"The exercise of compassion is what matters in our world—dethroning yourself from the centre of your world and putting another there. Now this requires intelligent thought. You really have to think and practice the golden rule about what the other person really wants instead of what you think he ought to want. When we speak to people we should behave as Buddha or as Socrates did. Address them where they really are and not where we think they should be. We have to put ourselves in the place of another, and we have to be able to do this globally." ................Karen Armstrong
There is a theme that runs through the passion story of Christ which closely correlates with what Karen Armstrong brings out in her conversation. Though Karen has background as a Catholic nun, she has not mentioned Christ as an example in the same line as Buddha and Socrates. She must have had her own reason and probably one of which could be not to denigrate the Divine status of Christ normally held within the traditional Christian community. But my own belief is that the humanity of Christ has a lot to teach us when the mystification of His Divine nature is set aside. This was the central theme of St. Paul in most his writings.
"........... We must become like a mature person, growing until we become like Christ and have his perfection." ........... Ephesians 4:13
The story of Christ's last days in His physical form, which means in his human nature, is loaded with concern for others. A total displacement of the self and concern and compassion for others. This He did not do silently but through His own examples.
This started with the washing of the feet of the apostles, which was an act of humility. His ego self was dethroned and He, though the master and teacher, becomes a slave.
Also in the Last super, the symbol of breaking of bread as a precursor to the breaking of His own body on the cross, Christ demonstrated that utter detachment is the only way to the Divine. His words as told by Luke demonstrates a continuity for all who seek the Divine.
"Then Jesus took some bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to the apostles, saying, "This is my body, which I am giving for you. Do this to remember me." ...........Luke 22: 18
This act of remembering is not at the mental level but at the level of our everyday action.
Even on the very last moment before his death, His thoughts were for those who crucified Him.
"Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them; they don't know what they're doing." ...........Luke 23: 34
He also entrusted the care of His mother to John.
In our lives, ever since late childhood, the central throne is incessantly occupied by our ego. All our worldly experiences and hence our perceptions leads us to staunchly enthrone our ego as the monarch of our lives.
The detachment or letting go which Buddha talked off and most spiritual masters touched upon was for this very purpose of vacating this central throne so the Divine energy which is ever present in our being can occupy this central position and lead our life. All ego strengthening nourishment comes from our mind but the nourishment of the soul can only from the heart. We have often heard people complaining about a cruel or ill tempered person as being 'hardhearted'. Compassion is the life giving spring that pours forth from the heart and compassion can only spring from a total detachment from our ego.
St. Paul in a moment great understanding writes to his followers:
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!" ........... Philippians 2:5-8
Meister Eckhart rates ‘Detachment’ as a virtue above ‘love’. The reason he says is the best thing about love is that it compels me to love God, yet detachment compels God to love me. Now it is far greater for me to compel God to come to me than to compel myself to come to God; and that is because God is able to conform himself, far better and with more suppleness and to unite himself with me than I could unite myself with God. It is he who is detached who can truly hear the Word of God. In the eternal word, what which hears is the same as that which is heard or there is a merging or homogeneous fabric where multiplicity and distortions or distinctions disappear. The emanation dissolves into the source.
Though Meister Eckhart is difficult to understand (imagine that the audience for his sermons were ordinary parishioners in Germany) , what he means is that through the act of emptying oneself from all ego conforming attachments, there is an inherent natural flow of Divine energy which he qualifies as a
"homogeneous fabric where multiplicity and distortions or distinctions disappear..."
This is beginning of a compassionate mindset.
I will conclude this reflection with a beautiful saying by a great philosopher scientist:
“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” ........ Albert Einstein
Love to you all.