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August 11, 2012

Compassion and Doing Good

Arup Mitra

Source:  The Times of India

Every faith promotes compassion, for once the majority is compassionate, Earth would
turn into Heaven indeed. Since today, most societies are dominated by selfish
individuals, it is natural for one to dismiss the path of compassion as foolhardiness.

In this situation Swami Vivekananda's argument appears very convincing. Serving
others, if taken by an individual as an opportunity to refine oneself and go a step
closer to God, would ensure that one is not bothered by consequences even if one
ends up being exploited by others. That is, one begins to feel grateful for having the
opportunity to serve another.

It would be churlish on my part to think that i am doing good to the poor. Rather i
should be grateful to the poor that their suffering has actually brought me an
opportunity to improve myself and thus progress further in the pursuit of higher goals
in life.

There are several instances when the benefactor gets hurt by the beneficiary. In fact,
that is human nature: once you get served by someone you enjoy the benefit and
forget the benefactor and his act of compassion. It hurts your ego to remember that
you have taken a favour from someone. So by pretending to be superior or by trying
to demean the benefactor we nurture our ego and convince ourselves that we haven't
really been helped by anyone.

However, heart of hearts we know that it is not true but by repeating it to ourselves we
try to get convinced by what we want to be true.

In such a situation remember the tree. The tree does not judge anyone: its nature is
to give and it goes on doing what it does best - nurturing. Even if someone hurts the
tree after enjoying the shadow it offers and flowers and fruits, it remains indifferent. It
continues its karma of giving always. It does not matter even if an undeserving person
has taken full advantage of you and at the end pushed you down. What matters is
your state of mind. Who you give to is unimportant; the fact that you could give
without any expectation is something that is desirable. Rather, one should be
prepared for negative outcomes while serving others.

Ishwar Chandra, the educationist from Bengal, was once informed by a colleague that
someone was abusing him. He quickly asked, "Why so? I don't remember having done
any good to him!" We often are worried about harm caused or caused to us by
others. But if we introspect, then we will find that what can be harmed is temporary
and what we belong to is permanent, which cannot be harmed in any manner.

Ramakrishna says, who are you to show mercy to others? The all-merciful has been
rather generous to you to give you the ability and a full-fledged opportunity to utilise it
selflessly. Hence, it is compassion for others, not mercy that we should be striving to
practise. If we start thinking in this manner then the selfish attitude of the rest of
society cannot disturb us or demotivate us from pursuing what we believe in.

Another way of avoiding frustration is to forget completely if we ever did any good to
others but remember always what we took from others and try to reciprocate in
whatever way we can. Forgetfulness in certain contexts can indeed be bliss.