Is Compassion and Pity the Same? What is the True Meaning of Compassion?


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Often, one talks of a compassionate heart or a compassionate person. What does it mean to “have” or “possess” compassion. Is it something that somebody can possess. Has it got something to do with kindness? Is it pity or something else? These are some questions that come to mind, when the word compassion is mentioned.

When the heart is purified and equanimity is attained, when equal vision arises, one is said to have compassion in the heart. Serving the poor, feeding a beggar; Helping the needy. All these activities are exhilarating. We term these acts as ‘Acts of Compassion’. Although these acts are noble by nature, is that compassion? Acts of service or help to others are purifying by nature, Sometimes these acts may be done out of condescension, where the feeling is pity. Acts such as the ones described find their meaning in the motivated feelings that cause them. Compassion is born out of the highest good in man. Compassion may not necessarily find expression through actions alone.

On the other hand noble action may not always be inspired by a compassionate heart. When the heart is perfectly pure and crystallized that brilliant disposition of the heart is compassion. When the heart and the head is in perfect unison, when action is not inspired by any dominant emotion, and has no cause behind it, it becomes a compassionate act. Unless the heart is free of all worldly dispositions, compassion is not possible. Compassion can never be pity. In the world, pity is often misunderstood as compassion. Pity is when you feel that you are at an advantage and the other person is not.This is a negative emotion driven by the feeling of superiority of a subtle kind. This emotion is due to a gross state of ignorance where the mind has not yet conceived the equality inherent in nature.

Compassion is a state of being that has an insight into the great working of nature. People feel that talking kindly to others is out of care and compassion. This is not exactly right. If kindness is situational, the words or the feelings that emerge cannot be compassionate. Compassion is a perfect state of being which once established, remains forever. Compassion is a feeling that is universal. It is uniformly shed from the heart of the enlightened on the rich, the poor, the envious, the greedy, the lusty, the kind, the unkind, all with the same intensity. Compassion cannot be dependent on swinging moods. If this is so, it is definitely not compassion. Even getting angry can be rooted in deep compassion unlike the popular belief that a compassionate person is soft and can never get angry. Strangely, an extremely angry person can be extremely compassionate if his heart melts for the well-being of all. His compassion is reflected in those very words of anger,  directed with the intention of universal welfare.

An enlightened man shows compassion by avoiding the evil, knowing well that the evil man will hurl slander and abuse at him. The man of realization does not worry for his own self-esteem or image. However nature shall punish those who even ignorantly hurl malice at the ones who are truly divine. A compassionate man will not want Nature to take any such course and out of compassion, will keep away from the evil and pray to the Lord for the welfare of all. This is compassionate intelligence. A truly compassionate man will never claim any compassion, it is only felt by the man who receives it. To become compassionate it is important to become universal first. Compassion, is not a philosophy which can be preached as a practice. It is highly subjective and cannot be pin pointed or directed. The act of compassion is the act of the heart alone, when heart and head have become one. Compassion is the sum totality of being. The actions of one who has a compassionate heart is utterly pure without an ounce of selfishness or worldly objective. Only truly spiritual people can be compassionate.