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Above the Clouds 03 - SB 5.18.9

Welcome to the third installation of “Above the Clouds.” In these podcasts we study texts of the Bhagavatam with the intention to apply the teachings in our daily life.

Today we will read a text from the 5th canto. It is spoken by Prahlada Maharaj, the great saint. He addresses the Lord:

svasty astu viśvasya khalaḥ prasīdatāṁ

“May there be good fortune throughout the universe, and may all envious persons be pacified. May all living entities become calm by practicing bhakti-yoga, for by accepting devotional service they will think of each other’s welfare. Therefore, let us all engage in the service of the supreme transcendence, Lord Sri Krishna, and always remain absorbed in thought of Him.” (SB 5.18.9)

So, Prahlada Maharaj requests five blessings. His heart is overwhelmed with the mood of compassion and thus he asks for blessings that will help all living entities. He prays,

“Let there be the auspiciousness for the universe.

May the wicked people be pleased, not angry,.

May all beings together meditate intelligently on cooperation.

May the mind become free of an attachment, and finally

may our minds without motivation be absorbed in the Supreme Lord.

Srila Prabhupada makes a few very interesting comments in the purport. One is: “Prahlada Maharaja prays, śivaṁ mitho dhiyā. In material activities, everyone is envious of others, but in Krishna consciousness, no one is envious of anyone else; everyone thinks of the welfare of others.”

This is so important. Our practice and especially our sharing of Krishna consciousness must come from the place of genuine compassion. Did you know that according to several studies religious people surprisingly tend to be less compassionate than others? They are 80% less compassionate! How come? The reason is that they have such high personal standards. They look down upon others who are not fulfilling this standard. This mood is of course not good - this is a violent perspective to look down upon others. More spiritual would be to be full of compassion.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave us three principles:

1. we should develop nama ruci – taste for the Holy Name;

2. then, serve the Vaisnavas – vaisnava seva;

3. and finally we should have jiva daya – compassion to living entities.

In the 9th chapter of Jaiva Dharma Bhaktivinoda Thakura makes it very clear that compassion needs to be placed high on the throne of our heart where it rules over other qualities. He writes: “Sri Krishna is very quickly satisfied with persons who have compassion towards all others and do not cause them any pain and anxieties. Daya or compassion is the foremost quality of the Vaisnavas. Daya is their main dharma.”

The whole Srimad-Bhagavatam rests on this basis – compassion towards others. Let us go back to the second occasion where the Srimad-Bhagavatamwas spoken. It was in the sacred forest of Naimisaranya which is located in present day Northern India. 88.000 sages had gathered under the leadership of Shaunaka rishi. Their purpose was to perform a one thousand year long sacrifice for the spiritual well-being of mankind. Seeing the divine calibre and spotless character of Suta Goswami the sages placed six crucial inquires before him. This exchange of questions and answers unveil the truth of the Bhagavatam for the benefit of countless generations to come. Now, the very first question was, “What is the ultimate good for all of humanity?” This is a most compassionate question.

The Bhagavatam informs us in many places about the value of daya, or compassion. For instance, in SB4.31.19 it is said, “dayayā sarva-bhūteṣu: By showing mercy to all the living entities one can very quickly satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Janardana.”

Srila Prabhupada writes in the purport that the best way to show mercy to all conditioned souls is to spread Krishna consciousness, because the entire world is suffering due to “avidya.” That means people do not know any longer who they really are and therefore all their activities are directed to satisfy the physical body, which is here today and gone tomorrow. They do nothing for themselves – the soul. And when the soul is lost, all is lost.

Let us ask the question today, “What does it actually mean to be compassionate?” I will take you now through a four-step process which will bring you to the place of active compassion:

1. First of all see the equality of all beings – they are all souls. On the spiritual level we are one family. Just like you have seen suffering and know how it feels others have also seen suffering in their lives. And just like you are trying to grow in your life, others are also trying to learn and move forward in their life. And just like you see things from your perspective, others see things from their point of view.

2. The second step is to empha: we should stop judging others. Instead, we should feel what they feel.

3. The third step is: make a concrete plan to help them. Forget the past where you had maybe been hurt by someone, but make a plan to help them, and

4. Just do it (help the others in need)!

Sometimes people think that compassion is artificial and that we are just trying to twist our mind into some irrelevant thinking. Ultimately, they think, we are programmed to selfishly pursue our own goals, even if this means at times to be a little ruthless. But this is not true. There is a good study done by Rick Hanson, PhD, psychologist and neuroscientist who informs us that compassion is an underlying quality in each one of us. It is independent of affection or judgment. In other words, we all can tap into this innate quality and wish well for others even if we should oppose them firstly. Compassion is something which is always with us – it is the bedrock, a deeper quality. If we can somehow bring it out, we feel very good. Still important to mention is that feeling compassion does not mean to condone others wrongful ideas and actions!

I remember visiting the place of Vasudeva Datta in Sridham Mayapur, India with around 2000 devotees. We found remnants of his house – some small little stone bricks. Vasudeva Datta prayed here for the benefit of all living entities saying, “My dear Lord, please place their karma on my back. I want to suffer for all of them and in this way they can all move forward without any karmic obstructions.”

I was asked to speak to the devotees at this location and I told them a story which had very much influenced me. After hearing it for the first time I began to take compassion more seriously. Once there was a yogi who had meditated in a cave in the Himalayas for many years. He wanted to attain samadhi and ultimately kaivalya, or liberation. But after seven years or so he saw that in his heart he was still attached to sense pleasures. He became so disappointed that he left the Himalayas to start an ordinary life. But on his way, he saw a little mouse which was trying to gnow away a little rock which had fallen before its mouse hole. The yogi was shocked, “My God, if this mouse is so patient, I should also be a little more determined and patient in my practice.” So, he went back to his Himalaya cave and tried to absorb his mind again into meditation. But after another five years had passed, he still noticed impurities in his heart like attachments and dullness. “I am useless,” he said to himself and took the long journey back to his village. He wanted to find a wife there and start a normal material life. When he arrived in his native village the sun was setting in the west. As he went along the village road he saw a wounded dog who could not walk any longer. And all of a sudden he felt, “I should do something for the dog!” So, he took his begging bowl and went down to the river to bring water to the dog. Quickly the dog drank all the water, so our yogi went back to get water for the second time, and then the third time. When he returned the third time to the place where the dog had been, he saw his own spiritual master! His guru told him with a smile, “Now you can make true progress! You have for the first time stopped to think about your own ego and desires, your own needs, your interests. Today, you have overcome your ego by being compassionate and thinking of the welfare of someone else!” That story moved me very much!

I request all of you to practice compassion beginning today. Try to see first of all everyone equally and do something to make their life easier. Give them knowledge which dispels the clouds of ignorance and do something practical to help them in other ways.

We here at our Gaura Bhavan ashram have a regular compassion program which we call “Compassion Tuesday.” We are also streaming it live on Youtube and Facebook - every Tuesday at 8pm CET. You can find out more about it by visiting my Facebook page (facebook.com/sacinandana.swami) There you can see the announcements, and if you like you can join us online for your own compassion practice.

All the best and see you soon,

Sacinandana Swami

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