How can we cultivate a compassionate heart to find freedom?

We all know our humanity too well.

That is why we put the focus on recognizing the part of us that isn’t stuck in the human-ness. Not to deny our humanity, but rather to bring it into balance through a compassionate heart.

That’s what you offer another person. When I look at some of you, I know you have problems with addiction and sexual obsessions, problems with loneliness and problems with anger, diseases and frigidity. I see the whole sea of stuff and you tell me about it, and I see curriculum after curriculum.

I see a group of beautiful souls on earth, each having its own karmic work to do.

At the same moment when I see this stuff, my heart hurts. But you don’t protect your heart from breaking, because a broken heart is like cracking a shell to let the deeper heart come forth. Cultivating a compassionate heart is like the monk who is crying because his son has died, and his student comes up and says, “What are you crying about? You know it is all illusion.” The monk replies, “Yes, but the death of a son is the greatest illusion.”

You don’t close off your humanity, but if you don’t find balance within that humanity you’ll burn out. If you don’t balance your humanity you end up putting armor around your heart, and if you armor your heart you’ll starve to death; that’s why you burn out, because you’re not getting fed.

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 sit in 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 witnessing suffering bearable?

There is a little statue of the Buddha, and it has a little smile at the corners of its mouth. That smile is called the smile of unbearable compassion. It sounds like a paradox; the smile of unbearable compassion. If you were a somebody in the world, you couldn’t bear the suffering, but you are the universe, that is what you are. You are all of that and the balance is cultivated inside of you. The smile of unbearable compassion. The smile of a compassionate heart.

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 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, “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.

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. 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 finally learn to keep your heart open in Hell.

– Ram Dass

25 thoughts on “How can we cultivate a compassionate heart to find freedom?”

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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


  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. “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 :]

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. The “have nots” are hostages of money madness. Money is the cause of poverty, not the cure. If money was the cure, it would be simple to end poverty. Credit everyone with 22 billion billion quatloos, more money than they can ever spend in a lifetime. Once no one “needs money,” does anyone bother to work? To fill the shelves in the marketplace? Is there anything to buy with all that money? Of course not. People must wake up from the madness, and start realizing that we must do what we must do, or civilization collapses.

  11. yes, Ram… yes… <3

    there are no "reasons" for a closed heart / lack of compassion, only "excuses" we create from fear-based self-created illusions that only serve to destroy ourselves ~ and others…

    In the immortal words of John Lennon : "all we need is love…"

    namaste, friends <3


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