Seeing Past Yourself-1

Why are some people sensitive towards the needs of others while many just couldn’t care less? What is it in a person that better equips them to have greater empathy? There’s this famous and beautiful devotional song in India. It was Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite song, in fact. I quote below the first couple of lines:

Vaishnava jan to tene kahiye je peerh parayi jaane re,

Par dukhe upkar kare to yeh mann abhiman na aane re.

A true devotee of the lord is the one who understands the pain of the other person, the one who helps others and does not let ego or conceit bloat him.

There is something rather peculiar about suffering. It does different things to different people. Some of those who suffer decide to give it back to the world. “I didn’t have it easy, so no one else must have it easy either,” they believe. Whereas, there are some who do exactly the opposite. “No one else should suffer like I did,” they say. There is no dearth of people in either category, our world is full of good and not-so-good people. The question, however, remains: why do some people are more caring or empathic than others? Let me share with you a quick story first.

A guru taught a king’s son for twelve years and turned him into a fine young man — civil and noble. When he handed back the prince to the king, he couldn’t stop praising him. He predicted that the meritorious prince would be a great emperor one day. A few years went by and the prince began taking greater control of the affairs of the state. The aging king decided it was best to crown his son and retire.

Naturally, his guru was specially invited at the coronation.

“O Master,” the king said at the ceremony, “please bless your pupil so he may be a just king forever committed to the welfare of his subjects.”

The guru smiled and slowly walked up to the prince. Instead of blessing though, he started beating him with his stick.

The king, prince, courtiers and everyone else were shocked and appalled, but none uttered a whisper until the guru stopped.

“It is your right to punish me, master,” the prince said, “but, please tell me my crime.”

“Yes, sage,” the king followed, “why did you whip him? For what mistake?”

“There was no mistake,” the guru said. “This was the last lesson. Tomorrow, being a king, sometimes, he’ll have to punish people. Now, having experienced pain, he would exercise the right restraint. He’ll better understand the feelings of the one being punished.”

I like the message in this story. Somewhere, to truly understand the pain of the other person, to empathize, we must know what it’s like to be in pain. Paradoxically, it is why a certain degree of suffering can bring people closer to each other. It quickly breaks the superficial layers of hypocrisy, it thaws artificiality. In suffering, either you are with the other person or you aren’t. When they are in pain, either you are helping them or you aren’t.

So often I meet people who want to feel compassion, who want to feel empathy but they are unable to, they tell me. When they don’t get along with someone, all they feel is anger towards the other person. The pain, grief or sorrows of the other person doesn’t melt their heart, it doesn’t move them. They carry on with their affairs and behavior as if nothing happened, as though it doesn’t concern them. I hear what you are saying. No point feeling bad about it.

Om Namah Shivay

***Write ” Om Namah Shivay ” if you ask for God’s blessing on your life today. Please Like, Tag and Share to bless others!


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