Monday, 9 May 2011

a Moment for Wisdom…


Compassion, as personified by great souls throughout history, is neither pity nor sympathy. Nor is it empathy or kindness.

It is love… driven by understanding.  It is without precondition or expectation. It dwells in detachment. It alone has changed the course of human history.

As it still does.”

Vijay Eswaran


Personal Wisdom:

· Does today’s quote change your view
of “compassion”?

· Do you think of yourself as a compassionate person? Under
what conditions are you compassionate? When do you find it hard to be compassionate?

· How can your compassion “change the
course of human history”?

Societal Wisdom:

· Do you have any experience of a
“compassionate society”?

· Do you feel that your current society is “compassionate”?

a Moment with Sharif…


I first came across Vijay Eswaran’s work when I spent time in Singapore several years ago. I don’t know if his excellent book, “In the Sphere of Silence” is available in the US, but you should try to get a copy.

Reading his words, I pictured an elder monk in robes. Needless to say, I was shocked when I read a newspaper article on him – a 40-something billionaire telecommunications tycoon!

Eswaran’s quote challenges us to a deeper level of compassion… a compassion uprooted
from attachment. It’s easy to be “compassionate” with our family, our friends… that’s really
empathy. It’s easy to be “compassionate” with those who are disadvantaged in some way… that’s really pity. Even when I am practicing to be compassionate with the “Other”, I am still aware that there is a separation between myself and the “Other” – which means it is
not the deepest form of compassion available to me.

Love without understanding is a nice emotion, but cannot be the basis for appropriate
action. Without understanding the circumstances of the “Other”, how can your actions be
appropriate? How can your actions be loving? Without understanding, “loving” alone is like holding hands with someone… when they really need CPR.

When I was a teenager in Camden, NJ, I had a friend who found out that her brother had
become addicted to heroin.  She grabbed her brother, threw him into a closet, locked the door, then stood outside that door for three days, while he begged, pleaded, threatened, promised – said anything to get another heroin fix. She waited the three days it took for the poison to release her brother. Then she took him out, cleaned him up, and promised him she’d do it again if she found that he was back on heroin.

That’s called LOVE… with understanding. That love changed the course of one human’s history. And our willingness to “love out loud” like that, to have our actions motivated by compassionate understanding, will be the force which changes our world.




All photos by Sharif Abdullah, unless otherwise noted.


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2 Responses to Monday, 9 May 2011

  1. Grace says:

    I love the action story about compassion. Here we have the compassionate activist, loving out loud. Thank you

  2. Holly Wells says:

    Got chills from the heroin addiction story. Noticed that understanding here also included communication leading to accountability. By putting him on (clear!!) notice, his sister gave him a true CHOICE–sliding into a vague notion of what heroin addiction might one day mean to him vs. realizing he would again have to endure the same three days he already knew about (and I bet he knew she would track him to the ends of the earth if he tried to disappear!).

    Note that on May 18 New Thought Center for Spiritual Living (NTCSL) will start a self-directed Commonway Praxis Life Group on Wednesday nights from 8:15-9:30 p.m., following the 7:00-8:00 service. Discussions in the group will be based on this praxis work that Sharif is currently sharing with us. Our focus will be “praxising/practicing” these powerful principles of inclusivity in our daily lives.

    NTCSL is located in Lake Oswego, OR; location and other information is available online at Come join us, at least to see if this meets your needs–the group is open to everyone and attendance at the service is, of course, optional.

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