Billions of souls on planet earth experience suffering in some way or another. The Masters, those who've walked the earth with elevated consciousness, declare that we are here to experience life in all its dimensions and struggling makes us stronger. E.A. Bucchianeri, in his book, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly, says this about Jesus's suffering:"If Christ is God, He cannot sin, and if suffering was a sin in and by itself, He could not have suffered and died for us. However, since He took the most horrific death to redeem us, He showed us in fact that suffering and pain have great power." The bible verse, James 1:2-4 says this about suffering. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Helen Keller, a tragic, yet powerful figure who overcame huge obstacles said this: "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience, through trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved." Kahlil Gibran, author of the infamous book, "The Prophet" says this: "Out of suffering has emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars."
So my dilemma is this: If I see a homeless man or woman, should I have compassion and feel sorry for him or her? Should I try to help if they have not asked me to? Should I look upon them with pity because I have a home to go to? Or, should I honor them for their choice? Should I let them evolve in their own way into that most massive character with scars? Should I acknowledge the fact that they are learning what they came to earth to learn? Should I take home their worries? Do I even know what their worries are? Can I presume to know them better than they know themselves? How about the millions of souls in Japan after the tsunami? How do I as a compassionate human being fall asleep at night knowing how they suffer? I live thousands of miles away, yet the media coverage brought it into my living room and it was extremely difficult not to be moved by the devastation. As a compassionate human, what can I do for them? They are experiencing trials and suffering, and according to Helen Keller, their souls are strengthened because of the tragedy. Millions of animals a day lose their lives in kill shelters, by hunters, poachers, brutes who gain pleasure in torturing and killing innocent animals. How can I stand by and let this happen? How can I not inflict the same atrocity upon them, as I am sometimes want to do? Children suffer at the hands of adults who should be protecting them, not hurting them, exploiting them, destroying their chance at ever having a normal life. How do I as a compassionate human being allow these horrors to happen? Are they seared with scars, making them massive characters? Does their pain and suffering have great power? I don't know about you, but if I am alerted to anyone, especially an animal or a child, who is being harmed in some fashion or another, I cannot stand idly by and let them gain a greater understanding of themselves at the hands of a brute even if it means placing myself in danger. Compassion for their suffering compels me to act, to alleviate their suffering, to save them.
How about his scenario, much less graphic than the a fore mentioned, but sometimes tragic all the same. Let's say, for instance, my son/daughter makes a decision that I am quite aware will place them in danger, or if not danger, the consequence will most likely be unpleasant. If I am a compassionate human being, should I let them suffer? What if they don't ask for my help or advice? If I know they will suffer as an outcome of their choice, should I step in? Or should I allow them the greatest gift one can give to another; the gift of experiencing what they came to earth to learn. Oh, it's a tough call and riddled with uncertainties, especially if a loved one is in trouble, begging for help as they've done dozens of times before, saying they promise they'll change if you help them one more time, and, you know they won't. Maybe compassion for the suffering in this scenario is to allow them to feel the nip of the wringer, to experience their consequence, live their choice, otherwise you've taken away their opportunity to learn, you've stepped in and become their higher power. Maybe compassion is honoring another's choice even if it interfere's with yours. Maybe compassion is honoring yourself enough to allow another human to struggle. Didn't Buddha say: "If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete?" In Buddhism, the ideal of practice is to selflessly act to alleviate suffering wherever it appears. We may argue it is impossible to eliminate suffering, and maybe it is, maybe people are supposed to suffer, yet, according to Buddhism, we're to respond anyway. And, according to Buddhism, having compassion for oneself is paramount to having compassion for others and puts oneself on the road to enlightenment. We should not ignore our own suffering.
Being a compassionate human, I suppose, does not mean standing idly by and watching another suffer if something can be done. The key here is understanding if another is suffering. Is the homeless man or woman suffering? Is the teenager stealing and selling drugs suffering? I know I cannot and should not be the arbiter of another's suffering, yet on the other hand, I cannot and should not be the arbiter of another's choice in how they wish to experience their life. Compassion for myself has led me to this understanding. Honoring another's choice, not interfering unless asked, understanding that if I do help it will not hinder my serenity, is the greatest gift I can give myself and another. Helping in service, not in servitude is how I determine when it's appropriate to step in. Honoring another, lending a hand, offering aid is offering compassion, but not when it interferes with my or my family's safety, health or well-being. These are things I must consider if I wish to practice compassion for there is often more at stake than offering a friendly hand. Compassion is first and foremost something I must give to myself in order to be effective. If I cannot help, I can honor the sacrifice others have made when they struggled with their suffering such as the victims of the tsunami tragedy in Japan and the victims of the recent earthquake in the Phillipines.
Humans are the highest form of life in the universe, so I believe. There are no other beings with higher consciousness than a human being. Seems a bit convoluted when there's so much drama, heartache, heartbreak, and sadness happening around the world. But since we're in the greatest compassionate shift in human history I can only strive to believe that this shift is an inner shift contrary to what the media presents to us daily. Around the world there are huge uprisings by those tired of the heavy hand of tyranny. The compassion millions are beginning to feel for themselves has thrust them from their homes, demanding better treatment from officials and employers, cleaner water, higher wages, fair trade practices, democracy. Compassion is not just about offering aid to the suffering, it is believing with your whole heart that you deserve better and you'll do anything to see it done. Maybe the brutes of the world, those who harm, will begin to feel compassion for themselves and stop their brutality. A compassionate person does not inflict harm. Buddhism is built on compassion and complete harmlessness. My hope is this: One day, soon, humanity will have fallen in love with themselves so completely it would be impossible to inflict harm on themselves or anyone else, then, peace will surely come to planet earth.
And so, I go forth from today with compassion for myself first and foremost. Knowing this to be true, I will do my best to alleviate my own suffering so that I might alleviate someone else's. I will strive to hone my passion, for with this comes compassion. I will honor other's for their choices and help if they ask if it doesn't interfere with my family's safety, health, or well-being. I will honor and put into the highest light those who've chosen a life of struggle, of pain, and of lack. I will not feel sorry for them, this will only dishonor their choice, but I will, if asked, attempt to alleviate their suffering to the best of my ability. If I have to 'stand behind the short fence' when struggle and strife happen on the other side of the world, or even in my own neighborhood, I will if it means honoring another. I will not become emotionally involved in the drama, rather I will infuse the situation with light and compassion and understand the outcome as appropriate to their life's plan. This is not easy, but I will do my best not to add fuel to the fire. My job, this time around on planet earth, is to anchor light, anchor love, and anchor compassion by being a match holder, a lightworker, a light house. The light house does not get involved in the drama of the sea, it shines its light so that others might see. I will do my best and hope I do not let myself or anyone else down.