A friend teaches me that true love means “compassion”

The compassionate are the richest people, they make this world so much better!
A reader, perhaps spurred by the flavor of the month, Valentine’s, asked me if love is a motivator or is it a responsibility. And I write this post to share what I know of what true love is.

Let us understand that love is fundamentally an expression of energy. The lowest form of that energy is when you make love, have sex; that energy is purely physical. That energy is also called passion. The next level of that same energy is love, where you go beyond the physical and feel for the other. There is give and take beyond the physical state in love and this is what makes people be with each other and thrive. And the third level of that energy is compassion, when there is something deeply spiritual that unites two people. And each only wants to be a giver. Each does not expect anything in return. This is the best and the purest state for a couple to be in. It may be possible that only the giver may be compassionate and the receiver may not reciprocate. But the giver goes on giving, with no expectation, with no complaints. So, the love that we commonly talk about at a romantic level, is mid-way between passion, plain love-making or sex and the deeply spiritual compassion.
Pure love is when all the energy in you transcends the physical, passionate, state, goes beyond the feeling stage and reaches the giving state, the compassionate state.
Let me share with you the story of my friend, who is now 50. I met him earlier this week, many years after he had separated from his wife. His wife actually had dealt with him rather unusually – taking over his property, deserting him and migrating to the US with their child. While she may have had her own reasons for her actions, my friend was devastated. He just could not reconcile, for several months, with what had happened. I remember him telling me: “I loved her and still love her a lot. She could have just told me that she wanted to break away from me and I would have walked away without a question. That she chose not to trust me with her decision hurts me more than her leaving me. And why deny me access to my own child?”
Over time, my friend immersed himself in his work. And all of us around him felt he had managed his emotional state pretty well. When I met him a few days ago, I asked him how he was coping. What he told me blew me away completely and my admiration for him has swelled. Here’s how the conversation went.
Me: “So, how are you coping with Life?”
Him: “Life’s beautiful. I married a Kashmiri woman whose husband died of cancer some years ago and adopted her son as my own.”
Me: “That’s wonderful. How old is the boy? And how has he adapted to you?”
Him: “The boy is 12 now. It’s been three years. He calls me ‘daddy’ and we are great friends. My wife and I are also great friends. To tell you the truth, I have a special and beautiful friendship with her. After her husband’s death, her in-laws were not supportive. They harassed her and blamed her for their son’s death (he was diagnosed with cancer within a few months of their marriage). She even contemplated suicide as she could not handle them nor get over her loss. She loved her husband a lot and did not see a meaning in her continuing to live. We have a mutual friend who asked me if I could consider marrying her so that she could get out of the tyrannical clutches of her in-laws. When I met her for the first time, she told me openly that she did not want to ever physically consummate our marriage. Because she still feels the presence of her husband in her Life. So, she told me that our own marriage may not work out. I liked her openness. And her concern for me. I told her we could still marry and be great friends. That’s how it all started and all three of us are very, very, very happy!”
Me: “That’s such a great choice and gesture. I respect you. But don’t you miss something: maybe physical intimacy? Maybe your first wife?”
Him: “Life’s not about sex and physical relationships alone. I still love my first wife. But she’s gone. What’s the point in pining for her or holding a grudge against her? I decided to channelize my love for her and my first child, who’s with her, toward my second wife and her son. Their presence in my Life keeps me anchored and their friendship keeps me going.”
Even as I recall this conversation here, I feel blessed and grateful that my dear friend reiterated for me a learning that’s so invaluable. Love’s not only about physical intimacy with a partner. There’s a special friendship that’s possible if you make the effort. And if nurtured, through sharing, caring and compassion, as in my friend’s case, it can take Life to a spiritual level, making it beautiful and meaningful!

So, as a Valentine’s Day message, let’s take away the need to evolve and attain the state of compassion, when you are only giving, with no expectation of anything in return. 
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When you give, give without expectations and give freely

When you give, give simply. Don’t give anything expecting to get something back. It is in giving selflessly that you experience inner peace.
There’s a story I remember. There was a blind girl who hated herself because she was blind. She hated everyone, except her loving boyfriend, who was always there for her. She said that if she could only see the world, she would marry her boyfriend. One day, someone donated a pair of eyes to her. She could see everything and everyone, including her boyfriend.
Her boyfriend proposed to her, “Now that you can see the world, will you marry me?”
The girl was shocked when she saw that her boyfriend was blind and so refused to marry him. Her boyfriend walked away without protest and later wrote a letter to her saying – “Just take care of my eyes dear.”
Shel Silverstein (1930~1999), the famous American poet and author of children’s books, wrote his most famous book, “The Giving Tree” in 1964. He teaches children the value of giving selflessly through that story. He says, “True giving is when you simply want to give – even when you don’t have to give and when you don’t need to give.”

A lot of our world is centered around what we can get. “What’s in it for me?”, “Don’t I deserve more?”, seem to be questions that arise in us ahead of “What can I give?” or “How can I serve?”. If we can take a cue from Silverstein’s logic or from the selfless boyfriend in the story I shared, and give selflessly, you and I can make the world a better place. None of what we hold on to dearly, least of all our material assets, is something that’s more valuable in our hands than in the hands of those that need it more than us. So, give freely when you can even when you don’t necessarily need to! What you give can change someone’s Life. And when you give, the very act can make your own Life meaningful!

Excuse me, do you have a moment please…?

If you can help – always help. Don’t think. Just help.

Most of us lead such busy lives that we don’t even have time for ourselves. So, we don’t pause to reflect on the challenges people around us are faced with. Perhaps, there is less trust in humanity at one level – so not many want to come forth and offer help. Or, maybe, people don’t have enough time anymore. Or, often times, we don’t even realize that someone around us needs help.

An incident in Chennai on Monday, that has been reported extensively by the media here, holds up a mirror to all of us who are “too busy” to even look up from our own lives’ schedules, forget helping someone.

A 46-year-old man, Augustine, walking by the Adayar river with his wife and two children, suddenly flung his nine-year-old daughter Roshni into the river. He then tried to snatch his seven-year-old son, Joshua, from his wife, Rani, in an attempt to throw the boy too into the river. When a shocked Rani resisted his efforts, Augustine jumped into the river. It was rush hour on a Monday morning. Several people driving past on the bridge pulled up and peeped over the railing, wanting to, as it so often happens in India, “catch the action”. But none came forward to help. It would have been another typical Indian roadside story of apathy in the face of a tragedy, had it not been for Dinesh Babu, a 23-year-old, marketing executive, on the way to work. Unmindful of the depth and treacherous nature of the river, or of his limited knowledge of swimming, Babu jumped into the river and managed to lift Roshni above the water, over his shoulder. Seeing him struggle with the girl, another passer-by, Saravanan, 26, dived into the river. Saravanan knew swimming and he managed to escort both Babu and Roshni to the bank of the river in some time. Augustine however was not found for all of Monday. His body was recovered from the river on Tuesday.

Babu’s braveheart act not only calls for an applause but also begs reflection and introspection by each of us. Ask yourself:    
  •        What would you have done in such a situation?
  •       How can you be more sensitive to the needs of people around you?
  •       Whenever you can’t help personally, do you consider mobilizing help?
Each situation that requires helping someone may not be fraught with as much urgency and risk as in Roshni’s case. But the key point to ponder over is do we even considering helping? Or are we so caught up, indifferent and self-obsessed, with our own lives that we miss even noticing that someone needs our help?

My family and I continue to be blessed by the kindness and compassion of people, often even unknown folks, who have walked into our lives and have helped us – spontaneously, selflessly. I can vouch for how much of a difference it makes when you realize that someone, somewhere cares. So, if it is possible, do pause to look up, and around you, from your busy Life – someone can possibly do with a wee bit of what you have in plenty, if only you care to offer it to them! PS – most often that resource can even be time, and not necessarily money or something in kind!

The art of living is truly about the art of giving…



The spirit to serve, to give, is embedded in each one of us. At the core, all of us humans, are created compassionate. Yet so many of us struggle to give. Because we are worried fundamentally if we will have enough for ourselves. Or we wonder if our support will indeed reach the right hands. Or, at times, we simply don’t have the time to pause and reflect on the plight or travails of another human being, a fellow voyager who is perhaps braving a storm, having a torrid time in Life.

There’s this story of the Zen Master Ryokan, who used to live in the mountains, all by himself. He led a frugal existence – sustaining himself by begging for alms and food in the village at the foothills. One day, he returns from his evening walk, to find a robber in his barren hut. Instead of being angry with the robber and raising an alarm, Ryokan tells the robber that since he has nothing else to give him, he will be happy to give him his robe, the only piece of clothing he has on him. The brazen robber receives the robe gleefully and goes away. Ryokan sits naked that night on the floor of his hut looks up at the moon in the sky, through his open window, and wishes he could have given the robber the moon too! Ryokan personifies the pristine spirit to give, to serve without bothering about the rational consequences of such giving, without expecting anything in return.

We may not have Ryokan’s temperament in us in today’s world where we are all engaged, and entrapped, so materially! But we can raise ourselves to come up half-way, to touch a Life, to make a meaningful difference.

Yesterday, someone we only know as social acquaintances, whom we have never met, reached out and held out a helping hand, gave us a shoulder and a long-distance hug. In the context and situation we found ourselves, it made a huge difference. This gentleman and his wife live in a different continent, miles away from where we live, and yet they took the trouble, the initiative and the interest. “We are doing this with the attitude of seva. Don’t say thank you. We feel happy being useful,” they said.

Seva, in Sanskrit, means to serve without expectation. It means to be selfless while giving. I have understood giving in similar terms as the ability to give when you don’t have to be giving, but you still give, because you want to give.

Let’s be inspired by Master Ryokan’s story and this wonderful couple. Let’s pause and hear the story of a beating heart today. Maybe someone needs our time. Maybe someone needs a hug. Or someone just needs a hot meal. Let’s not wait to be asked. Let’s look around and see what people around us perhaps need – most often it is stuff that they are too shy to even ask for. And let’s give ourselves selflessly. We will find a great quality of inner peace arising within us. Because then we will have discovered that the art of living is truly about the art of giving!


Give freely and joyously

It was the American writer and lawyer Albert Pike (1809~1891) who memorably said: “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.

Yesterday, I heard a story. There once was a very wealthy man who was very attached to his wealth. He had this bizarre idea of taking all his wealth with him to ‘the other world’ after his earthly sojourn ended. He advertised in the papers that he was willing to offer half of his wealth to anyone who gave him an idea that will “ensure” that he could take all his wealth with him to “the other world” when he died. People who saw the advertisement thought the man had gone loony. Many days passed and not even one person contacted the wealthy man. His advisors and friends told him that no one ever will because his was such a bizarre expectation. And then, about four weeks after the advertisement appeared, a man called up claiming he knew of a way this could be done. The wealthy man immediately agreed to meet him. The caller set a pre-condition for sharing his idea. He insisted that half the wealthy man’s fortune be immediately transferred in his name before he gave away the idea. The wealthy man evaluated his options and concluded that since no one else had even come forward, the only way he had even half a chance of taking at least half his wealth with him when he died was to agree to the caller’s condition. So, the transfer deeds were done, the bank transfers were completed and the two men met in the wealthy man’s home for the ‘idea’ to be shared.

The caller said: “Sir, just as your country’s currency will not be valued in another, and so just as you have to take foreign exchange with you in lieu of an equal amount of your local currency when traveling overseas, you have to enter into a unique exchange agreement if you are to take your wealth with you to ‘the other world’. That exchange agreement requires you to give away all your wealth to help the poor and the needy. For every cent that you give away, you will get a credit of one goodwill point. Those points will be directly credited into your ‘other world’ account . You can’t see the account while you are here. You can access your goodwill account only in ‘the other world’. If you carry out this advice of mine you can be sure of getting goodwill credits that are equal to your wealth on this planet!”

The wealthy man simply agreed to follow the caller’s advice without protest. He gave away the other half of his wealth joyously to the poor and needy. When he died, his whole country mourned and millions showed up at his funeral. The foolish but rich man had ended up doing good by giving freely, albeit inadvertently.

Surely, we are not foolish. We do get the moral of this story straightaway, don’t we? For, what of ours have we brought with us and what will we take away? Everything that we think belongs to us is impermanent, including our Life. So, let’s give joyously. Through our giving selflessly, freely, we can make a difference, we can touch another Life! That is the only true wealth we can ever claim to have earned in this lifetime!

Give yourself, of yourself, selflessly!


There’s great joy in giving.

 

Even you have lost everything in Life, you still have one thing to give – yourself! One of the reasons why you don’t give__your time, your understanding, your love, your money__in most situations is because you are worried about the eventuality of what if your don’t have enough for yourself! So you try to protect what you think you can possess, protect and prevent from being taken away! But what if everything is taken away? What if you don’t have enough time, or even the understanding of people, don’t have anyone loving you anymore or no money? Then, you can take a depressive approach to Life and say Life is not worth living anymore. Or you can start living__at least now__and start giving!

 


Here’s a little secret: only by giving can your become rich! Whatever you give, you get more of. But never give for the sake of getting. Just give. Give when you don’t have to give. When you don’t need to give. Because you WANT to give!

 

The other side of the story is that when you don’t give then what you don’t give is possessing you. Only when you give can you own something. When you can’t give, you are being controlled, owned and possessed by the possession. Of what use is all your money if it can touch a Life and make a difference to someone? Of what use is your love if you cannot be compassionate? Of what use is your time if you can’t invest it in serving humanity? Of what use is your faith, your patience, if you can’t understand someone?

 

 

So give! GIVE. Give without expectation. Give yourself, of yourself, selflessly. Simply, GIVE! Give your understanding, despite the circumstances, to someone who craves for it. Give your time, even on a busy nerve-wracking day, to those who need your counsel/support. Give someone a hug. Or give a small token contribution to a deserving stranger on the street whom you don’t even know! You could give a box of sweets or a simple dress, whatever you feel like. In your giving, you will light up your Life and another’s! That’s how we bring Peace, Prosperity and Light__words we so randomly use__in our worlds!

Will you be a Santa today__and all year round?


The true purpose of Life is to serve. And that’s what the spirit of Christmas is all about too.

As kids we have all grown up adoring Santa. We have waited for our gifts. Or in families such as mine, where Santa was seen as something Western, Christian, we perhaps quietly envied those whose lives were touched by Santa. Even if it was about some wishes coming true or about surprise gifts coming clothed in stockings, there was an admirable quality about Santa. He toiled to make others happy. I remember, as a young boy growing up in New Rajinder Nagar in New Delhi, in the year preceding the imposition of Emergency in India, wondering if Santa would not be tired visiting so many homes. My bed was beside the window. And my neighbor Buba, whose family had a Christmas tree up in their balcony with festive lights adorning the frontage, making it all, look surreal and beautiful, had told me that he had wished for Santa to deliver a battery operated toy car to him! Buba’s balcony was in front of my window. I remember sitting up all night, keeping vigil on Buba’s balcony, trying to see if Santa really came by. I must have slept at some point because I did not see Santa come in. But Buba had his wish fulfilled. He came running home first thing the next morning to show off his new toy car!

My own views of Santa have changed obviously over the years. From thinking of him as a religious father figure __ because he visited only Christian homes! __ to seeing the message of selfless service in his legend. And now I see Santa as a metaphor for service, for touching lives and for making a difference. Santa is also an inspiration for serving selflessly __ have you ever wondered what wish Santa may be wishing, what gift Santa wants or who will grant him his wish or give him his present?

Surely, as each generation grows up, it will realize, just as we all have, that Santa is what parents play to their excited little ones. But perhaps there is value in teaching our children, and their children, that a true Santa is really one who touches lives and makes a difference.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, try something different today. Don’t try it because I invite you to or that you want to feel good. Even wanting to feel good is an expectation. Do it because you genuinely want to give! Take anything that you have not used in 6 months __ except your passport __ and which you think will be more useful to someone else. It could be books, clothes, shoes, blankets, pillows, suitcases, a table lamp, utensils, a pen drive, an old wristwatch, a bunch of music CDs, whatever. Go around a couple of blocks in your neighborhood. And give away whoever needs whatever you have with you. Someone may not need any of these things you carry with you, but may just want a hot coffee, or some soup or a meal. Buy them that. Or sometimes people may just need someone to talk to. Give them your time, your presence and your attention. When you are handing over whatever you eventually will, look the person in the eye and say, from the bottom of your heart, ‘Thank You. Feel genuinely grateful for this opportunity to serve. If you felt blessed and drenched in a rare energy, do it every day. Or at least when you get time or whenever you feel depressed, trampled upon or lost in Life.

The essence of intelligent living is in understanding that it is far more significant to be useful than just be successful. A small mass of humanity is successful. An equally small mass of humanity is useful. But it is only the latter that make a big difference to a large mass of humanity that is suffering and lives in hunger and depravation __ yearning for food, clothing, warmth, shelter and above all, compassion.

You can choose to be Santa and touch those who form this unfortunate majority. Go touch a Life this Christmas __ that would be a far more intelligent thing to do than just post hollow greetings, that you have not even applied your mind, forget soul, to, on social media or instant messaging services.

In reality, Santa is timeless. And seasonless. When you value someone’s need as higher than your own, when you make an effort with no self-gain in mind, when you simply give because you want to give, you will be a Santa too and each day will be merry __ Christmas or not __ meaningful and memorable.