11 Nov 2011
November 11, 2011

Unbearable Compassion


We all know our humanity all too well. That is why we put the focus on recognizing that part of us that isn’t in the human-ness. Not to deny the humanity but to bring a balance about. Because that’s what you offer another person. When I look at some of you and I know you have problems with addiction and problems with sexual obsessions and problems with loneliness and problems with anger and problems with diseases and problems with frigidity and tightness. And I look and I see the whole sea of stuff or you tell me about it. And I just see curriculum after curriculum after curriculum after curriculum.

And I just see a group of beautiful souls on earth each having its own karmic work to do. At the same moment when you present it to me, my heart hurts. You don’t protect your heart from breaking because in a way a broken heart is like cracking a shell to let the deeper heart come forth. Because compassion is like the monk who is crying because his son has died and the student comes up and says, “What are you crying about? You know it is all illusion.” He says, “Yes but the death of a son is the greatest illusion.” And Maharaj ji crying when I was hurting.

You don’t close off your humanity by any means but you balance your humanity and if you don’t balance your humanity you burn out. And if you don’t balance your humanity you armor your heart and if you armor your heart you starve to death and that’s why you burn out because you are not getting fed.

You have to avert your eyes from the suffering of the world. You can’t look. You can’t look at the have-nots in the world.  You can’t stand it. You have to look away all the time. You have to avert your eyes from Central America and from India and from all those places because you just can’t stand it. Because you feel so impudent to do something to take away the suffering.

If you are going to be free, your freedom means that you do not avert your eyes from anything, in yourself or in anyone else. Freedom means to be a free awareness with what is. No aversion no attachment. They say that for a saint, all the world are their children and you feel the suffering of another person the same way you would as if it was your own child. It’s almost unbearable.

What makes it bearable? There is a little statue of the Buddha and it has a little smile at the edge of its mouth and it is called the smile of unbearable compassion. Sounds like a paradox. The smile of unbearable compassion. It is the unbearable compassion. It is beyond bearing and if you were somebody you couldn’t bear it, but you are the universe and that is what you are. You are all of that and it is that balance inside yourself. The smile of unbearable compassion. And that ability to embrace the suffering into yourself, to just keep taking it in and taking it in and look towards it instead of away from it, and look towards it and then take the way in which it reacts in you and keep doing that delicate balancing number, to balance that you still feel the humanity and at the same moment you allow, you don’t sit around judging God like what have you done to me I am a good guy what are you doing this to me for. You don’t apply your rational criteria to the universe because the way karma works is not understandable by your rational mind since your rational mind is a product of karma and a system cannot understand something that is meta to itself. It is a logical impossibility. You don’t hear the full universe.

Here’s where the faith comes and the faith is deepened through your own practices, through your own direct experiences. It’s not belief that someone hands you. It is faith that comes from your own direct experiences. So you learn to keep your heart open in hell. Finally.


- Ram Dass

Photography by Martin Benson

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  • Nanette

    Still I ask for grace and for faith, opening to them, allowing them to dance me. If the faith deepens through my own practices, then I continue to work with those in immediate trauma, with those suffering on the worst day of their lives. And my faith will deepen. Jai Ram.

  • Nanette

    Thank you Baba Ram Dass, for this beautiful teaching on compassion. It isn’t always easy, but is, for me, always necessary. I’m learning, wanting to find love in all people, in all things. Even when it isn’t easy.
    Jai Jai Ram!

  • Tad

    Thank you for this birthday present – I turned 50 this year on 11-11-11. I remember sitting with you in Franklin so many years ago. Our ability to be present is our gift- this is what we have to offer each other

    Thank you Thank you


  • http://www.lisagavin-cruse.com Lisa

    The suffering of the world is difficult to stare in the face. I treat trauma of all sorts. Child Abuse, War Wounds, Rape, Torture. I see day to day what atrocities people commit against one another. It is difficult to keep my heart open to both victim and abuser. So I practice, meditate and find joy where I can. Thanks Ram Dass

  • http://thanks Dan Worth

    Thanks for this great gift on 11/11/11…makes sense!

  • Michael Cox

    Thanks for the word.

  • Cathy

    Thank you. I really needed that this morning. It’s why companions in the walk are so important.

  • Christopher Stoney

    Beautiful words as always fom my lifelong teacher. It was Be Here Now that turned my life around back so long ago. Thanks for the blissful tears.

  • Jorge Fernandes

    Thank you so much, for being a light in the world. Love and peace.

  • http://www.rainbowhealings.com Erika L Soul

    thankyou Ram Dass I read it and I get how I resist something someone is experiencing I don’t want them to be in and want to make it better and try to offer things , going in to feeling it all with them and keeping attachment too tricky business , well what I will do is to say to all of it within me as I feel it is I love you I am sorry Please forgive me and thankyou.

  • Casey

    “You don’t apply your rational criteria to the universe because the way karma works is not understandable by your rational mind since your rational mind is a product of karma and a system cannot understand something that is meta to itself”

    This helped. Thank you for the calming words :]

  • Indrastarshine

    lost all my children; yes Baba & faith has been with me thru all of it…now i have come to the space of giving thanks for everything…been a long hard journey but Baba has softened my heart now

  • beth chapman

    To drive through the mountains and see new wild fires exploding, abandoned sprinklers in drought hardened fields, two car accidents where no one should have walked away alive…and then in the midst of all, a small green patch of hay being watered. So lush, rich, deep and alive and rainbows of sunlight glistening in the sprinkled water. Like the breath..the inhalation and exhalation. Yes, to not only see but to look. And in looking to breathe. Compassion.