Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Compassionate Reflections #2

Inspired by my reading of "Vaisnava Compassion" by HH Satsvarupa Maharaja

In his book, Maharaja stresses the importance of nourishing each devotee's individual capacity to best serve the devotees. Individuality is often shattered in the face of fanaticism and institutional immaturity, and its often misunderstood to be something that we should get rid of, like a weed.

It is our own individual experience, spiritually and materially, and the immense struggles we face in each arena that allows us to relate deeply to the individual experience of everyone else. From the piece "Misplaced, Mundane Compassion", Maharaja writes:

"When we preach, we immediately show compassion according to the spiritual master's direction and learn to sacrifice our own comforts for the well-being of others. Preaching is important; otherwise, our sense of spiritual compassion would remain theoretical. Still, there is a distance to move from the theoretical to the realized, and to get there we need to cultivate humility and self-awareness-to see how much we too have been suffering and in how many similar ways, how much we have been given by our spiritual master and how very vulnerable we are-before we can truly hear or understand what others are going through."

It is rather important, at this stage in my life, as a college graduate and supposed "adult" to figure out what the hell I should "do." For most people, that means a long and stressful job search and career path. Not for me! Well, at least not yet, but the idea is the same. How can I best use my individual abilities and talents, and how can I best use them in Krsna's service?

It is this "finding of our self" that can have such potency in our preaching, as opposed to a rigid, institutionalized formula. Maharaja writes:

"A compassionate preacher has to help others find the strength within to acknowledge their physical and emotional needs, to recognize their propensities, and to want to use those things in Krsna's service. Sooner or later, each of us will have to face the face that we have certain tendencies. If we want to really become devotees, we will need to learn how to engage them for Krsna's pleasure."

All I can offer is a heck of a lot of gratitude for the chance to live my life in the association of devotees, so that perhaps I may develop a deep level of compassion for everyone in my life and beyond.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Compassionate Reflections #1

Inspired by my reading of "Vaisnava Compassion" by HH Satsvarupa Maharaja

"Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace! Where there is hatred let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon."-St.Francis of Assisi

It's not easy to show compassion. It requires maturity, sincerity, integrity, austerity, sensitivity, and above all a deep realization of personal humility. The showing of compassion is inherent to the spiritualized individual. It is a natural heart-felt connection of feeling and action that comes when one acknowledges that Krsna is the center of all reality, and not one's self and selfish interests.

As a young aspiring devotee, I must surround myself with those individuals who are not abstracted from the idea of compassion. Compassion can be theorized about endlessly, but it doesn't belong to the mind, to the intellect. It belongs to the heart and the hands that make real the mercy that flows from beyond the fragile shell of this material realm.

Real compassion is seeing every living entity equally, whether they are brahmana or dog or dog-eater or terrorist or politician or plastic movie star or street bum. The maturity of our world-view allows us to discriminate to time, place, and circumstance with each unique individual we come across in our preaching, and we should never let anyone walk upon us or place us into a violent situation.

With this foresight, we see also that the great pure devotees like Prabhupada indeed saw every living entity as spirit soul worthy of receiving the Holy Name. I know I have a hell of a long way to go just to even be compassionate to myself, let alone everyone else.

Imagine, in your own life, how much stronger and softer and smarter you would have to be to treat every living entity with the same selfless love saved for your nearest and dearest.

Being compassionate is as simple as sharing what you hold dearest, whether its a warm blanket or a set of Bhagavatams, but to absorb our lives, to soak our very being in the kind of bottomless compassion given by the acaryas is one of the greatest challenges we face as individuals and as a society of devotees.

We have to remember that the externals of our sadhana do not immediately make us compassionate persons. We have to fight and struggle against our false ego, going deep within ourselves to face the dust and demons, in order to really open our heart as a channel for real selfless, devotional works.