Conversation #1: The Value of Compassion
As an initial conversation I would like to share with you Albert Einstein’s thoughts on compassion. He writes, “A human being is a part of the whole called by us Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
I am certain that this resonates with you as much as it does with me and helps us to recognise the importance of various conversations, we will have related to compassion.
Compassion is defined as ‘a feeling of deep sympathy for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.’
Hence, many of us have been asked to use our voice for kindness, our ears for compassion, our hands for charity, our mind for truth, and our heart for love. It is therefore clear that Compassion is the most valuable quality we possess. Yet all too often it can be cast aside with consequences too tragic to speak of. When we lose our compassion, we lose what it is to be human.
The Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh, reminds us that “Compassion is a verb”, while the Dalai Lama emphasises that “It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act.”
Therefore, it would be fair to accept that compassion refers to both a feeling and the action that stems from that feeling. Karen Armstrong aptly states that, “In compassion, when we feel with the other, we dethrone ourselves from the center of our world and we put another person there.”
It is equally important to note that if your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. “When we give ourselves compassion, we are opening our hearts in a way that can transform our lives,” says Kristin Neff. It has also been widely noticed that many are realising that, one of the secrets of inner peace, is the practice of compassion.
Keeping all this understanding in mind, Conversations on Compassion has been started as a platform where many can come together on this journey of exploring further all the offerings and expanding one’s own understanding of Compassion as well as its critical role in shaping the well-being of fellow human beings and ourselves.
“Instill compassion above everything else, in children. I hope we grow more sensitive to the pain of others and grow more compassionate.”– SRI M
Conversation #2: Shared Compassion
At times we intimately understand the emotions others are experiencing and this intense empathy can inspire us to seek opportunities to act philanthropically. We may be particularly sympathetic to the needs and vulnerabilities of people less fortunate than ourselves and uniquely capable of finding solutions to their difficulties.
That said, our inability to quell worldwide suffering and pain can weigh heavily on our hearts as we come to realize that there are limits to what one individual or even a small organisation can accomplish.
However, we can ease this frustration by remembering that we share a special connection with those empathetic people whose goals are similar to our own. The empathy we feel for others creates a bond that unites us with those who feel called to do what they can to rid the world of suffering. The ability to feel the pain of another is valuable in that it allows us to understand the plight of those facing hardships and tribulations.
When we connect with individuals who possess this ability, Shared Compassion prompts us to pool forces to empower ourselves to help as many people in need as we possibly can. Knowing that we are not alone and that others are striving to make the same headway against suffering can give us the confidence to act where and when we can, without worrying about individual limitations.
“In Compassion lies the World’s Greatest Strength”– GAUTAM BUDDHA
As we continue to allow our empathy to guide us, we will most certainly become a force of positive change. Let us therefore be committed to the cause of our Shared Compassion and consider asking our loved ones and peers to join us as we endeavour to make the world a better place.
Conversation #3: Planting Compassion
For the last decade or so, I have been fascinated by the tree being a powerful
symbol for the environment as well as constantly reminding us of the inter-connectedness of every life form that surrounds us. The Redwood Forest is an outstanding example of this.
The tree seems to show us that being compassionate to oneself as well as every life form around us, is how we would each best evolve to experience a life filled with more meaning and purpose. I think the picture of this majestic tree conveys the message completely and clearly.
Karen Shragg writes what many of us would struggle to express as effectively, though she captures with great clarity how many of us may feel:
“Think Like a Tree– KAREN SHRAGG
Soak up the sun.
Affirm life’s magic.
Be graceful in the wind.
Stand tall after a storm.
Feel refreshed after it rains.
Grow strong without notice.
Be prepared for each season,
changes come and go.
Hang tough through a bad spell.
Emerge renewed at the first signs of spring.
Stay deeply rooted, while reaching for the sky.
Be still long enough, to hear your own leaves rustling.”
Soon after Sri M completed the 7,500 kms. Walk of Hope in 2016, he initiated a Maitri Project / MyTree Project nation-wide. This inspired the inclusion of the concept into the PULSE Program at Pathways World School (PWS). Soon after, this further evolved into the ‘My Tree – My Story’ concept in PWS, and it was included as an element in the PULSE Award Program.
I am also absolutely delighted to share that the Charter for Compassion will be launching a Compassionate Tree Project on March 21 st , 2020, in partnership with The Green World Campaign.
‘The goal of the Compassion Tree Project (CTP) is to help return the Earth to her vibrancy by re-greening the world locally, regionally, nationally – and far beyond our borders wherever we live. Imagine a tree, or grove of trees in every yard, on every school and university campus, on the property of every faith and peace institution. Imagine a Compassion Tree planted in parks, green spaces and public areas in every community – each tree representing the commitment and responsibility of ensuring a healthy planet for future generations.’
Join us by participating in our Compassion Tree Project. We’re planting compassion for our world, Tree by Tree!
I Want To Plant Compassion!
Conversation #4: Letting Go Like a Tree
I feel compelled to share more thoughts inspired by Trees. Trees are Great masters in teaching us to Just Be. Being Mindful of the present moment & learning to Be Present, is what seems to give life a different meaning & purpose, as we meander through it. Every tree teaches us the art of Just Being.
Many have also realised that trees are the masters of Letting Go.
Trees show us how to let go, by gracefully shedding flowers & leaves that have served their purpose as well as letting branches that are deceased or hurt by man or animals, to fall off. Fruit trees also shed their over-ripened fruit, rather than hold on to something that would soon be rotting. Trees seem to know that Nature will provide the nutrients they need to create new and abundant foliage in the Spring and above all, seem wise enough to know that hanging on to that which no longer serves, only blocks the pathway for the new to emerge.
As Human Beings, learning to Let Go also requires us to face fears of the future. When we let go, we realize we must step out into the unknown, trusting that something is supporting us. We could do well by drawing inspiration from the trees that let go of their foliage, having full faith that spring will come and new leaves will burst forth.
Therefore, when we grieve the loss of a loved one, a phase of our life or miss the old and familiar places and friends because of a move to a new place, we could remind ourselves of the faith that a tree shows us. We need to remind ourselves to be in the moment, allow ourselves to fully experience the feelings of despair till they are spent and finally drop away. Trees have certainly taught us that it is better to let go of clinging to the past, so that we can become the best of who we are today.
“The real secret is that letting go is not an art, it is an allowing, a being. A non-attached relationship is healthy, strong and filled with effortless love, kindness, and compassion. It is completely selfless because your sense of ‘self’ is no longer asserted in every situation. If you want to truly let go, you’ve got to love more, not less.”– THICH NHAT HANH
Conversation #5: The Story of a River
I would like to share a story that I had shared through my presentations with both students and faculty. I hope this story has the same impact on you as it does on me.
The Story of a River – By Thich Nhat Hanh:
Born on the top of a mountain, the little spring dances her way down. The stream of water sings as she travels. She wants to go fast. She is unable to go slowly. Running, rushing, is the only way, maybe even flying. She wants to arrive. Arrive where? Arrive at the ocean. She has heard of the deep, blue, beautiful ocean. To become one with the ocean, that is what she wants.
Coming down to the plains, she grows into a young river. Winding her way through the beautiful meadows, she has to slow down. “Why can’t I run the way I could when I was a creek? I want to reach the deep, blue ocean. If I continue this slowly, how will I ever arrive there at all?” As a creek, she was not happy with what she was, she really wanted to grow into a river.
But, as a river, she does not feel happy either. She cannot bear to slow down.
Then, as she slows down, the young river begins to notice the beautiful clouds reflected in her water. They are of different colors and shapes floating in the sky, and they seem to be free to go anywhere they please. Wanting to be like a cloud, she begins to chase after the clouds, one after another. “I am not happy as a river. I want to be like you, or I shall suffer. Life is really not worth living”. So, the river begins to play the game. She chases after clouds. She learns to laugh and cry. But the clouds do not stay in one place for very long. “They reflect themselves in my water, but then they leave. No cloud seems to be faithful. Every cloud I know has left me. No cloud has ever brought me satisfaction or happiness. I hate their betrayal. The excitement of chasing after the clouds is not worth the suffering and despair”.
One afternoon, a strong wind carried all the clouds away. The sky became desperately empty. There were no more clouds to chase after. Life became empty for the river. She was so lonely she didn’t want to live anymore. But how could a river die? From something you become nothing. From someone, you become no one. Is it possible? During the night, the river went back to herself. She could not sleep. She listened to her own cries, the lapping of her water against the shore. This was the first time she had ever listened to herself deeply, and in doing so, she discovered something very important:
She had been chasing after clouds and she did not know that the clouds were her own nature. The river realized that the object of her search was within her. She touched peace. Suddenly, she could stop. She no longer felt the need to run after something outside herself. She was already what she wanted to become. The peace she experienced was truly gratifying and brought her a deep rest, a deep sleep.
When the river woke up the next morning, she discovered something new and wonderful reflected in her water – the blue sky. “How deep it is, how calm. The sky is immense, stable, welcoming and utterly free”. It seemed impossible to believe that this was the first time the river ever reflected the sky in her water. But that is true, because in the past, she was interested only in the clouds, and she never paid attention to the sky. No cloud could ever leave the sky. She knew that the clouds were there, hidden somewhere in the blue sky. The sky must contain within itself all the clouds and waters. Clouds seem impermanent, but the sky is always there as the faithful home of all the clouds.
Touching the sky, the river touched stability. She touched the ultimate. In the past, she had only touched the coming, going, being, and non being of the clouds. Now she was able to touch the home of all coming, going, being, and non being. No one could take the sky out of her water anymore. How wonderful it was to stop and touch! The stopping and touching brought her true stability and peace. She had arrived home.
That afternoon, the wind ceased to blow. The clouds came back one by one. The river had become wise. She was able to welcome each cloud with a smile. The clouds of many colors and shapes seemed to be the same, but then again, they were no longer the same for the river. She did not feel the need to possess or chase after any particular cloud. She smiled to each cloud with equanimity and loving kindness. She enjoyed their reflections in her water. But when they drifted away, the river did not feel deserted.She waved to them, saying “Goodbye. Have a nice journey.” She was no longer bound to any of the clouds. The day was a happy one. That night, when the river calmly opened up her heart to the sky, she received the most wonderful image ever reflected in her water – a beautiful full moon, a moon so bright, so refreshing, smiling.
All space seems to be there for the enjoyment of the moon, and she looked utterly free. The river reflected the moon in her water and enjoyed the same freedom and happiness.
The full moon of the Buddha travels in the sky of utmost emptiness. If the rivers of living beings are calm the refreshing moon will reflect beautifully in their water.
What a wonderful festive night for everyone – sky, clouds, moon, stars, and water. In the boundless peace, sky, clouds, moon, stars, and water enjoyed walking in meditation together. They walked with no need to arrive anywhere, not even the ocean. They could just be happy in the present moment. The river did not need to arrive at the ocean to become water. She knew she was water by nature and at the same time a cloud, the moon, the sky, the stars and the snow. Why should she run away from herself? Who speaks of a river as not flowing? A river does flow, yes. But she does not need to rush.
– Thich Nhat Hanh, From: “Teachings on Love”
Conversation #6: Honoring Significant International Days
Through the PULSE program, significant International Days are commemorated through interactive lessons or events. I would like to share some of these days that fall in the months of March & April.
World Water Day: March 22nd, 2020
World Water Day is an annual UN observance day that highlights the importance of freshwater. The day is used to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. World Water Day is celebrated around the world with a variety of events.
Water can help fight climate change. There are sustainable, affordable and scaleable water and sanitation solutions.
Everyone has a role to play. It is surprising how many water actions anyone, anywhere can take to address climate change.
Earth Hour: 28th March, 2020
Started by WWF and partners as a symbolic lights-out event in Sydney in 2007, Earth Hour is now one of the world’s largest grassroots movements for the environment. Held every year on the last Saturday of March, Earth Hour engages millions of people in more than 180 countries and territories, switching off their lights to show support for our planet.
But Earth Hour goes far beyond the symbolic action of switching off – it has become a catalyst for positive environmental impact, driving major legislative changes by harnessing the power of the people and collective action.
Today, Earth Hour aims to spark global conversations on protecting nature not only to combat the climate crisis, but to ensure our own health, happiness, prosperity and even survival.
International Golden Rule Day: April 5th, 2020
The Charter for Compassion is celebrating the Golden RuleDay (GRD – Treat others and the Planet as you would like to be treated) on the 5th of April 2020. This is a joint global effort of Charter for Compassion, Golden Rule Project, United Religions Initiative, Grandmothers’ Global Healing and Pragati Leadership.
The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the center of our world and put another there, and to honor the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.– KAREN ARMSTRONG
Since 2007, Golden Rule Day has been celebrated by more than 700 organisations in 140 countries.
On April 5, you are invited to be part of 24-hours devoted to the Golden Rule. All programming will be streamed through on the website: http://www.GoldenRuleDay.org and Facebook Live.
The Online programming will begin in New Zealand, Australia, and Japan and then move west, stopping in many countries – India, Pakistan, South Africa, Ethiopia, Europe, South America, Mexico, Canada, and the United Sates – and then ending 24 hours later in Hawaii. Golden Rule Day will be celebrated through live conversations, interviews, music, dance, prayers, service projects, acts of kindness, meditations, and some pre-recorded events. It is estimated that 500,000+ people will watch this event over the course of the day.
World Health Day: 7th April, 2020
Earth Day: 22nd April, 2020
“There is a revolution that needs to happen and it starts from inside each one of us. We need to wake up and fall in love with the earth. Our personal and collective happiness and survival depends on it.”– THICH NHAT HAHN
Participating in each of the above events will not just increase our awareness of the issues and concerns that face us as humans but will most certainly strengthen our commitment to such worthy causes.
I believe that through the PULSE Program, we have been able to inculcate Care, Concern and Compassion in many of the students as well as mentors who participated in it, as we have been sharing the universal principle of the Golden Rule, in our own way.
Conversation #7: Practicing the Pause
Once Buddha was traveling with a few of his followers. While they were passing a lake, Buddha told one of his disciples, “I am thirsty. Do get me some water from the lake.” The disciple walked up to the lake.
At that moment, a bullock cart started crossing through the lake. As a result, the water became very muddy and turbid. The disciple thought, “How can I give this muddy water to Buddha to drink?” So, he came back and told Buddha, “The water in there is very muddy. I don’t think it is fit to drink.”
After about half an hour, again Buddha asked the same disciple to go back to the lake. The disciple went back and found that the water was still muddy. He returned and informed Buddha about the same.
After some time, again Buddha asked the same disciple to go back. This time, the disciple found the mud had settled down, and the water was clean and clear. So, he collected some water in a pot and brought it to Buddha.
Buddha looked at the water, and then he looked up at the disciple and said, ……“See what you did to make the water clean. You let it be, and the mud settled down on its own and you have clear water.”
Your mind is like that too! When it is disturbed, just let it be. Give it a little time. It will settle down on its own. You don’t have to put in any effort to calm it down. It will happen. It is effortless.
Having ‘peace of mind’ is not a strenuous job, it is an effortless process so keep your mind cool and have a great life ahead…
Understanding the importance of knowing how to ‘Practise the Pause’ was another PULSE lesson, which generated a lot of discussion amongst the students and faculty and everyone seemed to have been deeply touched by the interactive session, as it also demonstrated the importance of practising Compassion and Patience for oneself as much as for others.
Stop trying to calm the storm. Calm yourself, the storm will pass.
The Full moon of the Buddha travels in the sky of utmost emptiness. If the rivers of living beings are calm, the refreshing moon will reflect beautifully in their water.-Thich Nhat Hanh
Conversation #8: Compassion arises through empathy and is characterized by actions”
– Written by Umar A.
“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”– Pema Chödrön
Compassion is not a sentimental response or to feel sorry but has a dimension to make a difference and ease suffering. It is an instinct natural to all human beings and helps us nurture ourselves as well as others. Let us make compassion contagious, uplift humanity and make ourselves happy. Let us have a shared humanity built on compassion and empathy.
At times we need to pause and take notice of people around us. We can surely make a difference. We keep talking about helping but when the need arises, we do not try to lend an empathic understanding to problems. If we combine our empathic understanding with empathic concern, we will deal with ourselves and others with compassion.
I read a beautiful quote, “All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart”. The more we realize our interconnectedness, the more likely we are to help others and strengthen the bond of shared humanity.
Compassion is about paying attention to the present moment with a loving attitude. Simple things like turning off your cell phone during a personal conversation or sending a thank you note after someone has you over for dinner can go a long way. Opening a door, giving up a seat, allowing someone to be ahead of you in a line. There are so many ways to show compassion and when we do so not only are we demonstrating our love for humanity as we are a living example of what love and kindness is all about.
Compassion arises through empathy and is characterized by actions. The simple act of showing compassion can make a world of difference in someone’s life.
Do not wait for a crisis to practice compassion. Try smiling at a stranger today.
Conversation #9: “Expressions of Compassion”
– Written by Aditi Iyer
I am Aditi Iyer. I’m a fifteen-year-old pop and opera singer. I studied in Pathways World School, Aravali for three years, and now I currently live in Mumbai. Very recently, I raised funds to help supply medical kits to municipal hospitals across Mumbai, along with The Golden Citizens Trust. The reason I chose to do this is because, while we get to stay safe in our homes, healthcare workers like doctors and nurses work tirelessly everyday, risking their lives for us. We owe it all to them and the least we can do is help them. By offering disinfectants and PPE (gloves, masks, protection wear) to numerous hospitals, I was helping healthcare workers cure patients without getting infected by the virus, themselves. I have raised 2 Lakhs, with the help of my parents, and have saved at least 200 lives.
My journey of doing good started when I was a student at Pathways. The PULSE and IGCA programs were integral parts of this wonderful journey. And, honestly speaking, these programs are one-of-a-kind. Most programs that schools include teach students a lot of things, such as various concepts and skills, but, rarely, do they teach the importance of compassion and being a global citizen.
It is thought that compassion is an innate quality, but one can also develop compassion if it is emphasized in their lives. That is what the PULSE and IGCA programs do. They teach important values like honesty, integrity, humility, and compassion, which, in turn, make you a caring person and a global citizen.
Values like the aforementioned ones are very important in life. This is because they help you realise that you are not the only one that matters, and that there are issues in the world that are much bigger than you. When you are able to realise this, you develop a very important quality called self-awareness. Self-awareness makes people happier and healthier. It eliminates pesky things like ego and insecurity, and gives your life meaning. You are in the mental state to help people and really make a difference. The kind of fulfillment and happiness that you receive from honesty, humility, integrity, and compassion is long-term.
As mentioned before, I am a singer. Thanks to self-awareness, I have been able to lend my voice to noble causes. I have sung for foundations promoting the rights of the girl child, going green, and other causes. I sang in a concert dedicated to helping the Nepal earthquake victims, in Epicentre in Gurgaon. I have also made a song about the coronavirus, recently, which was meant to raise morale and give people hope. I know that I am making a difference, however small, and I know that my efforts count for something. That is the best feeling in the world.
Thanks to the amazing people in my life, including my parents and important figures in Pathways World School, like both Dr. Pathma Naidu & Dr. Sarvesh Naidu, I have been able to Express Compassion through actions that resonate with me. While I will always be grateful for the opportunities to touch other lives meaningfully, I am certain that my journey in Compassion has just begun.
Conversation #10: Teaching through Compassion
A professor of a university went to Zen Master to get a solution to his problem. After listening to his problem, the Master instructed the Professor to put a teaspoon of salt in a glass of water and then to drink it. The Master asked – How does it taste? The professor replied – not good at all.
Then the two walked in silence to nearby lake and then the Master asked the Professor to take a teaspoon of salt and dissolve in the lake. The Master asked Professor now drink from the lake.
As the water dripped down the young man’s chin, the Master asked, how does it taste? Good! remarked the Professor. The Master asked did you taste the salt? ‘No’ said the Professor. The Master sat beside the Professor, took his hands, and said, the pain of life is equal to a teaspoon of salt; no more, no less.
The amount of pain in life remains the same, exactly the same. But the amount we taste the pain depends on the container we put it into. Stop being a glass. Become a lake.
“If your cup is small, a little bit of salt will make the water salty. If your heart is small, then a little bit of pain can make you suffer. Your heart must be large.”– Thich Nhat Hahn