Almost in all walks of life, if your inner strength, your focus, your efforts can outlive the adversities, you can succeed at pretty much anything you set your mind to. A kind heart leads to greater mental strength. It may sound paradoxical but compassion and tenacity are directly proportional to each other. Today, I am sharing with you a powerful practice to gain inner strength, to purify yourself, to help you transform yourself emotionally, mentally, so you may be the person you have always wanted to be.
I have written a few times in the past that a certain degree of inner strength is required to be able to love somebody, to be their star, their guiding light, their pillar. Interestingly, the reverse is also true. If you choose to be loving, caring, supportive, compassionate, you will invariably emerge stronger.
There was a mystic once, most considered him a self-realized soul. He practiced and preached compassion, truth, non-violence and other virtues. However, he had the habit of stealing. He would steal, hand himself in, plead guilty in the court and end up in the jail every time. This baffled his disciples, neighbors, the police, judge, even the jailor. They could not comprehend why would he steal, even though he lacked nothing. He clearly exhibited complete control over all his other actions, how come he could not conquer his habit of stealing, they thought. Nine out of twelve months he would spend in a prison. He was a serial offender, the judges were sympathetic towards him but there was little they could do.
Over time, he got old yet he continued to steal. One day, his disciples and followers got together to confront him and said, “All your needs are taken care of, if there’s anything lacking, just order us and we’ll provide it for you, but please don’t steal. We can’t fathom your actions but it grieves our heart to see you go to jail and we really miss you when you are not around.”
“Oh, so you miss me when I’m away! That’s exactly the reason why I go there because the prisoners miss me when I am not in the jail. You are free and you have access to many teachers, but they don’t have the same luxury. That’s why when I’m released, I steal again to go back in because not all prisoners are culprits and even those who are, they could do with a little compassion, a bit of help, some good company. I’ll continue to steal and help them.”
The anecdote above is not to be taken literally of course. A jail is a place where your freedom is greatly restricted. Similarly, exercising compassion may not always be most pleasing to you, it may not be the attractive option, it may be like going to the jail, why else would the greatest prophets, preachers, messiahs bother to grace our planet, compassion remains a powerful catalyst of transformation though. It is a conscious act, a gesture of love, of care, of charity, you do with the sole intention of helping the other person.
Anything you do with a selfless motive, with no hidden agenda, is always going to strengthen you. Such strength will help you experience peace and bliss, you will feel contented and fulfilled, just like you do shortly after your favorite meal. Think about it for a moment, why does a lion roam freely in a jungle? Because it is aware of its strength, its view of itself gives it the confidence and fearlessness to patrol and prey. In much the same manner, those with inner strength are naturally more confident, they are at greater ease, they are more peaceful.
Compassion is one of the shortest routes to divinity. If you are expecting even gratitude in return for a compassionate act, your gesture is not the purest type. It is compassion still, but it may spark a negative emotion in you if recipient’s response does not meet your expectations. The finest compassion is without any expectation at all, a compassionate act is not about right or wrong, it just is. It need not make sense to the whole world as long as even one creature stands to benefit from your act.
I am tempted to share another story with you:
An elderly man was taking a stroll on the beach one morning. Ruthless tidal waves of the night before had pushed out many creatures to the beach, notably, the starfish. There were thousands of starfish lying on the beach, not all were dead. He felt sorry for the state of affairs but continued with his walk, for, there was nothing he could do about it, he felt.
A few meters away, he saw another man, younger, more a teenager, childlike, bending down, picking something and throwing it in the ocean.
“What are you doing?” he asked, somewhat amused.
“Oh, I’m saving these starfish. Sun’s gonna be up soon and they’ll die as the waves are receding.”
The old man chuckled and said, “There’s miles and miles of beach, it’s littered with tens of thousands of dying starfish. Your saving a handful won’t make any difference.”
The young one reached out to another starfish, picked it, tossed it back in the sea, and spoke, “It made a difference to that one!”
I find this story truly beautiful. An act of charity is not always about material things, compassion is not necessarily about making grandiose plans and never finding enough time or steam to bring them to fruition, it may well be a small gesture, a random act, to an acquaintance or a stranger. It all adds up, it is like depositing money in your bank account. Your each compassionate act is a deposit in your emotional account of positivity, balance, and bliss. Practice compassion to be strong, you will feel grateful too, a sense of peace engulfs automatically as a result. However insignificant or irrational your act may appear to the world, let that not bother you, let that remain irrelevant.
Either be strong, wise, kind and big-hearted to practice compassion, or simply be compassionate and other virtues will cling to you naturally, like pollen on bees, moth to a light-source, like iron to a magnet.
Simiti simiti jala bharahi talava jimi sadaguna sajjana payi ava, virtues accumulate in the noble one the same way as rain drops do in a pond, writes Goswami Tulasidasa. Practice one virtue and many more will make a permanent home in your heart.
Go on! practice a random act of kindness today! Make someone feel special, offer someone kind words, offer help, buy a movie ticket for a stranger in the shopping mall, for the parking attendant, for the cleaning staff, customer service, someone, anyone at all, pay for someone’s meal, for an ice-cream, whatever you can afford, anything that comes to your mind. Not only will you make a difference to someone’s life, you will sow the seed of goodness, it will sprout in their hearts one day and it will get passed on in one form or the other. This world will become a better place, and you, an even better person.