“Those who see all things in themselves, and themselves in all beings, relinquish hatred. How can the seeming diversity of life delude the one who has seen its unity?” – Isha Upanishad
We’re told that a sense of unity is the end-goal, but there’s a stage in one’s spiritual progress that feels more polarizing than unifying. Whether you’re a seeker or not, some contemplation of what this means may feel helpful during times of intense polarization.
After the rigors of inner work and reaching a point of feeling more evolved, at peace, or leveled-up, It becomes harder to relate to others, especially those who are caught up in their own petty emotions and complexes. And yet, the sages tell us to see ourselves in everyone. How can we possibly see ourselves in everyone, when some people act so abominable?
The ability to see yourself in others comes at a point of deep humility and compassion. It is acknowledging that when you see someone shouting in anger, acting out of fear, or hurting themselves and others due to their own ignorance, that at one point in time, you have done the same. It is the point where we are able to look past the temporary conditions and observe the divine aspects of ourselves and others.
“No matter how learned or religious we may be, until we feel the pain of other sentient beings, we are all alike — self-centered and self-concerned. And when the truth dawns, you realize that we still are all alike — eternal and divine. Only the perspective changes. Before realization, you see bodies, differences and outer appearances. After realization, you see souls, similarities, and the inner essence.
– Om Swami
You may recall some moments when compassion flowed through you naturally. Usually, this happens towards people we feel very elevated above. It is not so difficult to feel compassion towards the very poor, the sick, the mentally ill, or people who we are doing much better than. But, when the gap lessens, or when people reflect traits that agitate us, it’s not as easy.
The more you grow above the strife of the world and detach from anger, greed, envy, etc. the more most people just stop making sense to you. The next step is further growth that transforms distaste into compassion, to move beyond your own judgment of people. In this state, when others mistreat you, instead of having your feelings hurt, you feel their pain.
It is not something that can be intellectualized, it’s just an unfolding that happens over time. So, if you cannot feel anything other than disdain for the people who are misguided, and lost in their own feelings of anger, lack, or hatred, then just focus on your actions. Even if you’re not thinking compassionately, you can always behave compassionately. Your actions are more important than your thoughts.
Thank you for your effort and time to write these beautiful words. There is an interesting Sanskrit term called Samatva and it’s somewhat related to the topic of your article. Samatva is essentially an attitude of even-mindedness, which originates from understanding that each living being possesses the same eternal Self, Atman. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna talks about the importance of seeing everything and everyone with an equal, compassionate eye. Obviously, this state of inner equilibrium is not easy to achieve. However, every single day we get multiple opportunities to get better in this regard. We can make the choice how we react to other people’s flaws and wrongdoings.
I may also add that not everyone is going to appreciate or understand such attitude. Some individuals understand only “the language of the sword” (to quote one song), compassion is not in their vocabulary. I think that spiritual seekers need to learn how to be firm and assertive externally, even if all they feel on the inside is understanding and empathy. When the time is right, we need to be more like Arjuna and “let the blade to the talking”, but in a detached and calm way of a Karma Yogi.
I appreciate your insight and I like that you’ve brought attention to this term Samatva (I was not familiar with it, so you’ve taught me something). Because seeing unity truly does require a certain level of detachment from our identities and even-mindedness as you described.
Being firm and assertive in a poised way is an ongoing exercise for me and I agree it’s important for compassionate people to develop that ability. I am always impressed by those who can do it. Thank you for always bringing the warriors perspective. 🙂