The following are quotes or passages on how to become compassionate or practice compassion. They are inspired by the path of Self-realization brought by the great yoga master, Paramhansa Yogananda, author of the well-known spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi:
“God-realization comes to the devotee, not only due to his efforts of self-realization, but also because of his divine compassion.” —The Second Coming of Christ, Paramhansa Yogananda
“A few [souls] only, out of compassion for mankind, preserve that little “desireless desire” which brings them back to earth as avatars for the salvation of many.” —The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita Explained by Paramhansa Yogananda
“Gods bliss makes those who have it compassionate for the millions who have missed the point of their existence. But compassion only adds to their inner bliss; it doesn’t diminish it. For bliss is the cure all men are seeking, whether consciously or unconsciously. It is not a side issue, unrelated to suffering. The more blissful one feels within, the more he longs to share his bliss with all.” —How to Be Happy All the Time, The Wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda
“Joy awakens compassion in the heart.” —How to Be Happy All the Time, The Wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda
“Compassion is the longing to lift people out of their suffering. The compassionate man holds a mental image, not of people’s sorrows, but of the freedom and joy that is theirs potentially. Instead of taking on their weaknesses he helps them to absorb his strength.” —Eastern Thoughts, Western Thoughts by Swami Kriyananda
1 – 33. By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward those who are happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard for the wicked, the vrittis (vortices of attachment and desire) remain in undisturbed calmness.
Everyone in the world wants happiness [“remain in undisturbed calmness” should be “are dissolved in”?]. There is no one alive who really prefers to be unhappy—though moods can cause strange twists in people’s minds, temporarily! The desire for happiness is because all beings are projections of the consciousness of God, whose nature is ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new Bliss (Satchidananda). In our souls, all of us long to return to that Bliss, for it is our native state of being. Right attitudes help us to turn all our thoughts, all our energies, toward God. In fact, we don’t really have to plead with God to give us His grace. Grace is with us always: it flows through us whenever our attitude is right.
Divine grace is like sunlight on the side of a building. We’ve no need to invite it to come in. All we need to do is open the curtains in the rooms of our own consciousness!
Patanjali is presenting here the attitudes essential for the devotee who wants bliss to flow consciously through his being.
3 – 24. By samyama on friendliness, compassion, etc., one gains the power to bring out these qualities in others.
My Guru used to say, “If you see a sad face, shoot it with the buckshot of your smiles.” And, on a much lower level, the Los Angeles traffic department popularized this little piece of advice to drivers: “Courtesy is contagious.” A realized saint wins over even enemies by the magnetism of his love.
From The Promise of Immortality by Swami Kriyananda:
A master assumes the human state voluntarily, motivated by pure compassion for mankind. Thus, he may choose to experience human pain also. On the other hand, if he has no lesson to teach others through pain, he may choose not to experience it at all.
Had Jesus not willingly assumed body-consciousness, his suffering on the cross would have been a mere pretense, and his assumption of humanity a sham. Instead, he was as wholly human as we are. The difference between him and us was that his consciousness, even while suffering, radiated outward from himself, and included others in his compassion. The consciousness of most people, by contrast, especially when they are suffering, seeks compassion from others for themselves. Their awareness, unlike that of Jesus, is centripetal; that of Jesus, and of every great master, is centrifugal, flowing outward, not inward. Divine bliss was, for Jesus, life’s abiding reality. He was wholly without man’s obsession with self which asks constantly, “What about me? What’s in it for me? What are the risks or benefits for me?” Jesus was a channel of divine consciousness. He sought to draw people’s attention, not to himself as a man, but to God alone. Like a clean window, he helped people to appreciate the vistas lying outside their little rooms of ego-consciousness. At the same time, again like a window, he framed that immensity by a human personality, in order to make it comprehensible to their understanding. His very suffering on the cross was only a frame through which humanity might glimpse God’s compassion.
Jesus Christ was self-giving, as the Bible makes very clear. He was endlessly kind. These qualities in a human being produce happiness, not grim and puritanical self-righteousness. In his agony on the cross he showed that even in suffering he grieved not for himself, but for others and for the ignorance that causes mankind repeatedly to reject – even to the point of wanting to destroy it – the gift of divine love. “Father,” he said, “forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
(10:11) Out of pure compassion (that is, out of the selfless gift of love, with no admixture of compulsion), I, the Divine One who dwells in all, set alight in their (hearts) the blazing lamp of wisdom, which banishes their darkness of ignorance.
It is important for the spiritual aspirant to realize that, in seeking God, he doesn’t earn anything. Divine grace is still a gift of compassion, and may be withheld from those who follow the law exactly, but who, perhaps out of dryness of heart, fail to win His love. God may, on the other hand, reward with the highest wisdom those who, in their surrender of perfect devotion, love Him alone.
From The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by Paramhansa Yogananda, edited by Swami Kriyananda
And this I know: whether the one True Light
Kindle to Love, or Wrath-consume me quite,
One Glimpse of It within the Tavern caught
Better than in the Temple lost outright.
This much is forever certain: Whether Wisdom fill me with universal compassion, and make me yearn to lead souls out of darkness into the eternal light, or whether It fire me with resolution to destroy my ego and its selfish desires, it is essential that I live inspired and guided by Thee. In Thy light I thrive; outside of Thee, I forever languish.
“Most important of all, those great souls revealed the inner qualities of a true master, even as Jesus did: omniscience, omnipresence of consciousness; absolute love, compassion, and forgiveness; freedom from sorrow and from all negative qualities such as egotism, attachment, jealousy, desire, and hate. Like Jesus, those masters sought nothing for themselves. Like Jesus, too, their only desire was to obey God’s will, and to help others to find the divine truth.” —Rays of the One Light: Weekly Commentaries on the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita by Swami Kriyananda
From Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography by Swami Kriyananda
The incredible depth of my guru’s compassion for suffering mankind is evident in these lines from a poem he wrote, named, “God’s Boatman”:
“Oh! I will come back again and again!
Crossing a million crags of suffering,
With bleeding feet, I will come,
If need be, a trillion times,
As long as I know that
One stray brother is left behind.”
That compassion is what I saw in his eyes every time I gazed into them deeply. It was no mere sentiment. It was the expression of his soul, as he reached out with yearning to help everyone who came to him with a desire to be lifted toward final liberation in God.