The other day the phone rang in the early evening, right on teatime. It was a lady from the SIDS for Kids call centre. I’m afraid I thought: “Oh God, not another donation-dodge”. I said something like: “I’m afraid I can’t help you, just now”. Then she said to the effect that: ”I’m a paramedic, and you sound really raddled”, and I thought: “Oh no, you get psychoanalysed for saying what you think, but thanks, you’re very kind”. Anyway, she said she’d phone back the next Thursday. She was ringing from work; I apologised for being so short with her, and then we talked about singing in church, and how good it made you feel. Like love pouring into the cracks in your soul. Then she told me about a dog who was allowed to come to church, and who howled along with the hymn-singing congregation, and we laughed and she said she’d send me a picture of the dog. Nice. I hope I contact that lady somewhere, somehow, again. People can be angels sometimes. Just being concerned for others; it’s selfless, you step into another space, think of others, express your concern for them, give selfless love, which brings healing. Wonderful. Now for my talk.

I thought of some songs which inspire this heartfelt feeling:

“Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly”, (how can we? But we do). Leonard Cohen sang: “There’s a crack in the world, that’s how the light gets in”, the Moody Blues sang about a man who was overwhelmed by the beauty of nature, sat in the moonlight beneath an orange tree, thought how bad he had been, and ate of its fruit, found compassion. There’s a hymn called: “The Lord of the Dance” – I am the Lord of the Dance, and I still live on” – he picked up and rejoiced, even after great suffering.

When preparing this talk, I’ve just used my experiences in life, over the past 18 or so months, when many beautiful examples of the milk of human kindness, have happened. I have tried to capture some of the most remarkable of them for you. I guess it’s just through life experience, rather than doctrine from written sources. First I experienced compassion, then had to give it unstintingly to a loved-one, had  then to learn again what compassion was, from actual experience of suffering, and then learnt how to apply it to others, lovingly and from the heart. This was after people had been helping me unstintingly, from the heart – I became a different person, ‘almost reborn in the spirit”.

Some spiritual organisations and groups, seem to attract “broken” people, mystics from prosaic families, refugees from brutal regimes, the deserted, the unloved, those in grief. Yet these people are often extremely strong, spiritually, and good at the art of living the inner law of life, stout of heart, tender of feelings, understanding of others’ cares and woes, selfless and giving, but not hapless fools – they are worldly- wise and, “street-wise”, almost. I used to meet a little homeless cat, it lived in a copse of young elm trees beside the local Catholic school playground, The cat and I both have white hair, and like walking alone, but not alone, when others are having their evening meal, with family or friends.

Some years ago I discussed the subject of Compassion with Tony and Marjory; they used to do volunteer work with the intellectually handicapped – we felt that compassion is a very visceral experience, simple, and primitive.

We remarked how when one baby in the nursery begins crying, the others soon follow suit, either hurting because they’ve been woken up, or sharing one another’s suffering. Magpies utter their mournful trolling when a tune in a minor key is being played on the radio – but perhaps the birds are thinking of some unspeakably lovely place, lost to all, and to  which they yearn to return,  – perhaps the Amitabha Paradise? The Buddhas of Compassion who dwell there, have been human, and have known the poignant, and the blissful, moments of life in our human sphere. Avaloketesvara, “the Lord of Compassionate Glances, The Lord who Looks Down” “The on-looking Lord” synonymous with our higher self (Blavatsky, Theosophical Glossary, p.44 (he has 1,000 pairs of eyes watching mankind, and 1,000 arms to reach out to us). He is the Tibetan embodiment of loving kindness, (in Chinese cosmology, the Quan Yin, like the Virgin Mary). He gets down from his throne of magnificence and descends to help humankind.

Once a mother duck was trying to shepherd her babies to the Yarra River, across Lower Heidelberg Road, which is generally frantically busy. I watched her behaviours, which seemed to follow a simple pattern, unfortunately including avoiding me, as a threat. I waited for someone to come by, and we found a break in the traffic, said: “Go for it, Mrs Duck!” An older couple heard the commotion, got alarmed, saw the ducks, and screamed to a halt. We waved our arms at the ducks and they toddled across to the other side, and down to the river. The mother duck did not think of flying, as her babies couldn’t, again, compassion can be instinctive. Everyone involved was either a parent or had a parent – our tender side came to the fore. And the other lady had a grey vest, just like ducks wear – it almost seemed like she was sent by the Aborigine spirits.

I think Compassion means “co-suffering”, understanding the pain and humility of others’, often by having experienced the same hurts as those that you “hurt for”. The dictionary definition is “Pity inclining one to spare or help”. (The Concise Oxford Dictionary, p.247) I think it gets back to “The Love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit”.

Curtis Beach wrote in Sunrise magazine that when life  leaves us in ruins, we have to get up again and start rebuilding  life, because hard times test the soul. He thinks when Christ said: “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted”, the mourners also become comforters, as they understand what those they comfort have gone through, having just gone through similar trials themselves – “the man who has found God to be living in him as a close companion, always present in time of need, knows the comfort of which Jesus was speaking”. (“Light in Shadow”, Curtis Beach, Sunrise, August-September, 2000, pp. 210-211).

Perhaps we grieve because we haven’t been able to sufficiently alleviate another’s suffering. I only learnt about compassion by experiencing some of the health problems of someone I was caring for. We can also learn about it by a sudden spiritual insight,.

As a result of this co-suffering, sometimes, Life seems to break us, tear us to pieces, leave us shattered and like “sweet dreams, and flying machines, in pieces on the ground:”, or like the god Osiris, torn apart by Seth. Osiris’s wife, Isis, had to gather all the pieces of him from the waters of the Nile, and put them back together again, so Osiris could have proper burial rights.  Some humans feel like this when a loved one passes away.

We feel seemingly un-mendable. Once I was walking up Burgundy Street in the early evening, feeling utterly miserable, and remembered a hymn which says: “I’m humbled by your mercy, and I’m broken inside”, (Redman, Matt, “Once Again Lyrics” MetroLyrics.Com Sunday 21/8/2016). I said: “I’m just useless”, and nearly burst into tears. The other locals must have thought I was balmy. But then a wonderful feeling of calm came over me, like honey coming down from the cells of a honeycomb, a great, all-overpowering calm, sweet and gentle. We are funny, broken, shadows of our former selves, but through the cracks, the light can shine, and give its warmth to a frozen soul. Then, mercy flows like the nectar of the gods, from the reaches of heaven that are sequestered in the secret places in people’s heart of hearts. This is a real thing, and it happens, like meeting some beautiful wild creature, a lorikeet or a dove, a gentle, innocent, pure, a tiny possum, from a completely different reality to Man’s hustle and bustle, but strong in their own ways, too. Then I felt a great need to help others, as they had helped me. So now I try and help those in need, and be a minor wellspring of compassion, which we all are, and shine its glory onto others, in like fashion. I had a need to care for people again. It was wonderful, like being part of something bigger than oneself, the great life within life, bigger than the sum of its parts.

I’ve had an increasing end-on chain of compassion happening in my life, before and after the passing of that loved person.

I went back to church. One of the vicar’s homilies was built around this saying: “We live our love for God, in our love for others (meaning other people)”. When you do Bhakti Yoga, singing hymns and praying, meeting in fellowship over a coffee and mini-muffin, you link up easily with your inner divinity. You “share in the love”. Someone else, giving the Sermon at another church, gave a definition of Agape:  “Sacrificial, selfless love, that focuses on serving the wellbeing of another, with no expectation of reciprocal action” Agape is a part of Compassion; compassion is a greater, in that more expansive, form of selflessness.

Like the Osiris-experience, the grieving person left behind on earth needs to reconstruct his or her self, from the scattered pieces. After my mother died, friends and family, and sometimes complete strangers, shewed forth an abundance of loving kindness, really, the Milk of human kindness. As I had helped her, others help me reconstruct myself. My brother’s family said to come and live with them, I became part of the household, back to being about 13 years old in a way, constantly bathed in loving-kindness. I felt I’d been reborn.

About two years ago, a very dear friend contracted cancer, and had to undergo surgery to remove the tumour. On her return home, the parishioners had secretly moved to help their stricken friend; she told me, with a tear in her eye and a wobble in her voice: “when I came in the door, I found my freezer full of casseroles”, they had provided for her physical needs when she couldn’t do so for herself.

Then when my mother was trying to board a taxi to return home from an appointment, the driver was coaxing her to step across the gap between the curb and the open car door. To no avail. She was afraid of falling. A wonderful Irish ex-nurse suddenly appeared, and we asked her to help. She said: “I just had to come and help, I can’t bear to see a fellow creature suffering”, and ably helped Mum into the taxi, and when we arrived home the driver helped Mum get back indoors.

Much later, after my mother passed into the great life, the parishioners of another church, helped me. They obtained a double doona from the op shop, and dry-cleaned it, at a cost of $50 to themselves. – “do as you would be done-by”.

I had once I helped at this church shop, but church politics made “enemies” of those with opposing views. Many years later, those erstwhile standoffish and cruel, completely turned full circle, and on advice from their main “foe”, since resurrected into their love, the church-people gave me the double doona to beat the winter chill, and friends took me to buy heaters and an electric blanket, and gave helpful advice. I had stayed strictly on the side of this friend, just because she was a loyal and good friend. Unfortunately, later on this “can of worms” opened up again, but they’re still loveable, and I learned the beauty and healing power of forgiveness. I think it can overcome sin, in that we break the cycle of Karma, a person does a wrong one lifetime, only to experience the quality of the same experience, in another lifetime – and the provider of this experience? He or she might just be as big a victim, by furthering the cycle of distress. Maybe forgiveness is possible, in this way. We theosophists have Karma to think about, Christians don’t.

One day I chanced to meet the mother of the girl who tormented me daily at primary school; another of the parishioners. The mother had long ago explained to me, knowing I was within earshot of a mutual friend, of the reason for this, it was family problems, inexplicable to 11 year olds, and the very young mother also had to rear three kids on her own. The mother and I became friends, and shared cake and tea at a church get-together after a friend’s funeral, of all things. I went to the funeral to honour the memory of my friend, not to have a free afternoon tea. Then, regarding the aforesaid gift of the doona, much later it occurred to me that I’d made blankets for the homeless for years, and suddenly, someone gave me some blankets, out of the goodness of their heart. It’s like the “pay it forward” principle. People had been helping me through the chill of grief, you see, on the passing-away of my Mum. They all knew about it, as they were a bit older than me. In a strange, indirect way, it was my Mum who inspired a lot of this understanding about compassion.

COMPASSION, naturally, induces HEALING. Thich Nanh Hanh Anger:  believed in practicing “right mindfulness”, from the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path, putting himself into a spiritual frame of mind by mindful walking and Mindful living, thus being filled with positive energy. Meditating on compassion, he filled himself with compassion, when talking with an upset person, this would prevent the dissonance from affecting, and instead filling, the upset person with calmness and love. Gary Holz told of how he was healed by Australian Aborigines, living and learning with them in their outback community. He had MS, and couldn’t feel, he needed a catheter to drain his body of urine. But the healer said his body needed positive self-talk, so they put upon his chest pages written with positive thoughts, which they said his body could “read”. He lay there with this “poultice” on his chest, for most of the day, and that evening they removed the pages from his chest, and he found he could feel again, and didn’t need the catheter. There was great rejoicing from young and old, and their positivity had begun to heal him. (Holz, G., A Physicist’s Journey, Ch.  11, “Love and Foregiveness”). He had numbed his emotional feelings, & his body had followed suit, numbing itself as well.

Again, Compassion means “co-suffering”, understanding the pain and humility of others’, often by having experienced the same hurts as those that you “hurt for”. Quote some of the Welsh Church quotes.

Once a mother at the local kindergarten awoke to be told by her husband that he was leaving her  – alone with five children, the youngest only a babe in arms. This mother could speak barely any English, her whole life was tied to him, the family, and the home. The kindergarten teachers were all “wrecked” at hearing this, too. But an evangelist church took her in, and after a while the congregation pooled their funds and bought her a car, taught her to drive, advanced her English language skills, and eventually found her work giving at-home childcare to other people’s children. She was our hero, and the teachers and us volunteers, gave them all our loving kindness throughout the five siblings’ kindergarten sojourns. The teachers and volunteers were touched by the sadness of the situation, and gave their all to remedy it.

Do you remember the spontaneous cheer of delight, from the watchers-on, when Stuart Diver was rescued, alive, from between the pancaked concrete slabs of his former dwelling, after the Thredbo disaster? Unbeknownst to the inhabitants of the chalet, a burst water pipe had soaked the hillside above the township, the resultant landslide burying many people therein, in the dark and cold, and the middle of the night. They were probably just glad to see some sign of life, amid the terrible devastation, but some groundswell of human love burst forth, transforming, transmogrifying, the devastation of the groundswell of destructive floodwaters.

Another time, experiencing a break between jobs, I had promised the kindergarten some painting smocks and library bags, so bought some material at the op shop, as that way Brotherhood of St. Laurence would get the money to do good works for others. On the way home I found some antique chairs on the side of the road, and asked the ladies who owned them: “But don’t you want them?”- “No, take them now, they’ll only be taken away to the tip; we have to move out, the owner of the house wants us to move on”. “Sorry, that’s awful”- “Oh well”, and they went inside, still talking. I put one chair over either shoulder, and moved off down the hill to home, when two ladies in a Mercedes stopped and said: “Here, put one of those in the back of the car” – it was the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ ladies, whom I recognised, and I hadn’t turned away with harsh words, earlier, but listened to them. I said I had my own faith, but was friends with a neighbour of the same faith as them, and she was marvellous – they knew her too. They let me alone to my set of values, which Denise and I found similarities between. One lady drove the first chair to my home, the other lady and I carried the chair and the by now broken off seats, and talked about our friend. Then I said I understood their interpretation of the Pater Noster prayer, – “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” – letting go in trust of the greater good to lead our lives and destiny. But one lady said she and her friend had to go and help the first lady’s husband, who was recovering from a stroke, and one of the ladies had a pacemaker – but they were as cheerful as anyone could be, about life. That day was a real blast.  They came back once, and we talked about the Bible, and their interpretation of things. It made me think Selflessness is the key to opening the door to our inner god, and letting the light of the greater good shine through that conduit. That’s compassion, too. They waved to me from their car just the other day – nice.

I hope this isn’t too sacred a thing to mention, but since these things happened, over the last many months since Mum’s passing to the Great Light, the “pay it forward” idea has been having its own cause and effect mechanism, which had its beginnings from happenings even before then, in “random acts of kindness”, mutual and selfless help, and, in my case, sisterly-ness, always a joyous wonder, not to be pursued when others  are suffering themselves, you learn to help from afar, with kind thoughts, but not be stupid about it.  There’s the “Golden Chain of Crafty Women”, sharing our skills and providing the materials to do so, freely and caringly. Heather makes hats, Kirsty and I bought some prior to them going to the shop, and Kirsty providing her with wool to do so with – I provide wool for her to make knee-rugs and doll-clothes for poor kindergartens. Renee makes felt, so does Liz. It’s wonderful!

That’s what I have to offer, from my life experiences recently, I should go into technical details now, and also ask you for your feedback about what you think on the subject.

There’s a TS manual called The Heart Doctrine, which is really a name for the whole of Theosophical doctrine, seen in the light of this viewpoint. So compassion steers us through the act of living the Life? Katherine Tingley writing in the same manner, in her “The Wisdom of the Heart, Katherine Tingley Speaks”. Also the “The Path of Compassion” by GDP, which we have recently been studying in the Study Groups, begins with the words: “Live the Life and ye shall know the doctrine” say the wise of all cultures and eras. If we were consistently to live the higher life we would experience the reality of the spiritual realsm. Being in communion with one’s higher self, one’s inner master or guru, one is privy to its wisdom garnered through many lives of learning and evolving …our higher self…our inner monitor”. (G. de Purucker, The Path of Compassion intro by G.F. Knoche, p. vii) G. de Purucker then wrote: “There is but one occultism, one truth. The fountain source of wisdom on this earth is the Brotherhood of adepts, the spiritual heart of the world, from which streams unceasingly a flow of inspiration and enlightenment. It is the supreme source from which have derived all the facets of truth that the religious and philosophical systems of the world contain.”  (G. de Purucker, op cit., p. 3) The great white brotherhood is the source of compassion, just like Avaloketsvara, and the Buddhas of compassion, the Bodhisatvas, who forego Nirvana, so they can keep returning to life, to help poor, suffering Humanity. The good that the devas on high, do, returns to them, who can’t experience directly for themselves any more, and whose servants we are, in the furthering the Golden Chain of Compassion. They are the source, the wellspring of Compassion, and we are the minor wellsprings, all flowing down like the main course of a river, branching off into rivulets, nurturing the ground, the earth from which we are made, with the waters of the Spirit.

 

————————SOURCES: ————————–

The Concise Oxford Dictionary, Ed: (H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler), Oxford, at the Clarendon Press, 1964.

 

Holz, G, with Holz, R., Secrets of Aboriginal Healing, A Physicist’s Journey with a Remote Australian Tribe, Rochester, Vermont, 2013.

 

Judge, W.Q., The Heart Doctrine, Los Angeles, The Theosophy Company, London, The Theosophy Company (India), Ltd., and Bombay, 1951.

 

Purucker, G. de, The Path of Compassion, Pasadena, California, Theosophical University Press, 1986.

 

Tingley, K., “The Wisdom of the Heart, Katherine Tingley Speaks”, San Diego, California, Point Loma Publications, Inc., 1978.

 

Thich Nhat Hanh, Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, New York, Riverhead Books, 2001.

 

If you wish to contact the author please email: andrewrooke@hotmail.com