Compassion – The Human Trait

It is a God-given attribute, which is sometimes lost due to various reasons....

Introduction 

 Human beings are social animals. They share joys and sorrows of not only the humans but are expected to be kind to all creatures. Almost all countries have a Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). This is compassion. It is a God-given attribute, which is sometimes lost due to various reasons. It covers a broad canvas from small things like clearing the sidewalk of things, which may cause difficulty to pedestrians or cause them to slip, say on a banana peel. It is helping the old or infirm to cross a road or climb stairs. It can also take the form of sharing grief, consoling or taking the injured to receive medical help. Compassion also covers provision of financial help or employment to the hapless. And in many more ways. 

 Compassion is spontaneous. The following may be appreciated. 

  1. Compassion is selfless concern for the wellbeing of others. 
  1. It is helping others, not with a sense of superiority but as duty, and thanking God for being able to help. 
  1. It is not charity, but sharing what one has received from the Almighty. 
  1. It is not helping to get fame, but out of spontaneous reaction of a tender mind. 
  1. It is not just helping and making others dependent but uplifting to stand on their own feet. 
  1. It is not charity, given out of ill-gotten resources but from earnings with honest effort. Obtaining resources by unfair means is exploitation of the vulnerable or cheating, which is antithesis of compassion. 
  1. The most profound form of compassion is to help the hapless to become self-reliant. 

 The above is an incomplete list of characteristics of compassion as taught by the Sikh scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS). The Sikhs pray to the Almighty thrice a day entreating as follows. 

  1. ਪ੍ਰਥਮੇ ਸਰਬਤ੍ਰ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਜੀ ਕੀ ਅਰਦਾਸ ਹੈ ਜੀ, ਸਰਬਤ੍ਰ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਜੀ ਕੋ ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਚਿਤ ਆਵੇ ।  ਚਿਤ ਆਵਨ ਕਾ ਸਦਕਾ ਸਰਬ ਸੁਖ ਹੋਵੇ।   

This is the supplication of all Khalsa, (meaning the Pure): May everyone remember God in thought, word and deed and may this lead to working for welfare of all. 

  1. ਸਰਬਤ ਦੇ ਕਾਰਜ ਰਾਸ ਕਰਨੇ ।  

O Almighty, please fulfill righteous aspirations of all. 

  1. ਤੇਰੇ ਭਾਣੇ ਸਰਬਤ ਦਾ ਭਲਾ।  

O Almighty, may Your will be for wellbeing of all. 

A Sikh also supplicates 

ਸਭੇ ਜੀਅ ਸਮਾਲਿ ਅਪਣੀ ਮਿਹਰ ਕਰੁ ॥ ਅੰਨੁ ਪਾਣੀ ਮੁਚੁ ਉਪਾਇ ਦੁਖ ਦਾਲਦੁ ਭੰਨਿ ਤਰੁ ॥  

O Almighty, please take care of all creatures and be kind to them. Provide sufficient grain/food and water to ameliorate pain and poverty. P 1251 

All humanity is one family 

All humans are members of one family.  

ਏਕੁ ਪਿਤਾ ਏਕਸ ਕੇ ਹਮ ਬਾਰਿਕ ਤੂ ਮੇਰਾ ਗੁਰ ਹਾਈ ॥ 

One father, we are all His children. O Almighty You are also my guru, i.e. You have taught me this. P 611. 

 This means that we should spontaneously help others like members of a family help one another without asking. The most closely-knit family is the human body in which all organs are alerted when any part of the body is in pain or injured. The brain feels when any part of the body is hurt or is in pain, the eyes see it, the feet carry the body to where it needs to go, and before that the hands, which are the most versatile organs of the body, immediately reach where needed. It is all spontaneous. 

Virtue lies in the Intent, not Display of Compassion 

 Helping others with tenderness is a virtue. All religions consider it a sacred act. Religious organizations are always in the forefront to help in case of natural disasters. However, it is sacred if done with the spirit of service, and not fruits of it. The Omniscient Creator, is ਅੰਤਰਜਾਮੀ, the knower of minds, and knows the intent. One receives divine grace if the intent is pure. SGGS says. 

ਤੀਰਥ ਬਰਤ ਅਰੁ ਦਾਨ ਕਰਿ ਮਨ ਮੈ ਧਰੈ ਗੁਮਾਨੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਿਹਫਲ ਜਾਤ ਤਿਹ ਜਿਉ ਕੁੰਚਰ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ॥੪੬॥ 

If one goes on pilgrimage, keeps resolutions or gives in charity and then boasts about it. It goes in vain like giving bath to an elephant – because it throws dust on itself after the bath. P 1428. 

ਜੇ ਰਤੁ ਲਗੈ ਕਪੜੈ ਜਾਮਾ ਹੋਇ ਪਲੀਤੁ ॥ ਜੋ ਰਤੁ ਪੀਵਹਿ ਮਾਣਸਾ ਤਿਨ ਕਿਉ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਚੀਤੁ ॥ 

A garment stained by blood is dirty; then how can the mind of one who drinks human blood, i.e. exploits the vulnerable, be pure? P 140  

 So, charity given by ill-gotten resources gets no credit from the Almighty. SGGS says 

ਵਿਚਿ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਸੇਵ ਕਮਾਈਐ ॥ ਤਾ ਦਰਗਹ ਬੈਸਣੁ ਪਾਈਐ ॥ 

When we act in the spirit of service in life, then we get to sit in God’s presence. P 25 

 Again 

ਨਾਨਕ ਅਗੈ ਸੋ ਮਿਲੈ ਜਿ ਖਟੇ ਘਾਲੇ ਦੇਇ ॥੧॥ 

One gets in the hereafter, what one earns honestly and gives, in life. P 472 

Learn Compassion from God 

One should learn compassion from God, the epitome of kindness. 

  1. ਬਹੁਤਾ ਕਰਮੁ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਨਾ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਵਡਾ ਦਾਤਾ ਤਿਲੁ ਨ ਤਮਾਇ ॥  

Gracious-ness of the Almighty is beyond measure. The great Benefactor expects nothing from anyone. Japji Paurri 25. 

  1. ਤੂ ਕਾਹੇ ਡੋਲਹਿ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀਆ ਤੁਧੁ ਰਾਖੈਗਾ ਸਿਰਜਣਹਾਰੁ ॥ ਜਿਨਿ ਪੈਦਾਇਸਿ ਤੂ ਕੀਆ ਸੋਈ ਦੇਇ ਆਧਾਰੁ ॥੧॥  

Why do you have doubts, o mortal? Act as directed; the Creator shall protect you. The One who creates also provides sustenance. P 724 

  1. ਮਿਠ ਬੋਲੜਾ ਜੀ ਹਰਿ ਸਜਣੁ ਸੁਆਮੀ ਮੋਰਾ ॥ ਹਉ ਸੰਮਲਿ ਥਕੀ ਜੀ ਓਹੁ ਕਦੇ ਨ ਬੋਲੈ ਕਉਰਾ ॥  

The Almighty friend is sweet-talking. I have been watching, IT never speaks arrogantly. 

ਕਉੜਾ ਬੋਲਿ ਨ ਜਾਨੈ ਪੂਰਨ ਭਗਵਾਨੈ ਅਉਗਣੁ ਕੋ ਨ ਚਿਤਾਰੇ ॥ ਪਤਿਤ ਪਾਵਨੁ ਹਰਿ ਬਿਰਦੁ ਸਦਾਏ ਇਕੁ ਤਿਲੁ ਨਹੀ ਭੰਨੈ ਘਾਲੇ ॥ 

The perfect Master does not even know how to be arrogant; IT does not remind those who seek sanctuary, of his/her faults. 

It is the tradition with the Almighty to uplift the fallen; and does not ignore even the slightest effort. P 784 

  1. ਜੋ ਸਰਣਿ ਆਵੈ ਤਿਸੁ ਕੰਠਿ ਲਾਵੈ ਇਹੁ ਬਿਰਦੁ ਸੁਆਮੀ ਸੰਦਾ ॥  

IT embraces anyone who seeks sanctuary; this is the tradition with the Master. P 544 

  1. ਜੇ ਕੋ ਏਕ ਕਰੈ ਚੰਗਿਆਈ ਮਨਿ ਚਿਤਿ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਬਫਾਵੈ ॥ ਏਤੇ ਗੁਣ ਏਤੀਆ ਚੰਗਿਆਈਆ ਦੇਇ ਨ ਪਛੋਤਾਵੈ ॥੩॥  

When a human does a good turn to another, s/he feels very proud in his/her mind. But, the Almighty who has so many virtues and gives benedictions, never feels sorry for giving for any reason. P 1382 

  1. ਦੇਖੈ ਸੁਣੈ ਹਦੂਰਿ ਸਦ ਘਟਿ ਘਟਿ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਰਵਿੰਦੁ ॥ ਅਕਿਰਤਘਣਾ ਨੋ ਪਾਲਦਾ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਦ ਬਖਸਿੰਦੁ ॥੪॥੧੩॥੮੩॥  

The Almighty, the Supreme Spirit, is present in everyone; IT watches actions of and listens to what is present in every mind. The ever-gracious Master provides also for the thankless, i.e. does not give to be praised. P 46. 

 Humans should follow this example. 

ਸੇਵਾ ਕਰਤ ਹੋਇ ਨਿਹਕਾਮੀ ॥ ਤਿਸ ਕਉ ਹੋਤ ਪਰਾਪਤਿ ਸੁਆਮੀ ॥  
One who serves with no purpose/agenda in mind; that person finds/unites with the Master. P 286 

ਜੇ ਕੋ ਹੋਇ  ਬਹੈ ਦਾਤਾਰੁ ॥ ਤਿਸੁ ਦੇਨਹਾਰੁ ਜਾਨੈ ਗਾਵਾਰੁ ॥ 

Someone who boasts of being a charity-giver. That mindless person should recognize the Almighty provider of all. P 282 

Human nature on giving 

As against the carefree Almighty giver, the humans want recognition and expect much more from the Almighty. 

ਸਤੀਆ ਮਨਿ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਉਪਜੈ ਦੇਣੈ ਕੈ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ॥ ਦੇ ਦੇ ਮੰਗਹਿ ਸਹਸਾ ਗੂਣਾ ਸੋਭ ਕਰੇ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥ 

The charity-givers feel happy at the thought of giving. They keep giving but expect hundred and thousand times more from God and glory in the world. P 466 

A recipient of help narrates his/her experience thus. 

ਜਿਨਾ ਪਿਛੈ ਹਉ ਗਈ ਸੇ ਮੈ ਪਿਛੈ ਭੀ ਰਵਿਆਸੁ ॥ ਜਿਨਾ ਕੀ ਮੈ ਆਸੜੀ ਤਿਨਾ ਮਹਿਜੀ ਆਸ ॥੧॥  ੫  ੧੦੯੭ 

Those whom I seek for help, they also seek me. Those from whom I expect help, they expect subservience from me. P 1097 

Beware of Impostors 

There are two types of impostors; they both misuse human compassion. The first type sets up fake relief funds and pockets the money. Such people exult when they succeed. 

ਨਿਤ ਨਿਹਫਲ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਇ ਬਫਾਵੈ ਦੁਰਮਤੀਆ ॥ ਜਬ ਆਣੈ ਵਲਵੰਚ ਕਰਿ ਝੂਠੁ ਤਬ ਜਾਣੈ ਜਗੁ ਜਿਤੀਆ ॥੧॥ 

A person with an evil mind commits vices and boasts. When s/he brings home money gathered by telling lies or deceit, s/he thinks s/he has conquered the world. P 723  

The second type pretend to be disabled or having lost everything and ask for help. It is not difficult to recognize such people. The scripture says. 

ਅਭਿਆਗਤ ਏਹਿ ਨ ਆਖੀਅਨਿ ਜਿਨ ਕੇ ਚਿਤ ਮਹਿ ਭਰਮੁ ॥ ਤਿਸ ਦੈ ਦਿਤੈ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਤੇਹੋ ਜੇਹਾ ਧਰਮੁ ॥  

Those who have delusion/deceit in mind are not hermits, i.e. do not deserve to be served. Giving to such persons is similarly delusionary. P 949 

There are also people who are too lazy to work, pose as hermits and beg from house to house.  

ਅਭਿਆਗਤ ਏਹਿ ਨ ਆਖੀਅਨਿ ਜਿ ਪਰ ਘਰਿ ਭੋਜਨੁ ਕਰੇਨਿ ॥ ਉਦਰੈ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਆਪਣੇ ਬਹਲੇ ਭੇਖ ਕਰੇਨਿ ॥ 

Those who feed at others homes are not hermits; they adopt many garbs to fill their tummies. P 1245 

 Such people are there in all religions. Here are examples. 

ਗਿਆਨ ਵਿਹੂਣਾ ਗਾਵੈ ਗੀਤ ॥ ਭੁਖੇ ਮੁਲਾਂ ਘਰੇ ਮਸੀਤਿ ॥  

An ignorant person becomes a bard, sings hymns and collects money. A jobless Muslim poses as a priest, and makes his home the mosque - to make a living. 

ਮਖਟੂ ਹੋਇ ਕੈ ਕੰਨ ਪੜਾਏ ॥ ਫਕਰੁ ਕਰੇ ਹੋਰੁ ਜਾਤਿ ਗਵਾਏ ॥  

An un-earning man gets his ears pierced and wears earrings; he poses to be a Yogi and begs. He brings a bad name to the class of Yogis. 

ਗੁਰੁ ਪੀਰੁ ਸਦਾਏ ਮੰਗਣ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਤਾ ਕੈ ਮੂਲਿ ਨ ਲਗੀਐ ਪਾਇ ॥  

Some people claim to be gurus and go from house to house to collect money. We should never pay obeisance to such people. 

ਘਾਲਿ ਖਾਇ ਕਿਛੁ ਹਥਹੁ ਦੇਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਰਾਹੁ ਪਛਾਣਹਿ ਸੇਇ ॥੧॥ 

A person who works honestly to feed the family and gives to the needy, understands the path of truthful living. P 1245 

ਦਿਲਹੁ ਮੁਹਬਤਿ ਜਿੰਨ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਸੇਈ ਸਚਿਆ ॥ ਜਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਮਨਿ ਹੋਰੁ ਮੁਖਿ ਹੋਰੁ ਸਿ ਕਾਂਢੇ ਕਚਿਆ ॥੧॥ 

Only such persons, who are truthful at heart, are truthful. Those who have one thing in mind, and say/display something else, are false/impostors. 

Those imbued with love of God yearn to find God – not engage in deceit. Those who forget their duties as a human are a burden on the earth. P 488 

Motivate for Self-reliance  

The honorable way of helping someone is to stand on his/her own feet. Reliance on others is demeaning. 

ਫਰੀਦਾ ਬਾਰਿ ਪਰਾਇਐ ਬੈਸਣਾ ਸਾਂਈ ਮੁਝੈ ਨ ਦੇਹਿ ॥ ਜੇ ਤੂ ਏਵੈ ਰਖਸੀ ਜੀਉ ਸਰੀਰਹੁ ਲੇਹਿ ॥੪੨॥   

Says Farid. O Almighty Master, please do not make me dependent on others. Should you decide to keep it like this, then take away life from my body. P 1380 

Again  

ਜੇ ਜੀਵੈ ਪਤਿ ਲਥੀ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਸਭੁ ਹਰਾਮੁ ਜੇਤਾ ਕਿਛੁ ਖਾਇ ॥੧  ੧੪੨ 

If one lives by losing dignity, then whatever s/he gets is dishonest and immoral. P 142 

ਮਾਨੁਖ ਕੀ ਟੇਕ ਬ੍ਰਿਥੀ ਸਭ ਜਾਨੁ ॥ ਦੇਵਨ ਕਉ ਏਕੈ ਭਗਵਾਨੁ ॥ ਜਿਸ ਕੈ ਦੀਐ ਰਹੈ ਅਘਾਇ ॥ ਬਹੁਰਿ ਨ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਲਾਗੈ ਆਇ ॥  ੫  ੨੮੧ 

Reliance on another person is of no use – because one has to keep asking. Only the Almighty can give – the ability, by which one’s desires are satiated, and craving ends.  P 281 

ਮਾਂਗਉ ਰਾਮ ਤੇ ਸਭਿ ਥੋਕ ॥ ਮਾਨੁਖ ਕਉ ਜਾਚਤ ਸ੍ਰਮੁ ਪਾਈਐ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੈ ਸਿਮਰਨਿ ਮੋਖ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥  ੫  

Therefore, I ask everything I need, from the Almighty. One is shamed by asking from others, but is freed from this asking by remembering/obeying the Almighty, i.e. doing things the way the Creator has laid down. P 682 

Examples of Compassion from Sikh History 

  1. The first Guru Nanak, was given money by his father to do business. He found a group of famished hermits and spent all that money on feeding them. He called it Sachaa Sauda, meaning true or fruitful business. This laid the foundation for Langar or community feeding, a tradition that has become legendary all over the world. The Sikhs establish Langar when there is a natural or human-made disaster anywhere in the world. 
  2. Second Guru’s wife Kheevi was personally in charge of the Langar in her time. The third Guru further strengthened the tradition. 
  3. The fourth Guru established the largest Langar at Amritsar where hundreds of thousands of people feed every day. IT is part of Sikhs' places of prayer, called Gurduaras all over the world. 
  4. The seventh guru established a free dispensary for the people. 
  5. The eighth Guru personally helped the sick when there was a smallpox epidemic in Delhi, India. That took his life. 
  6. The Mughal emperor Aurangzeb subjected the Hindus to terrible persecution in India, including forced conversion to Islam. The Pandits from Kashmir came to seek help from Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh Guru. He asked them to tell the emperor that they would willingly convert to Islam if the Guru converted. The Guru was beheaded but never converted. He made the supreme sacrifice for the sake of the faith of others. 
  7. There used to be frequent attacks on India from the West. In one such case Ahmad Shah Durani was taking booty and many Hindu girls. The Sikhs attacked his forces, rescued the girls and restored them to their families. 

Selfless service; thy name is compassion. 

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