Compassion in Action: Setting Out on the Path of Service

If we are to help heal the world, we need to remember that it is a sacred place.

Our actions need to be positive statements, reminders that even in the worst times there is a world worth struggling for. We need to find ways to keep the vision alive, to acknowledge but not get caught in the dark side. To remember that even the worst aspects of suffering are only part of the whole picture. We need to enter lightly.

Entering lightly means not ignoring suffering but treating it gently.

We don’t want to ignore another’s pain, but our becoming depressed or angry about it doesn’t relieve it and may increase it. The delicate balance is in allowing ourselves to feel the pain fully, to be sad or angry or hurt by it, but not be so weighted down by it that we are unable to act to relieve it. It is a matter of ends and means again: to create a caring, loving, peaceful world, we need to act with care and love and peace.

Easy to say, you may think, remembering your heavy hearts, tears, and anger when you first saw babies in Ethiopian refugee camps dying from malnutrition. But it is exactly at these times – in the presence of pain, injustice, and horror – that our equilibrium is most needed. How can we keep it? Meditation can help; singing or walking can help; talking with people we respect can help; simply being quiet with ourselves can help.

It is the continuing work of life: of learning to trust that the universe is unfolding exactly as it should, no matter how it looks to us. We learn to appreciate that each of us has a part in nurturing this interconnectedness whole and healing it where it is torn. Discovering what our individual contribution can be, then giving ourselves fully to it.

Demanding as that sounds, it is what, in the spiritual sense, we are all here for, and compassionate action gives us yet one more opportunity to live it. It is an opportunity to cooperate with the universe. To be part of what the Chinese call the great river of the Tao. It is not a coincidence that Hanuman, who in the Hindu cosmology is called the “embodiment of selfless service,” is the son of the wind god. When we give ourselves into becoming fully who we are by doing fully what we do, we experience lightness. We are like kites in wind, we are on the side of the angels, we are entering lightly.

– Excerpt from Compassion in Action: Setting out on the Path of Service by Ram Dass & Mirabai Bush

6 thoughts on “Compassion in Action: Setting Out on the Path of Service”

  1. Responding to the world with gentleness is what we are here to do. But joining pain is no more useful than joining poverty – increasing its presence benefits the world in no way, and only serves to validate that loss is as real as it seems.

    Instead, seeing past these things to what the Children of God were before they believed in pain; scarcity; sickness – that’s the truly gentlest. That’s what real healing is. And when you only see it within, you will only see it without.

    • It’s necessary to have the empathy and awareness to see the pain someone else is experiencing. In that way we can effectively assist. A blindness to pain helps no one.

  2. Your book led me to Ganeshpuri, India. After that I became a finder not a seeker anymore and a devotee.

  3. I often come across this statement in spirituality. “The universe is unfolding exactly how it should; no matter how it looks to us.” Frankly, it is quite confusing to me, because it indicates that all of existence is predetermined. The very nature of those who do good or bad, is dualistic and part of the whole. It means the autonomy that we experience is really an illusion. And the key is to be the silent witness or silent observer just watching as existence manifests itself.

    If it is predetermined and there is some divine plan, why is the “ego” or little me seen as something separate that needs to be quelled. Does it not come from the same manifestation? Whether one does right or wrong, suffers, it really doesn’t matter then cause it’s all part of the plan. Why practice spirituality and compassion versus attaching to wordly pleasures of impermanence (lust, power, greed, gluttony)? If we are not truly in control and just riding the waves of life, can we not point all actions and consequences the result of the universe unfolding?

    If one is sad or angry because of the attachment to that thought, can we not blame the universe. For those that awaken and have identified with the one, the source; can we not say they are the lucky ones chosen by the universe to be relieved of suffering? For those who commit suicide, is the universe to blame?

    Or do we really do have autonomy. That spirituality from a practical stance, really is just training of the mind. Through our daily choices, detachment from thoughts, and meditative practices, we are able to remold our brain and cognitive thinking. Those who awaken, have practiced zealously to the point where neuroplasticity has altered their brain in such a way that they perceive the world without thought, to be that silent witness. They have learn to minimize their left brain processes (inner voice, brain chatter) and reduced their fear/aggression centers (the amygdala). They have learned to fully activate their right brain processing so that all negative thoughts are now channeled into the left brain for positive ones. A self master who has conditioned his mind. The way of the Zen.

    • You raise some interesting points (am especially intrigued by the neuroplasticity factor you point out and how you describe the “mind over matter” effects spiritual practice might lead to). I often struggle with or am baffled by similar paradoxes and inconsistencies that pop up during my pursuit of getting clarity about what am I, as little me with my current Ego experience, supposed to do? What is right (-noble) and what is wrong (just hurting myself), etc.? Many questions and lots of confusion and many moments of feeling lost. One of the things that helps me is a quote by Joseph Campbell “we are the sensing organs of the Universe”. I interpret that as that we are put into human manifestations to gather information, i.e., ALL that a human can experience (joy, sorrow, fear, exuberance, you name it…) is being fed to the Universe. That I, the human, am tasked to gather/experience all there is for me to experience in this lifetime but not to concern myself with why this is so or what the Universe does with it. At the same time as my earth-bound human form is of service as a sensing organ for the Universe, my spiritual quest as a Soul is to synchronize myself – Ego & Soul – as much as I can with the Universe or as Joseph Campbell suggests “to be in accord with Nature” NB: It seems that as far as my current incarnation’s Ego is concerned my Soul is a very elusive thingy and its “unavailability” constantly frustrates me, makes me sad and makes me envy those humans who seem to have a more solid awareness of their respective souls, like Ram Dass, Joseph Campbell…) but that, too, is exactly what is supposed to happen/unfold so that this, too, can be sensed and forwarded to the Universe. _ Just my two cents


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