Compassionate Action and Suffering


Question:   How do you visualize taking compassionate action into the field to those that appear to be creating suffering?

Ram Dass:  In doing social action, you are often dealing with people who, by the nature of the way they are living their lives, are creating suffering.  And how you do social action is like Gandhi said “I want the British to leave, but I want them to leave as friends.”

There is a way in which you oppose somebody and you define boundaries and limits and you are even willing to lay your life on the line to stop them from doing something.   At the same moment, you don’t close your heart to them.  And what they experience because they are in their minds, is they see you as an enemy.  But their hearts know differently.  And what you are doing is giving them messages, which are slow to be heard, but are still the optimum thing you can do as a human being with another human being.  When somebody is hurting another person, to the extent that you can, you stop it.  Say “I can’t let you play this game out.”  But how you stop it is really as critical as that you stop it.  I mean the first thing is you’ve got to do is stop it. You see the place you stop it from is the appreciation that what is in the person that is being hurt and what is in that person that is hurting the other person are both in you.  You see the minute you get into a righteous thing of “I couldn’t molest that child” you are using them in order to enhance your feeling of goodness.  And that is causing much more hardship than if you just stop them.  But stop them from an appreciation of “Look, we all have this stuff, but we can’t act on it.  I understand why you are in this position, but we can’t act on it.”  That’s a different place.  And it’s again the question of aligning yourself with one part of a being at the same moment as setting limits to another part of their being.


-Ram Dass

4 thoughts on “Compassionate Action and Suffering”

  1. Dear Ram Dass.
    I feel powerless and sad when it comes to the suffering of others.
    Everywhere I look, people are suffering. I feel so powerless to help them. Some of this suffering comes from them not even realising they are suffering. I feel so sad about it. I accept that suffering is part of life, part of the Oneness of God, part of God. But the suffering of others is such pain in my heart, I do not know what to do with it, or how to act towards those who are suffering – do I let them be, love them and trust them to find God by themselves (or be found by Him) – as I am doing – or do I do something else? Loving them does not seem to be enough.

    Now I focus on ‘my’ own unity with God. I see myself in their actions, their pains. I see we are one, and I have the ability to hurt how they hurt – myself and others. I try my best to do as you wrote above. This doesn’t feel like enough. I find no peace with the suffering of others. I don’t know what to do with it.

    Thank you.
    Love you.


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