Monday, April 2, 2012

Sympathy vs. Pity

Everyday, I look through the job listings for the area north of San Francisco.  I have been willing to do most anything, but nothing has really created enthusiasm.  I have wondered what type of job would stir those inner feelings. I am working on a few horse sales deals, teaching a few lessons, acting as a consultant, and other pieces from before India, but nothing is "igniting a flame."

Today, I had a surprise--a job to help youth who have a history of chemical dependance showed up and no experience is required.  I wasn't joyful for their pain and challenged path through life, but I felt a common ground.  I have looked at very deep pain, so listening without judgement, keeping my heart open, and staying present felt like a new set of tools that I could offer.  What surprised me was from such a deep and tender place this offering arose.  Something new is growing inside--maybe a small healthy tendril-- and it has the exquisite texture of Absolute Love.  The stirring created an inner question of sympathy vs. pity.  Was there something inside of me that wanted to feed on the pain of others?  I thought that sympathy might be tinged with this quality, but the Saki Bowl showed up to help with clarification. ( Even if the job doesn't come to fruition, I thank it for the teaching.)

Sympathy is the root of religion, and so long as the spirit of sympathy is living in your heart, you have the light of religion.
                        Bowl of Saki, April 2, by Hazrat Inayat Khan
Commentary by Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan:
Those great souls who have brought the message of God to humanity from time to time, like Buddha, Krishna, Jesus Christ, Moses, Abraham or Zarathushtra, were well known as most learned men. But whatever they learned, they learned from the love principle. What they knew was compassion, forgiveness, sympathy, tolerance, the attitude of appreciation, the opening of the heart to humanity.

Sympathy is something more than love and affection, for it is the knowledge of a certain suffering which moves the living heart to sympathy. That person is living whose heart is living, and that heart is living which has wakened to sympathy. The heart void of sympathy is worse than a rock ... The feeling of sympathy must be within, it need not manifest purely as sympathy but as an action to better the condition of the one with whom one has sympathy. There are many attributes found in the human heart which are called divine, but among them there is no greater and better attribute than sympathy, by which man shows in human form God manifested.

In a popular English song there is a beautiful line, which says, 'The light of a whole life dies when love is done.' That living thing in the heart is love. It may come forth as kindness, as friendship, as sympathy, as tolerance, as forgiveness, but in whatever form this living water rises from the heart, it proves the heart to be a divine spring. And when once this spring is open and is rising, then everything that a man does in action, in word, or in feeling is all religion; that man becomes truly religious.

A great poet has said in Hindi, 'Sympathy is the root of religion, and so long as the spirit of sympathy is living in your heart, it is illuminated with the light of religion'. This means that religion and morals can be summed up in one thing and that is sympathy, which in the words of Christ, as interpreted in the Bible, is charity. All beautiful qualities as tolerance, forgiveness, gentleness, consideration, reverence and the desire to serve -- all these come from sympathy. Another poet has said in Urdu that it was for sympathy that man was created, and the day when man discovers this special attribute in himself, he is shown his first lesson of how life should be lived.

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