Compassion and Wisdom
The Kabbalah and the Buddhist tradition emphasise the fact that one should not practise compassion without wisdom. According to the Kabbalah, real compassion is more than simply donating money or giving food, clothes and other items to the needy. Compassion, in the sense of sharing the self, is one of the most profound human experiences. We can derive great satisfaction from sharing our love, our time and ourselves with another human being. Kellman (2004) states “(w)ithout the ability to give lovingly, our lives become barren and painful, no matter how much wealth, success, or popularity we enjoy.” 40 However, compassionate behaviour should not be practised because it gives you a sense of well-being. The compassion should be sincere and the giving must be based on wise judgment. The giving should be disciplined and appropriate for the person at the receiving end. It is easy to develop compassion when you have an attachment to a person, but sincere compassion is not selective – it is completely without attachment.
The Kabbalah refers to the ten Sefirot, collectively known as the tree of life, which we all have within us. Each of the Sefira (the plural is Sefirot) is an energy centre. The objective of the person, who wants to live a meaningful and fulfilled life, is to keep the energy flowing between the ten Sefirot. 41 The Sefira of Chesed, embodies our deep desire to give freely, mercifully, generously and lovingly. This Sefira needs to be balanced by the Sefira of Gevura, which refers to our ability to exercise good judgment and discipline. The function of the Gevurah is to discern and not to give impulsively, but to give at a pace that we can sustain and to give an amount that is appropriate to the other person.42 Compassion without wisdom can be harmful and the balance between the two is important. A person, who deprives himself and allows others to abuse him, is not in touch with his Gevurah. It is essential to reconnect to the energy of this Sefira in order to heal himself.
There are many people who create abundance in their life and then lose it all again. The more you have, the more you should give to others. If you have not succeeded in learning that lesson, you may run the risk of losing everything. It is through suffering that we learn compassion. People, who have experienced scarcity and lack in their lives, are the ones who give freely to others once they have created abundance. According to Gyatso (2000) the Buddhist tradition warns that compassion without wisdom can cause havoc and it can prevent a person from attaining enlightenment.43 A person who comes across a big fish, washed out on the banks of a river, decides to save it by throwing it into a pond that contains a hundred smaller fish. If the big fish devours all the smaller fish, then this is a disaster. This action caused the death of a hundred smaller fish. This is ‘compassion’ without wisdom. The same applies if you give money to a drug addict and he is elated, because he can now obtain his next fix. This fix may be more than his body can endure and he overdoses. In this case you are accountable and responsible for his death.
Compassion should preferably be appropriate, meaningful and wise. You may prepare professional lectures on financial investments and share your expertise, time and knowledge freely, but if your audience comprises people who hardly make ends meet, your efforts are meaningless. Your intentions were sincere and your need was to inform, guide, uplift and support, but you have lost the interest of your audience. The ‘students’ were not in a position to receive or benefit from your message, because they have no financial resources to invest. You merely made them more aware of their lack of means and resources.
According to the Buddhist tradition, you should also have compassion for yourself. A community worker, who helps and assists the poor and makes a significant difference in their lives, must fight for her life if viciously attacked. By merely accepting her fate and surrendering to her perpetrators, she is depriving many other people of assistance and this is misplaced compassion. It is wise to help others in the community and to give freely of your time and energy, but not to the detriment of your children, family, friends and your position in the work place. “Compassion alone is not enough; we need to balance it with wisdom, for otherwise we shall make many mistakes.” 44
In Buddhism compassion and wisdom are complementary and equally important if we want to help others. Gyatso (2000) relates the following story in his book Eight Steps to Happiness: The Buddhist Way to Loving Kindness.45 The Tibetan King Yeshe Ö decided to sacrifice his life in order to invite the esteemed Indian scholar Dhipamkara Shrijnana to teach Dharma in Tibet. The great scholar was so profoundly touched by the sacrifice of the King that he accepted the invitation. He succeeded in teaching the unruly Tibetans the precious Kadam Dharma and they responded with gratitude. The Tibetans respected and loved their teacher and gave him the name ‘Atisha’ which means peace. His teachings flourished in Tibet and also had a conducive effect on neighbouring countries. King Yeshe Ö made a voluntary sacrifice, but his followers and their descendants, benefited and are still benefiting from his selfless act.
“In seeking wisdom thou art wise; in imagining that thou hast attained it – thou art a fool.” – The Talmud
We often want to help others and especially our children. If your child wants a shotgun to kill birds and small animals it would be wrong to grant them the request. If your action of ‘compassion’ causes harm to the environment or suffering to others, this request should be denied. It is also wrong to give all your time to others and to allow no time for yourself to pray, contemplate, meditate or to study. If you do too much for others, at the expense of your own development and health, it is self-destructive. Buddha warned that it would be a grave mistake to give up your health for an insignificant reason or to neglect it unnecessarily.
In South Africa there was a remarkable example of wisdom and compassion exhibited by F.W. de Klerk. On February 2, 1989, F.W. de Klerk was elected President of a country characterised by ‘apartheid’, oppression, racial tension, hatred and conflict. Due to international pressure and sanctions, the country was isolated and its economy was in a downward spiral. Revolutionaries, who were oppressed and who suffered due to the racial injustice, were armed for a bloody and violent confrontation. On February 2, 1990, F.W. de Klerk, a great visionary leader, lifted the ban on the African National Congress; he announced the repeal of all apartheid legislation and on February 11, 1990, he released Nelson Mandela from prison. He risked losing the respect and support of the conservative White South Africans and he had the daunting task of gaining the trust of the suspicious Black and Coloured citizens.
Nelson Mandela had to unite the African National Congress, which existed as a variety of splinter groups working against ‘apartheid’, in a very short time. After the country’s first democratic election, the roles were reversed, F.W. de Klerk was deputy president and Mr Mandela was elected as president. He and Nelson Mandela worked relentlessly to establish a democratic constitution. In spite of the opposition from White conservatives and the suspicious revolutionaries, they stabilised a deeply troubled country. F.W. de Klerk had the courage to bring compassion into politics – to rule with his head and his heart – and his sincerity and integrity paid off. Nelson Mandela gained the respect, love and trust of the majority of South Africans as a fair, humane and just leader. De Klerk and Madiba worked together and they accomplished a miracle – a rare feat of bringing about a drastic political transformation in an orderly and peaceful manner.
The Advantages of Compassion
Great Masters show us the way to enlightenment and we can learn from them. Cherish and appreciate the sentient beings that complicate your life; they provide you with the opportunities and challenges to help you attain enlightenment. Cultivating universal compassion is the essence of a spiritual life and the path to wisdom. Wisdom means to be free of the distractions of the physical world and the delusions created by the ego. Suffering enables one to grow spiritually and to develop more compassion. Pure compassion eventually purifies the mind and makes one free of suffering. A mind governed by compassion will always be at peace – a deep inner peace that cannot be disturbed, even if you find yourself in the most disturbing and chaotic circumstances.
Sublime happiness can only be achieved by cherishing all other beings, because universal compassion results in inner wealth and joy. By purifying and disciplining the mind one can achieve real happiness. By being free of self-importance and by cherishing each other, there will be no loneliness and negativity. Enlightened beings are free of attachments; they experience inner joy and peace; feel fulfilled because they have a meaningful life. Only if the majority of people cultivate love and compassion for their fellow man, will we all live in harmony, enjoy quality of life and attain world peace. The world needs compassion more than ever before in the history of mankind. It is a quality that has been both underestimated and neglected. The lack thereof is reflected in the state of the world. Compassion is a Divine, creative, healing force and if we all cultivate it, we may save Gaia and ourselves.
Compassion enables you to develop healthy interpersonal relationships based on mutual understanding, trust and respect. The heart, which is the seat of compassion, has been underestimated as an organ for many centuries. For many centuries the medical profession perceived the heart merely as a ‘pump’. According to Doc Childre and Howard Martin (1999) “(t)he heart’s electromagnetic field is by far the most powerful produced by the body; it’s approximately five thousand times greater in strength than the field produced by the brain….The heart’s field not only permeates every cell in the body but also radiates outside of us; it can be measured up to eight to ten feet away with sensitive detectors called magnetometers.” 46
Studies conducted at the Institute for Heart Medicine discovered that compassion significantly increases the level of DHEA. DHEA is a growth hormone with anti-aging properties.47 Subjects, involved in the studies, who deliberately practised compassionate responses for a month, increased their levels of DHEA one hundred percent. Compassion also decreased the stress hormone cortisol, which is associated with inflammation and weight gain. Kellman (2004) reports studies that indicate a few minutes of compassion for another human being strengthens the immune system, while a few minutes of anger weakens and suppresses the immune system for hours.48 Caroline Myss (2004) states emphatically: “Being compassionate is not an option, it is a biological necessity. Every kind action we do for someone is a reanimation of our own life force – and of the other person’s.” 49
Apart from the spiritual growth that takes place by cultivating compassion, there are other benefits on a physiological level. Buzan (2001) refers to a study conducted by David McClelland, a psychologist at Harvard University.50 McClelland showed his students a film about Mother Teresa, caring for the poor, sick and destitute in the streets of Calcutta. McClelland analysed the students’ saliva after the show and found an increase in immunoglobulin A (IgA-levels), an antibody that helps to fight respiratory infection. Their feelings of compassion, elicited by watching the film, triggered the release of significant amounts of antibodies. McClelland and his team also found that when the subjects showed compassion in real life situations, as opposed to responding to a film, their IgA-levels increased even more. When the research subjects experienced anger and frustration, their immune systems weakened. Kellman (2004) reports that the students’ immune systems also weakened when the subjects related an incident from the past that made them angry.51 This means that it is detrimental to your health to get extra mileage out of a single frustrating incident by relating the incident to several people.
According to Dr James House, from the University of Michigan Research Center, people who regularly volunteered their services to help out with the sick and homeless, increased their overall vitality and life expectancy.52 This type of service to strangers demands a great deal of compassion. According to Buzan (2001), (c)ompassion is a life-saver – not only to those you show compassion – it is a life-saver for you as well.” 53 Allan Luks (1991) surveyed over 3 000 volunteers who did community service and he discovered that they often experienced a ‘helper’s high’.54 This is a sudden rush of warmth, well-being and increased energy, followed by a long-lasting sense of fulfilment and self-worth. Allan Luks (1991) found that the ‘helper’s high’ was more pronounced when the community workers helped strangers, towards whom they felt no sense of obligation. It seemed that the ‘helper’s high’ was not as intense when friends and relatives were at the receiving end, due to their sense of duty towards these individuals. Luks also recommends that community workers should not develop attachments to specific results and outcomes, but rather focus on the here and now – the process of offering compassion and the feelings of closeness and satisfaction generated. 55
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give”. – Sir Winston Churchill
Kellman (2004) alleges “(w)e have seen that compassionate behaviour – whether it is given or received – helps boost the immune system and enhances your general health.” 56 According to Kellman (2004), Langer and Rodin discovered in 1976 that when they gave the residents of a nursing home plants to care for, these residents experienced, within a matter of a few weeks, an increased sense of physical and psychological well-being.57 These residents were also more active than the control group, whose plants were cared for by other people. The follow-up, after eighteen months, indicated that the experimental group had half the mortality rate than that of the control group.
Childre and Martin (1999), from the Institute of Heart Math, monitored subjects for heart rate variability, which is one of the variables that play a major role in cardiovascular disease. One of their subjects a construction worker, who got very emotional and angry at work, showed significant changes in his heart rate variability, which put him at risk of heart disease. When this subject started caring for a rabbit, which he became fond of and took to work with him, his heart rate variability improved.58 When you function from an ego-level, you adopt a receive or get mentality. The moment you operate from a soul level, you switch to a give or share mentality. If you give your love and render a service to the world with pure intentions, the universe will give abundantly to you.
According to the Science of Quantum Physics, human consciousness can affect the material world and transform matter. Atoms and subatomic particles are usually in a state of continuous flow, shifting from one energy level to another and then back again. According to the Zeno-effect, proposed by Misra and Sudarshan (1977) from the University of Texas, when a system of atomic particles are observed frequently, the process of observation freezes the system and keeps them indefinitely in the same state of energy. 59 This means we literally participate in the universe around us and by merely observing subatomic particles we bring them into existence. Kellman (2004) states “when you truly understand that mind and matter are one – because we are all one with the Creator – you will be able to heal yourself. But the only way to grasp this truth is to feel compassion and empathy, because these emotions remind you that there is no distinction between yourself and any other aspect of our universe. When you have grasped that ultimate meaning, you will be able to heal – or to accomplish any other task you choose.” 60
Dr Masaru Emoto (2004) reports in his book, The Hidden Messages of Water, how an American biochemist, Dr Lee H. Lorenzen, conducted experiments with water clusters. 61 Dr Lorenzen’s wife was very ill and the medical specialists had no cure for her. He developed a mechanical method of bio-resonance, which enabled him to transfer information from a specific substance to the water. He obtained kefir (a living culture or fermented milk from the Caucasus Mountains) and cats claw (a tropical vine from the Andes) for his experiment. By means of bio-resonance he transferred the information from the two products to the water, which stored the healing properties. He diluted the solution 200-400 times and gave it to his ailing wife. She had a speedy and miraculous recovery, which stunned the medical specialists. The bio-resonance method was patented in 1986 and it is still being used by an increasing number of scientists to produce homoeopathic medicine.
Dr Masaru Emoto (2004) from Japan was intrigued by Lorenzen’s research and in 1986 he started to co-operate with Lorenzen. Masaru Emoto bought one of Lorenzen’s machines, which he took back to Japan. Since then he has provided visible and factual evidence that not only human consciousness, (thought, emotions, words and ideas) but also music can affect the molecular structure of water. After extensive research he published several books and articles about his astonishing findings. In his latest book he found that water does not only store information, it also stores emotions and states of consciousness.62
Emoto took a photo of a frozen sample of water from the Fujiwara Dam in Japan and the water’s structure was dark and amorphous. A sample of the dam water was photographed after Kato Hoki, the chief priest of the Jyuhouin Temple, prayed for one hour beside the dam. The second photograph showed a beautiful intricate, bright, clear crystalline structure, almost like that of a snowflake. Emoto found that a prayer, a blessing, classical music and loving thoughts had a positive effect on a sample of distilled water. What was even more astonishing is that a label with the words ‘angel’ ‘love’, ‘thank you’ or ‘Mother Teresa’ on the container of the water, resulted in the most beautiful crystals. When a person or people sent loving thoughts to samples of water over a long distance, the same positive results were achieved. When samples of distilled water were exposed to heavy metal music or words such as ‘devil’, ‘hate’ or ‘Adolf Hitler’, the photographs revealed ugly, dark and irregular patterns. 63
“Water is H2O; hydrogen two parts, oxygen one, but there is also a third thing, that makes it water and nobody know what it is.” – DH Lawrence (1885-1930)
This mind-over-matter concept has exciting implications for our health and wellness. This concept and the wave of mind-body-spirit research that is being done at present, may pose a threat to conventional medicine and the pharmaceutical companies, who are motivated by greed and who are ruthlessly poisoning our environment and our bodies with some of their drugs. The material world can be transformed by being observed and human consciousness can affect matter. This explains the healing power of compassion, love, meditation and prayer, as well as why some people have succeeded in healing themselves. In order to heal yourself, you need to take control and feel empowered. This means that we must not focus on the symptom or the disease, but on health, well-being and full recovery. Belief and faith are very powerful emotions and if you doubt your own ability to co-create and to heal, it is unlikely that you will be successful.
“The true ground of medicine is love.” – Paracelsus
According to several ancient traditions, it is when you tap into the power of universal compassion that you can affect the world around you in a positive manner. Universal compassion reaches far beyond a personal form of love. It is time to share the magic and power of love with each other. We are powerful beyond measure and even though we have drowned in ignorance and lost focus, it does not mean that we have lost our god-like nature. We are in essence love. Love and compassion are the essential ingredients of a spiritual life and it is only with love that we can dissolve our doubts and fears. If we unite and make a combined effort, we can heal the world. We are accountable and the future is in the hands of the present generation.
“Compassion is not religious business, it is human business, it is not luxury, it is essential for our peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival” – The Dalai Lama
By Susan Minnaar – Our own brilliant South African author