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 Enlivens Our Shared Humanity
– 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
Conversation #11: Compassion for Planet Earth through The Healing Himalayas Foundation
On the 5th of June, at World Environment Day, I, Saarang, was reminded of the wonderful journey I had last year with the Healing Himalayas Foundation cleaning the mountain trail of Kheerganga, a popular tourist attraction near the hill station of Manali. I was accompanying the students of Masti Ki Paathshala, from the village of Agar in the Alwar District of Rajasthan, on a trip sponsored by the Global Citizen’s Award Program from Pathways World School.
The bus ride from the local tourist hub Kasol, to Barshaini, the base of the trek, was on a very steep and winding road, even for the mountains. I knew better than to question whether the old bus, with peeling paint and a rattling engine, would be able to climb up the slope, but I could hear fearful squeals from fellow passengers. That is when I noticed how crowded the bus was. I had thought most of the people would have gotten off at Kasol, but the bus was flocked with tourists. The relationship between tourism in the Himalayas and environmental harm is slightly perplexing, because the very people who come to “experience nature” are the ones who pollute it. As I looked at the passengers, I could see rucksacks with dangling JBL Bluetooth speakers, and disposable plastic bottles that were clearly stocked up for the upcoming trek.
In Barshaini, I met with Gautam and his students from Masti Ki Paathshala, and we walked up to the Healing Himalayas base camp. They talked about how excited they were to be in the mountains for the first time, and that they were hoping that we’d go high enough to see snow. Having travelled all the way from Alwar, they were very tired. After a hot meal, we all fell asleep in our tents so that we could wake up early and prepare for the trek.
The next morning, Pradeep Sangwan, the person who runs the foundation, told us about the work that they do, and how we should prepare for the trek. He was friendly and enthusiastic, and encouraged us to have fun on our journey while we picked up the garbage. We then packed, ate breakfast, and set off. We took about 25 sacks with us, to put the garbage in. On the trek, the leader of the group told us stories about Barshaini and Kheerganga. Walking with the sacks, we had the time of our lives. Every stream or waterfall that we came across, we would stop to celebrate and cool down in the water. The mountains were new to the students from Agar and they were very excited. At one point, we had deviated from the path a little bit to pick up garbage that had accumulated down the slope, and some of us got stung by bicchu buti (nettles). We gathered the cure, which is a plant that grows alongside the nettles, and went on our way, laughing about the stinging, tingling sensation. Some other tourists also decided to join us along the way, and they helped us fill the sacks. In short, the trip was like any other trek – we talked, stopped to look at birds, made friends along the way, and had lots of fun – we were focusing mainly on the garbage-picking, but it was not something that made the journey any less enjoyable. This is what is so beautiful about what the Healing Himalayas Foundation does – it gets groups of volunteers to help with the cleaning of mountain trails, while also providing a trekking experience that is enjoyable and has a sense of purpose.
We camped at Kheerganga for the night, having rested in the soothing hot springs that the place gets its name from. The next day, we got more bags than the initial twenty-five and went to clean the nearby spring. We filled up about 20 more bags here and carried these back down to the base in Barshaini along with the 25 bags that we had filled on our way up.
While we did have lots of fun during our time there, the amount of garbage and the effect it had on the environment was not lost on us. Even though we did carry a lot of garbage back, sadly, it was only a tiny fraction of what was left behind in the hills. What is most perplexing about the whole situation is how we, as humans, justify our actions. When we read articles such as this, we unconsciously align our ideals to these sentiments, to feel that our contributions to the environment is adequate. While a change in our ideals is useful and does help to bring about change, if it is superficially done to justify actions, such as in the case of the people who throw garbage in mountain trails, it becomes problematic.
A good place to start is to recognise that every single person, especially oneself, is guilty. While some people on the trail joined us, others argued about switching their speakers off, or denied the fact that they had thrown some bottles right in front of us. It is sad to think that if every person going on the trail were to carry a small bag to throw their garbage into, this problem would not even exist. It felt as if the amount that we had picked up had already been replaced by the tourists who had gone up and down during the two days that we had cleaned the area, which is what makes the work of the Foundation all the more important – they work tirelessly in areas such as this, all year-round, and therefore help to minimise the environmental impact. On the trail, many people joined to help us, carrying the sentiments of the Healing Himalayas Foundation back with them, just as we did. We left Kheerganga knowing that we had helped the place, and with the resolve to continue helping, wherever else we went in the world.
The reason environmental problems such as this are an issue is not that people do not know the consequences of their actions. The only difference between people that help pick up the garbage and people that throw it, is Compassion – Compassion for Planet Earth, together with a fascination and admiration for Nature.
In essence, what the Healing Himalayas Foundation does so beautifully through treks and campaigns is that it spreads this compassion to people, inspiring them to bring change. Experiencing their work first-hand, we learnt how to work hard and cooperate to achieve a common goal that we all care about. Most importantly, we learnt the true meaning of compassion, and that is something that is only possible when you are exposed to people who wholeheartedly care about something. Since its founding five years ago, the foundation has trekked 10,000 kilometers with their volunteers, and has collected 7 hundred tons of non-biodegradable waste from the Himalayas, while inspiring thousands of people along the way to do the same.
Conversation #12: The Healing Himalayas Foundation
In April 2016, Pradeep Sangwan set his mind on preserving the beauty and sanctity of the Himalayas, by turning it into his full-time job.
He established Healing Himalayas Foundation to provide travellers a trekking experience while cleaning up the trails.
The nature-lover’s actions soon resonated with local villagers and tourists, many of whom volunteered to address the garbage issue in the mountains.
Zhou Xijie, from Our Better World (OBW), the digital storytelling platform of the Singapore International Foundation, presented Pradeep Sangwan’s Inspiring work to help Heal the Himalayas, through this article online.
Read about Pradeep’s journey here: http://singaporemagazine.sif.org.sg/the-mountain-healer
The Mountain Healer – BY ZHOU XIJIE
Perturbed by the amount of waste that is polluting the Himalayas, avid trekker and nature lover Pradeep Sangwan decided to make cleaning up the region his business.
TACKLING WIDESPREAD POLLUTION
Perhaps what affected him the most was the pollution problem in the mountains. While visiting neighbouring areas such as the Hamta Pass and Kheerganga, both of which are tourist hotspots, Sangwan was shocked by the amount of garbage that was strewn along the trails.
“Kheerganga is an easy trek, so it’s very popular with tourists. Over a long weekend, almost 5,000 trekkers could pass through this place, leaving behind a huge carbon footprint,” he shares.
The company’s first outing to the Hamta Pass, involved only 4 people. Today, just 4 years later, the organisation has attracted nearly 5,000 volunteers from around the world, to help clean up the Himalayas. The amount of garbage they have retrieved, weighs in excess of 400,000kg.
Today, Healing Himalayas Foundation, is inspiring and touching many people and has fulfilled his vision of growing into a Travel-cum-Do Good organisation, that allows volunteers to take in the breath-taking scenes of nature, while helping to address the garbage issue.
Conversation #13: ‘Compassion-Inspired’ Projects
The IGCA Gold marks the third and the last step in one’s official IGCA journey, One of the prerequisites to attaining the Gold Award is completing a service project, which stems out of your compassion, resulting in the development of the community and/or the environment. My service project, however, was not a single project – it was split over two parts and included subsections to those two parts as well. These projects have certainly sprouted a change in my way of thinking, and I attempt to describe the same below.
I hope that the record of my projects further motivates others to undertake similar endeavours for the benefit of the community.
- Conducting a Newspaper Drive and Donating Recycled Products
As part my IGCA Gold community service project, my peers and I collected newspapers across our residential complexes, as we knocked from door-to-door and requested people to donate used newspapers to us by explaining our cause. We ultimately collected 88.2 kilograms of newspapers and donated it to a recycling organization called Green-O-Bin (find attached certificate). At Green-O-Bin, for every kilogram of newspaper donated, they provide you with a certain number of points which can be redeemed for a certain number of recycled notebooks and pens from the donated newspaper. For us, we could redeem Rs. 1058.40 towards purchasing recycled pens and notebooks; we purchased 30 pens, 35 notebooks, and 5 pencils from the given amount, to donate at Jagriti – the Banyan Tree School.
Subsequently, as previously asseverated, we distributed the notebooks and stationery at Jagriti – the Banyan Tree School and interacted with the students there. We educated them about the concept of recycling through which we had obtained the notebooks and stationery, thus spreading environmental awareness. The interaction with them also comprised of a few quiz games, introduction sessions, asking them about their opinions on the wall that we had done at the school earlier, among others, and was an extremely worthwhile experience.
Through the project, not only did I have a material outcome of recycled paper waste donated to a school for underprivileged children, I also created an increased environmental awareness among the children at the underprivileged and the people from whom I collected the newspapers, as primarily, we had to explain our cause and implications of recycling, motivating them to recycle even beyond door-to-door initiatives.
The community service project helped me grow, as not only did it help me realize that I deeply cared for the environment and wanted to promote the message of environmental consciousness and sustainability, but I also learnt more about the community by ascertaining that the message still has a lot of places to go. I became more open-minded and a better communicator as I answered the questions of the students at the school for the underprivileged, no matter how silly it would otherwise have been perceived, and thus also became more respectful.
I would also like to believe that this project was successful as it achieved 3 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 4 of Quality Education (as we provided the school for underprivileged with resources to conduct their curriculum unimpededly and also taught them about a concept which is crucial in the sustainable world – recycling), Goal 12 of Responsible Consumption and Production (as we recycled a resource that would have otherwise gone to landfills), and Goal 17 of Partnership for the Goals (as we spread awareness about one of the goals through recycling at an underprivileged institution and partnered up with certain institutions to meet some of the goals).
Ultimately, I grew as a learner. I learnt more about my community as I understood that strong action is required to promote environmental consciousness: I previously thought that it was known by all due to the prevalence of environmental consciousness in my school environment, but when I visited door-to-door and the school for underprivileged children, I realized that a majority of the community was still unaware of the culture of recycling into new products and its impact on the environment, therefore more initiatives are necessary, which I plan to undertake in the coming years.
- Conducting a Charity Sale and Distributing Meal Packets from the Profit
My peers, Tarana Tewari and Aradhya Poddar, and I conducted a charity sale, for which we hand-made products such as coloured, scented wax candles (made from only sustainable ingredients), and hand-painted and decorated notebooks (the notebooks were pre-bought, and were then worked on). It took us approximately a week to prepare for the sale. The prices for the products ranged: the basic candles cost Rs. 20, decorative candles cost Rs. 50, and notebooks ranged from Rs. 50 to Rs. 70. We went around two residential complexes, door-to-door, advertising our cause and motivating people to donate to charity through the products. The response was extremely overwhelming, as by the end of the sale we collected over two thousand rupees.
With the money collected, we purchased ingredients, including vegetables, wheat flour, frootis, chocolates, spices, lentils, among others, to curate an entire meal packet for the residents of an old-age home and asylum for mentally disabled patients, known as the Earth Saviours Foundation. With the assistance of the domestic help, we cooked a meal of Puri and Sabzi, and added other add-ons for it to be an entire meal. The goal of creating home-cooked food packets for the residents of the old-age home and asylum, was to refine their mental straits, to make them feel more at home, for the reason that many of the older adults at the home felt abandoned by their children, thus it would give them a more homely feeling and make them feel more wanted and welcomed. However, as we had extras left as well of the approximately 60 packets of food that we had cooked, we distributed a few of those packets to underprivileged children outside a temple that I usually visit. This required a day, and the experience was extremely gratifying, as we could see the happiness on the faces of those whom we served.
My community service project was also synchronous with some of the Sustainable Development Goals, including but not limited to: (i) Goal 2 (Zero Hunger), as we fed the underprivileged besides the residents of the Earth Saviours Foundation, (ii) Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), as we assisted in promoting the stability of mental health patients at the Earth Saviours Foundation, and (iii) Goal 17 (Partnership for the Goals), as we partnered up an institution to meet the aforementioned goals.
Throughout the project, my learning and growth was multifaceted – not only did I become more responsible and understanding with regards to my own peers, but I also became more perseverant. To explain, as I was working in a group to conduct this project, I had to collaborate with my peers to achieve the outcomes in the most efficient yet effective manner. This meant that I had to listen to my peers’ ideas and factor in their schedules when deciding dates to conduct the project. We all had to evaluate the action plans considering each one’s requirement in terms of award programs, natural inclinations, among others. Therefore, this project primarily taught me how to effectively collaborate with others. Furthermore, this project taught me how to persevere, by sustaining my efforts against challenges – for example, we initially struggled to make sales with our products, and while that was an initial setback, we ultimately uncovered solutions in taking a more personal approach to the sales by knocking door-to-door rather than exhibiting at a local market complex.
Additionally, through my interaction with various communities during this project, I believe that I gained a better sense of both the privileged (through the charity sale) and the marginalized sections of the community (through the distribution of food packets).Primarily, by interacting with the marginalized, I corroborated their feelings of extreme need and ascertained that they are unable to voice their needs through a larger platform or connect with responsible individuals who could effectively voice their needs for them. Contrariwise, from the charity sale, I understood that, while the privileged feel strongly for the marginalized and would like to help on a personal level, they lack the time in their metropolitan lifestyles to personally reach out to the marginalized; therefore, it is important for such community services to be made available to them, where the contribution is transparent and accessible for them to make. Keeping that in mind, as my future vision, I would like to conduct more such initiatives that become a bridge between the resources of the privileged and the needs of the marginalized.
Conversation # 14 : Respecting Invisible Labels
A car ahead was moving like a turtle and not giving me way despite my continuous honking! I was on brink of losing my cool when I noticed the small sticker on the car’s rear!
And that changed everything!! I immediately went calm & slowed down!! In fact, I got a little protective of the car & the driver!!!
I reached home a few minutes late, but it was ok! And then it struck me. Would I have been patient if there was no sticker?
Why do we need stickers to be patient with people? Will we be more patient & kinder with others, if people had labels pasted on their foreheads?
Labels like –
Everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about.
The least we can do is to be Patient, Kind & Compassionate
Conversation #15: Seeds of Compassion
By Gurveen Singh Thaman
There were several seeds of Caring, Gratitude, Love, Joy & Compassion sewn through the P.U.L.S.E. (Pathways of Universal Life Support Education) program, into the minds of all present at those lessons.
It was in my second semester of Grade 9, that one such seed seemed to have germinated and impacted my life deeply.
This happened when our Head of Well-Being, Dr. Pathma (who also took our P.U.L.S.E. lessons) – shared with us a video on Mr. Surinder Bobby Singh, in May 2017.
Mr. Singh lives in Shimla and serves poor relatives of cancer patients – (ones who could not even afford a cup of tea a day) – for free. These are largely relatives of cancer patients who seek treatment form a large Hospital for Cancer Patients in Shimla.
It turned out that Dr. Pathma had heard from my mother that we were planning a weekend visit to Shimla at the end of May 2017 and so she also shared that video with my mother.
Here I recognized an opportunity. I shared with my parents that I was really keen to connect with Mr. Singh during our visit to Shimla. It turned out that my parents did not need much persuading and they were as supportive as family could ever be. Since there was no address mentioned in the video, my parents, my little sister (who was just three years old then) and I,walked beyond Mall Road in Shimla, on a rocky path, inquiring about this place. It was strange to note that many people were not aware of Mr. Singh’s compassionate work or the location where he was carrying out this activity. Somehow, we persisted in this quest to locate him and kept enquiring from several people as we treaded along. After well over an hour, we noticed a little shelter, and there it was.
My parents and I left Shimla after that most memorable weekend feeling moved and hugely grateful for the opportunity to serve some people in need, and in turn to be touched by that experience which would stay with us for a lifetime. For my little sister it was probably yet another fun weekend away from home.
In the firstsemester of my Grade 10, I was repeatedly encouraged by Dr. Pathma and the Well-Being Team, to create a power-point presentation of this experience that my family and I had in Shimla, during one of our P.U.L.S.E. lessons. As I captured that experience in a power-point and supported it with relevant photographs, I recollected that experience with a deep sense of gratitude for all that my family and I have been blessed with.That opportunity to present to my whole grade during a P.U.L.S.E. lesson, remains a proud moment for me and it certainly gave me loads of confidence. The presentation was well received by all, particularly by my mentors.
I realized, that unconsciously, that seedling was developing into a young tree. But my journey was not over yet. I got a brilliant idea. I converted this initiative into my Personal Project, which is a requirement to complete the IB Middle Years Program.
The project was to make some paintings, mainly on Sikhism, sell them to relatives in order to collect money, go back to Shimla, donate that amount to Mr. Singh’s service project, and serve those cancer patients and their relatives once again (the last part was completed in December of 2017, when I was in grade 10). I ended up collecting about 33,000Rupees.
This achievement further earned me my final IGCA gold award, as well as the P.U.L.S.E. award, since it helped me complete the service element required. The attributes needed for us to display to fulfill the requirements of the P.U.L.S.E. award, were titled the 5 ‘C’s, which are aimed at helping us become aware, develop and grow into -Competent, Caring, Concerned, and Compassionate Citizens of the World.
In 2017, little did I know how this Service Project of mine would impact me. Not only did I achieve academically in grades 9 and 10, but I also gained a deeper sense of compassion and understanding in my later years. This brought me a lot of happiness. Over the next couple of years, that seed of compassion remained embedded deep in my soul and grew into a seedling, ready to flourish and conquer the world. I just had to nurture it Mindfully.
With time, my initiative evolved further as my parents ensured that we practiced the Joy of Giving several times in a year to support people who are less privileged than us. Now at the end of grade 12, reflecting back, I feel a great sense of satisfaction and pride. I have developed a better understanding of Mindfulness, since I myself at one point found that my spirit was squashed due to peer pressure. I now know what it feels like to hurt deeply. Serving those needy made me realize that there is no good or bad person, every person is at a different stage in life. There are only miserable and joyful people. So, I forgave anyone who ever hurt me, including myself, and made a decision never to hurt anyone, but also at the same time, stand up for myself. For me, Mindfulness also means to be aware of how much pain we might be causing someone through our actions and conveying our message without hurting them in turn. That someone includes our Planet Earth.
So, to sum it up, for me Compassion means to ease another’s (Every Living Being’s) pain and suffering, because that is how humans are meant to live and contribute to restoring our planet. As I write this article, I have come to realise that I have been unaware of the extent to which this experience had touched my life. My tree of compassion has been flourishing and was impacting me in a very meaningful way, helping me to create – ‘My Story’.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame but greatness, because greatness is determined by service.” I certainly have many plans to put into action once the lockdown gets fully lifted.
I plan to serve in several different ways, as I know in my heart and mind that nothing else will bring me greater Joy. This is My Story up until now.
Conversation #16: A Healing Touch Presence & Touch
The on-duty nurse took the anxious young Army Major to the bedside.
“Your son is here,” she said softly, to the old man lying there on the bed.
She had to repeat the words several times before the patient’s eyes opened.
Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young uniformed Major standing outside the oxygen tent.
He reached out his hand.
The Major wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man’s limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement.
The nurse, observing the touching moments, brought a chair so that the Major could sit beside the bed.
“Thank You Ma’am!” a polite acknowledgement followed.
All through the night, the young Major sat there in the poorly lit ward, holding the old man’s hand and offering him words of love and strength.
Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the officer move away and rest awhile.
He graciously refused.
Whenever the nurse came into the ward, he was oblivious of her and of the night noises of the hospital – the clanking of the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans of the other patients.
Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words. The dying man said nothing, only held tightly to his son all through the night.
Along towards dawn, the old man died. The Major released the now lifeless hand he had been holding and went to tell the nurse.
While she did what she had to do, he waited…
Finally, she returned & started to offer words of sympathy, but the Major interrupted her
“Who was that man?” he asked.
The nurse was startled, “He was your father,” she answered.
“No, he wasn’t,” the Major replied. “I never saw him before in my life.”
“Then why didn’t you say something when I took you to him?”
“I knew right away there had been a mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn’t here!”
The nurse listened on, confused.
“When I realized that he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, knowing how much he needed me, I stayed.”
“So then what was the purpose of your visit here, at the hospital, Sir?”, the nurse queried of him.
“I came here tonight to find a Mr. Vikram Salaria. His son was killed in J&K last night, and I was sent to inform him.”
‘But the man whose hand you kept holding whole night was Mr. Vikram Salaria!’
They stood in complete silence.
There couldn’t be anything more assuring for a dying man than his son’s hand!
Conversation #17: Being Compassionate
As a former student of the PULSE program and an IGCA Gold Level awardee, I remember my time fondly.The strength of the program lies in its versatility, allowing each student to embark on a journey unique to them.The program fosters dialogue across universal topics that help young minds develop a skill set of mindfulness, awareness and compassion towards themselves and the world around them.
As a Middle Schooler, I remember reciting a part of Environmentalist Severn Suzuki’s 1992 speech from the RIO summit during an event organized by Dr. Pathma Naidu. Saying aloud the 12-year old Suzuki’s powerful words not only helped me to resonate with all that she said, but also to see the importance of Compassion in the world we live in. These moments of learning were further supported by the rich discussions that were a regular practice of PULSE seminars in school. Though we may not have realized it when we were younger, the PULSE program instilled in us the importance of reflection. It was essential for students to reflect on what they have learned in their own creative ways, be it artwork, poetry, literature, etc. In addition to helping me better articulate my thoughts and opinions, it gave me the confidence to be an effective participant in any discussion.
As a student passionate about art, my learnings from PULSE helped me channel my creativity impactfully. I am reminded of a cherished memory from the opportunity of visiting the Shri Ram Ashram in Haridwar. Joining a group of fellow classmates inspired by Dr. Pathma and Mr. Ward Mailliard, we visited the Ashram during Holi, the festival of colors. In the spirit of Holi, I wanted to organize a collaborative art activity that the entire Ashram family could participate in. On a large roll of canvas, I created a figure with tape and asked everyone to paint over it. Once dried, I removed the tape to unveil the figure of Ganesh, surrounded by vibrant and colorful strokes of paint. Everyone, especially the children at the ashram, were immensely delighted by the surprise and enjoyed participating in the activity collectively. This moment showed me how creativity fostered togetherness and joy, as we interacted with each other in a respectful and caring manner.This experience most definitely instilled Compassion in the hearts of all the Pathwaysians that were fortunate to visit this Ashram.
The value of togetherness segues into one’s understanding of compassion, a fundamental teaching of the PULSE program. It approachesCompassion in a holistic way, emphasizing its universal nature.I remember learning about the importance of Compassion towards one-another, our environment and most importantly ourselves.This approach to Compassion has helped me understand that Compassion paired with empathy is an invaluable life skill—It is what today’s leaders and changemakers have in common. It has nurtured a deep sense of altruism within me, helping mecommunicate well with my team, learn from my mistakes, and be more environmentally conscious.
Compassion, Empathy and togetherness are the way forward for a better future, and Dr. Pathma’s dedication and commitment have given students the skillset to be Global Changemakers and citizens of society who have a much deeper meaning & purpose in life.
Conversation #18: Caring & Compassionate Change makers
Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) is an Indian television game show based on the British program – Who wants to Be a Millionaire?
The P.U.L.S.E. Team organised Special Assemblies regularly, particularly in the Middle School of Pathways World School.
When Priyanshi & Pancham were in Grade 8, they presented KBC at the assembly. They put together a quiz program which didn’t just share knowledge but also carried a lot of fun, and they ensured that they were very effective hosts who implemented the same rules of the game on television while conducting their quiz.
The significant difference was that they demonstrated how both the P.U.L.S.E. Program & the IGCA had impacted them, as many of the questions were on– being caring & concerned about fellow human beings and other life forms on planet earth, including the well-being of the planet and the environment. Needless to add, their contribution to that assembly was very well received by their mentors and peers.
What made their presentation outstanding was that they presented
KBC as – Kaun Banega Changemaker
(Who Wants to Be A Changemaker)
All The mentors present were deeply touched by their heart-warming presentation as it clearly demonstrated that most of the students had captured the essence of the P.U.L.S.E. Program.
The students seemed to have understood that whether you make a financial donation to a charitable organization or help a friend in need, adopting a peaceful demeanor in all of your interactions can have a profound effect on those you touch. Similarly, when speaking with others, we can offer supportive words to those who appear to be struggling, encouraging words for those who seem sad, or understanding for anyone who seems angry.
For an even more powerful result, we can allow the energy of compassion, peace, and kindness to be expressed through every action we undertake …. And that will most certainly create an Uplifting Ripple Effect that Touches Many Hearts.