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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Our compassion is urgently required – to heal the world

If you have been able to live today doing something proactively for someone, which cannot be repaid to you, then you have led a meaningful day.
This morning, while on our walk, we spotted a home, outside which someone had drawn a beautiful kolam (a design, a.k.a rangoliif it is drawn with colors, drawn on the ground using rice powder – a prevalent daily practice in south India and used in north India on special occasions). A hungry crow pecked merrily on the rice powder oblivious of the walkers who rushed past. My wife paused to admire this beautiful sight. She remarked to me: “Look, how meaningful is this ritual of drawing a kolamusing rice powder. It serves the purpose of beautifying the front of the home no doubt, but it works as a simple method to feed ants and birds.”
As we continued on our walk, I reflected on the thinker-guru, Eknath Easwaran’s (1910~1999; it’s also his birthday today) book The Compassionate Universe that I had read some time ago. Easwaran had written: “My grandmother lived in a Universe filled with Life. It was impossible for her to conceive of any creature — even the smallest insect, let alone a human being — as insignificant. In every leaf, flower, animal, and star she saw the expression of a compassionate Universe, whose laws were not competition and survival of the fittest but cooperation, artistry, and thrift. . . .The earth was our home, she would have said, but no less was it home to the oxen that pulled our plows or the elephants that roamed in the forest and worked for us. They lived with us as partners whose well-being was inseparable from our own.
And so, this morning, I learnt the value of the ritual of drawing a kolam with rice powder. Most people of today’s generation have given up on this practice as they perhaps find it boring or irrelevant or both. But this is a practice, as I understand it now, that sows the seeds of compassion early on and helps you to not just think for yourself but to think for the entire ecosystem. To be compassionate is to do something meaningful, proactively, selflessly, in such a manner that it can never be repaid to you. Compassion is when the love within you – for creation, for the Universe, for all beings – overflows. Even if you can’t do anything physical for anyone, just sending them positive energy is compassion.

Being compassionate in these times needs more intent than just reason. And our compassion is urgently required to make this world a better place. There’s something compassionate you and I can do today, right now, apart from possibly drawing a rice powder kolam outside our homes – we can send positive energy and a long distance hug to all those parents and families in Peshawar who lost their children in yesterday’s dastardly Taliban attack. If misplaced passion, as in the case of the Taliban, can continue to cause destruction, our compassion can and will heal the world! 

To make Life meaningful, allow yourself to be infected by compassion

A significant aspect of our evolution as human beings is to move from passion to compassion.
Almost all of us are passionate about things we love__perhaps in varying degrees. But it is equally important for us to be compassionate. In Urdu there’s a phrase called ‘rehmat ka farishta’. ‘Rehmat’means compassion. ‘Farishta’ means angel or messenger. While passion is an expression of pursuing what’s most important for the individual, compassion involves pursuing what involves another/others. Passion gets us success, compassion brings us peace.
Each of us, without doubt, has the opportunity to be a ‘rehmat ka farishta’, an angel of compassion. What better way to explore that side of yourself, than now? A Manic Monday, when you are dealing with post-weekend blues, is great opportunity to be compassionate. Reach out and touch someone who you don’t know today __ may be a hot coffee or soup, may be an old blanket you don’t use anymore, may be a prayer for the one you cross on the street. Just including others in your thoughts is an act of compassion. It can set you off on this wondrous journey called self-realization.
When you are infected by compassion, your life acquires a new meaning. A rare, addictive, peace engulfs you. The capital ‘I’ in your Life loses significance, you stop obsessing with yourself and you start looking at the world, and its beautiful people, around you. That’s how you truly awaken!

Because, ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’

Do what you love doing! And live Life up as long as it lasts!

Another year is ending. And a new one begins in a few hours from now. Across the world people have made plans for night-long revelry and partying. Soon, as a new dawn breaks, the new year too will become predictable – and at the end of the first week, will even become routine, boring and pedestrian. We will all have returned to our daily lives, back from vacations and parties, running faster and faster on Life’s treadmill – only to discover that we are not getting anywhere. We will continue to complain: that there isn’t enough time to follow our dreams, that whatever we earn is just not enough, that we never seem to be finding true love or that our health challenges are becoming more and more unbearable.

Why is it that we often feel good when we are vacationing or are at a party and never quite feel good about the biggest party of them all – Life?

The answer lies in our understanding of Life. Or the lack of it!

Michael Schumacher’s Helmet
As reports about F1 racing legend Michael Schumacher suggest, it’s tragic that he finds himself where he is. Someone who defied death on the racing tracks has been felled, rather uncannily, off it. As he battles for his Life, there’s no better message for the coming year that I can think of than the one Michael always displayed on his helmet: “Life is about passions (sic!) – Thank You for sharing mine.” To be sure, Michael lived this message! He followed his passion, he followed his bliss!

With each passing year, you are drawing closer to your death. The only thing constant and predictable about Life is that it will end. So, there’s as much a responsibility that each of us has, as there is opportunity, to live this Life, that we have been given, fully! And your Life could not have been lived fully if you have not followed your bliss – if you have not done what you loved doing.

Many of us are so caught up with earning-a-living that we have not lived. There’s a gnawing pain within, a regret that gets only more pronounced with each passing year. Every birthday is a grim reminder that there is lesser time available. And then, when something tragic, like in Michael’s case, happens to us, we look back in regret – wondering if we could not have lived Life differently. If we could not have followed our dreams. While saying all this, I am not belittling the importance of keeping your economic engine running. Of course, each of us has a responsibility towards our families – to our parents, spouses, siblings and children. Providing for them requires reprioritization of Life’s To-Do lists and, of course, money. Therefore, I am not recommending that you focus only on yourself. I am only suggesting that let your selflessness not consume your passion, your inner joy, your bliss.

So, as you enter another year, as the festivities die down, pause and reflect on your Life. Ask yourself what would you have liked to have attempted doing in Life? Work on a plan that helps you maintain a balance between what you need to keep your income stream steady and what you need to do to keep you inner joy flowing. Execute that plan in 2014. Undoubtedly, as you get started, you will struggle. You will stumble. You will fall. But keep at it. And soon, you will have learned the art of living – fully, happily!
Make each moment, for the rest of your Life, memorable. Livethem! For, you live only once! Because, ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’!

Wishing you and your precious family lots of love, peace and abundance all through 2014…


How are you paying your rent to the Universe?

Someone who I got to know recently wrote to me about the concept of paying our dues, as a rent, to the Universe – for having been created human and for enjoying the abundance that is available to us. The idea of paying back to the Universe appeals to me greatly.
If we pause to look up from the earning-a-living spree that we all find ourselves caught up in, if we step back and away from being obsessed with the imperfections in our lives and if we stop being attached to material things – we will find that there are many opportunities in everyday living that can help us touch another Life, make a difference and contribute to make this world a better place than it is now!
The way to do this is to transform passion into compassion. We are all passionate. About people, about vocations, about events. Passion is very individual and is directed only at someone or something. It is basically a lot of personal, possessive energy. This sense of possessiveness often makes people want to control, dominate and demand. And so, ever so often, passion becomes a selfish, draining pursuit. On the other hand, compassion is not at all about being possessive about someone or something. It is the same energy as passion is but it is about making that energy in you available to everyone. It is like a rain that showers and drenches whoever and whatever it falls upon. Simply, compassion is expansive – a radiation, a glow, while passion is regressive – controlling and possessing.
When we stop obsessing about what isn’t there in our daily lives and employ ourselves selflessly in whatever small way to make a difference, we can transform our passion into compassion. It’s not difficult. What it requires is an effort. The most inspiring example of this transformation is Mother Teresa, whose birthday it is today! And she taught the simplest way to get started on this transformational journey when she said: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed only one.”
This is a practice my wife and started four years ago and follow till date. We feed one person, randomly – someone who we find on the street – at mealtimes daily. When we do offer the packet of food, we look into the person’s eye and say “Thank You!” Because while the act of service may make us feel warm within, what humbles us and keeps us anchored really is the opportunity to serve. This practice is our own small way of paying our rent to the Universe.
Perhaps you have your own practice too. More power to you if you do. Or if you haven’t started to pay your rent, you may now want to, going forward?

Choose Compassion over Passion to Live Life Fully!


Love people and use things. People are to be understood and loved. Things are meant to be possessed and used. But if you look at how the world works today people are used and things are loved! Therein lies the answer to the incompleteness in our lives!

Almost all of us have either been used, or even abused in some cases, or we have too much attachment to material things, our possessions. So, we find, despite all the passion we have for things or what we do, something’s missing. That missing ingredient is compassion.

Passion is about ownership. It’s a drive that is powered subconsciously, biologically. If you are passionate about your lover or your child or your car, you will want to control her or it. Passion, of course, is critical to growth and progress__and in the context of success, ensures winning! But pure ownership and control makes, in the long term, you being possessed by what you try to own or control. Compassion on the other hand is pure, unadulterated love. There’s no possession here. There’s no biological dimension here. It is both conscious and spiritual. And therefore, there’s no ego, no jealousy, no insecurity. So compassion leads you to freedom. You may physically possess something but you will not grieve its loss because you are free from bondage. You are detached. Compassion is a great force. It helps you appreciate the diversity in Life, in people, helps you accept it and allows you to understand them better. Compassion is about loving and living wholesomely.

In order to transcend your passion and move into the realm of compassion, begin first by loving all the people in your circle of influence, unconditionally. Irrespective of who they are and what they have done to you. Don’t try to wish that they are different. Accept them for who they are. Wish them well and pray of their welfare even if they are trying to make Life miserable for you. Next, every time you feel attached to a thing, ponder over the impermanent nature of Life itself. Every single time bring your mind to attend over the tenure of your lifetime and remind yourself that you have come with an expiry date, except you don’t know what it is! So then, in the wake of understanding the fragility of your own Life, the object of your attachment will instantaneously cease to hold value or attract you anymore.

You will then see the clear distinction between people and things. And you will want to spend your Life, or whatever is left of it, loving Life, loving people and using things to the fullest!


Compassion alone makes living bliss!


One reason everyone struggles with living is that we are too self-obsessed.

The focus all the time is on what you need, what you are going through and what’s in everything that’s happening for you! The you here at times is just the individual or, often times, your family. Look around you. And reflect on the behavior of people in your circle of influence. Spend quality time reviewing how you experience them and how, perhaps, they experience you. With the exception of a few, almost everyone, including you, is self-obsessed. From the neighbor to your maid to your colleague to your manager to your elected representative, everyone is working toward and asking, all the time, “what’s in it for me?”! This is the main cause of unhappiness in the world. This tendency to be self-focused and not be even remotely interested in the welfare of people around you. This attitude is so prevalent that, on the other hand, people don’t want to even allow you to be interested in them!  

Swagat Thorat
I met a man called Swagat Thorat in Mumbai yesterday who reinforced in me the need for us, citizens of this big, beautiful world, to be compassionate. Swagat is a journalist, wildlife photographer and a film-maker. Almost 20 years ago he was commissioned by Doordarshan (the state-run TV channel in India) to do a documentary on students who were visually challenged. The experience of making the documentary exposed Swagat to a whole new world of darkness that we sighted people are unfamiliar with. Swagat was so moved that for several years he tied a blindfold over is eyes to understand the lives of the visually challenged better. He learned Braille and decided to apply his talent__which was in the space of media and communication__and launched a Marathi fortnightly in Braille called Sparshdnyan. Here is someone who can see but has decided to devote his entire Life to help those who can’t see by providing them an equal opportunity to learn and acquire knowledge. The fortnightly is free for visually challenged subscribers and he supports his operations from offering donors the opportunity to gift a free subscription for someone who cannot see. His next project is to launch a Braille daily in English that will be available to the visually challenged community across India. He says he faces huge challenges in bringing out his fortnightly on time but because he has the right motive, the means get taken care of, one way or the other. Sparshdnyan has not missed producing a single issue since its launch several years ago. “I don’t seriously worry about our financial challenges. Because our work is of a higher order. We are not in this for profit. We are into this with a purpose. I was always passionate as a journalist, photographer and filmmaker. Whatever I took up I did it well. I am still passionate. But when I entered the dark world of the visually challenged 20 years ago, it actually opened the eyes of my heart. I felt compassion for these people. So, I simply decided to focus on what I could do, with my limited resources, in my own small way. One thing has led to the other and this entire effort has now become a movement. I know a lot more needs to happen. But I never worry, I never despair. I let my inner core of joy guide me one day at a time, one step at a time, to touch the Life of one visually challenged person at a time,” explains Swagat. (The gift subscription for one visually challenged person annually is Rs.1200 or US $ 24. You can gift a subscription by writing to sparshdnyan@gmail.com or by going to www.braillenewspapers.org)

I find great value in what Swagat has shared with me. All of us have a lot of passion for whatever we do. But passion is such a selfish emotion. So it often results in self-obsession. Not that we should not focus on our lives, our families and provide for financial security or healthcare needs as time passes by. But somehow, several years of being only self-focused, makes earning-a-living a habit that’s difficult to break. So, we hardly see the world around us. We are too consumed by ourselves, our needs, our wants and our problems. Which is why, despite having everything that we need, we feel we are still missing something, searching for it, yearning for it, even as we are unable to define what is it that we are missing! The cause for such inexplicable unhappiness and discontentment is, simply, lack of compassion.

A woman called Kisa Gotami, who was suffering and in great misery, went to Gautama, the venerable Buddha, and asked him to help her bring back her dead son to Life. The Buddha accepted to do this for her provided she brought him a mustard seed from a family which had not seen death ever. Gotami spiritedly went around the entire village hoping to find one family where no one had died and was truly hoping to get a mustard seed from that home. After much knocking on doors and hearing painful, sad stories of death in every home, Gotami came back to the Buddha after four days and said she was NOW willing to accept the reality of her son’s death. She conceded: “Oh, Gautama, how selfish was my grief? I went from family to family and pretended for four long days that there might exist some clan of immortals. I have understood that those mothers alive who haven’t already lost a son are bound to lose one someday. And if they never lose a son, then a son is bound to lose a mother. And how many parents lie buried beneath our feet!” Her passion for her son and her passionate desire to bring him back alive were causing Gotami agony and suffering. The moment she replaced the passion with compassion__for every family in her village__she found peace and happiness despite her unfortunate circumstance of having lost a son.

Stay passionate by all means. But know that compassion is uplifting. It is liberating. It makes living worthwhile. It alone leads you to equanimity, peace, happiness and bliss__in that order!