleviate them selflessly. This is considered the highest form of compassion. In Sanskrit compassion is known as karuna. The Buddhists recognize it as loving kindness, one of the powerful emotions which can lead to liberation.

In spiritual life, compassion is one of the highest virtues. Spiritual practitioners are encouraged to practice compassion since it can wash away all the past sins and hasten the process of self-transformation. True compassion arises out of pure love, which is free from seeking and selfishness. It does not manifest in a person unless all traces of egoism, self-promotion and attachments are suppressed.

Levels of compassion

True compassion is the culmination of prolonged spiritual practice. It arises in a person who is pure in the heart and mind and has overcome negativity and evil qualities, such as pride, anger, lust and envy. In life we get to see three variations of compassion shown by people towards others, which are described below.

1. Conditional compassion. The lowest form of compassion is showing pity or sympathy towards those to whom we are attached or whom we like for one reason or another. Feeling compassion for our children, pets, close relatives when they are suffering or when they are in pain comes under this category. It is definitely a good karma. However, since it is tinged with selfishness and egoism we cannot truly categorize it as a virtue. For example in a battlefield a soldier may feel compassion for a fellow soldier but feel no compassion for the enemy. A person may feel compassion for his pets but may go and hunt wild animals or chase away the birds who invade his backyard or farmland.

2. Unconditional compassion. This is the attitude of showing compassion to anyone who suffers irrespective of their individual status or affiliation, without expectation and without self-interest. Many people show unconditional compassion occasionally when they witness disasters and natural calamities. Only a few are capable of practicing it constantly and universally. Unconditional compassion motivates people to become vegetarians or care for wildlife and environment protection.

3. Healing compassion. The highest form of compassion is that in which one not only feels compassion for others but also respond to it actively with determination doing whatever is possible to mitigate their suffering. They practice non-injury in letter and spirit, make efforts to protect the weak and the meek from harm, provide material and moral support to those who suffer, pray for others and in extreme cases take over the suffering of others to heal them. They open their hearts to others with unconditional love and send out prayer and thoughts of healing and transformation.

Invoking compassion

Your compassion not only heals others but also heals you. By showing compassion to others not only you earn good karma but also you allow others to cleanse their sins. By giving you an opportunity to do good, they earn good karma in return. Thus, compassion is beneficial to those who show it and those who receive it.

Here are some of the practical ways in which you can open your heart to the feelings of compassion.

1. To intensify positive and healing thoughts of love and compassion, think of those you love most dearly. Then replace their images with those whom you want to heal.

2. Try to send thoughts of compassion and healing to those whom you find difficult to forgive or whom you hate intensely. If you are unable to do it easily, follow the suggestion mentioned before.

3. To feel good about others and fill yourself with feelings of love and kindness, think of all the people in your live who showered you in the past with love and helped you at various stages in your life when you had problems or when you needed help. We easily forget the help we receive from others. It is important to remember it and feel grateful about it. While thinking about them we fill our hearts with love and gratitude.

4. It is necessary to avoid hurting or harming others intentionally. Learn to forgive those who harm you or intend to harm you. If you find it difficult to practice it, imagine the hurt and harm you caused to others in the past and how it might affect them and you karmically. Send them thoughts of healing and seek their forgiveness.

5. See others as you would see yourself. When you see others suffer, imagine how you would suffer in a similar situation. When you see others in yourself, your compassion for them grows exponentially. Consider the other person who suffers as another you and feel their sorrow and suffering. This is true empathy.

6. During your mediation concentrate upon the feeling of compassion, visualizing the images of suffering you might have witnessed in real life or seen in a television program.

7. Think about the suffering that in inherent in life, how from a child to a grow up adult everyone sufferings in their own ways and how on one is free from it. If you think about it seriously, you will realize that everyone in the world suffers and everyone deserves our compassion.

Compassion, healing and taking over other's suffering

Compassion is the most powerful healer. With compassion you can heal yourself and others. By opening your heart to the tender feelings of loving kindness, you can melt away years of darkness, anger, frustration and similar negative feelings that accumulated in you.

In Tibetan Buddhism there is an important practice called Tonglen in which a monk or a practitioner willingly takes over the suffering of others and in return transfer his happiness and Wellbeing to them. Through healing power they take over the sinful karma of others and given them their own good karma.

Usually, they do this exchange while meditating upon their breath. Indeed, it requires immense courage to take over the suffering and bad karma of another person. It is a test of your own spirituality. However, with practice and effort, you can develop the courage, conviction and a good heart to consciously direct your feelings of compassion to others and heal them.

You can pray to God to alleviate of the suffering of those whom you want to heal or request Him to take over their suffering so that they may find some relief. If you want to go a step further, or if you want to help someone whom you love dearly, you can exchange your good karma for that person's suffering. In life, there is no spiritual practice, which is higher than this.

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