Empathy – Is it so difficult?

Today, I write with a heart that isn’t able to understand where humanity has disappeared into. Recent events in India have been disturbing and conflicting and one thing has been missing. That one thing is called empathy.

The Farmers Protest in India has been riddled with misinformation, misbehavior of a few and a lack of empathy from the nation. Whether the Farm Bills are right or wrong isn’t my issue here and that is something the Government has to work with the Protestors on. My issue is why has the country lacked empathy and when I say country, I specifically mean its spokespersons like Bollywood, Politicians (regardless what wing you are), Large Corporates, Spiritual and Religious Gurus and organizations etc.

Around 70 protestors have reportedly died, many are still protesting in very cold conditions and some of these people are the elderly and young children. People who are risking their lives regardless of the outside conditions are protesting against the Government. Instead what has the Indian Government done – absolutely nothing. Not even empathy has been shown, forget compensation.

While I sit here writing this in a centrally-heated home in the United States and still feeling cold, I cannot even imagine what an elderly farmer must be going through in the biting cold in Delhi or wherever in India they are protesting. But one thing is for sure, this isn’t fair to the protestors. They have been protesting for over 3 months and that during a pandemic but the empathy from our leaders, our celebrities, our religious/spiritual gurus has been missing.

Empathy is something that every emotionally intelligent person should feel. The pain of someone else, we should feel this. The thought of another in pain should make us shudder. This is something basic that we should all feel. Instead what we get is distraction from the actual issue. We get a few Bollywood celebrities who are obviously fed from the current Indian Government to give standard tweets out and ironically state that India is against propaganda. It is an absolute joke! Why have they all of a sudden spoken up? Because Rihanna sent out a tweet asking one question! Greta Thunberg sent out a tweet in support of the Protestors and India loses its mind. They start burning effigies of a 17 year old child and the Government, these bollywood celebrities, spiritual gurus say nothing about this? They don’t condemn this?! This 17 year old has done much more humanitarian work for the environment than all of these celebrities put together. Instead they tell people like Greta, Rihanna to leave the country alone, it is an internal matter and say their views are propaganda against India

Now this leads me to the next point, where are the Spiritual Leaders hiding today? Why are they not addressing the inhumane response to these protestors? One Guru did speak up but defending the Government. In fact, this Guru tweeted that celebrities outside of India shouldn’t interfere with Indian politics. This very Guru has celebrities ‘interview’ him and I have to ask why does he need their help? Maybe to become popular? Make more money? Look more credible? It is hypocritical of him to pick and choose when celebrity status is important. Maybe, he should stick with staying in his own ashram instead of going to the UN and interfering in global politics or meeting Logan Paul and other global celebrities. The less I say about his actual teachings, the better.

Spiritual Gurus are known to be great thinkers or reformers, they are meant to present to us how to be model citizens. But their current response has been lacking across the board. There are a few who have understood the plight of the Farmers. But they were called terrorists by the current Indian Government and the mainstream media that is in bed with the government. I can understand the hesitancy but empathy is larger than that. Compassion is about responding with rightful action against the oppressed. Heck, I wonder what names the mainstream media and the government would have called Mahatma Gandhi today?

We have to understand that democracy doesn’t mean that a government can do whatever they like because they got the votes a couple of years ago. A democracy is about having a voice and allowing voices the freedom to express themselves, to have a non-violent dialogue about the pressing issues of our times. Democracy is all about being in the moment.

Some people may turn around and tell me that some protestors have been violent. But if you look at the language of those against the protestors, it is nothing short of violence. Calling a peaceful protestor – a terrorist is calling for violence. When you put spikes in the road and concrete barricades, that is creating violence by showing division. When you block the internet so protestors cannot communicate with each other – it becomes authoritarian rule. When you block food and water supplies – that is a crime against humanity! Every single bollywood actor, every journalist, every politician, every corporate, every spiritual/religious guru, every citizen is complicit if they side with the Government and it’s ridiculous misinformed narrative and violent actions in regards to the Farmers Protest. Silence will not do, we have to defend the right to protest.

I end with a question. Why has empathy become so difficult to feel?

Is your Teacher the Best?

Since yesterday’s post on Critical Spirituality had a lot to digest, I thought it would be nice to share this Zen joke that I read on Psychology Today.

One Zen student said, “My teacher is the best. He can go days without eating.”

The second said, “My teacher has so much self-control, he can go days without sleep.”

The third said, “My teacher is so wise that he eats when he’s hungry and sleeps when he’s tired.”

Spirituality has to be grounded in common sense and needs to be practical. Although, I am a huge fan of reading ancient scriptures from the East, I do analyze teachings to see if they apply today. There is no need to follow something that doesn’t make sense to follow in this day and age. We have to use our critical thinking to understand this.

Going to the joke, it is rather simple to understand. A True Teacher, as I mentioned yesterday, would make every attempt to have the disciple excel in their spirituality and to become independent with complete realization. If not, we have to ask whether the Teacher we have has the qualifications to bring us to enlightenment. If they don’t, then should we still follow them. If they do, isn’t it best to adhere to their words based on Truth? Therefore, the True Teacher will tell you to eat if you are hungry, drink water if you are thirsty and will understand the needs that you or I have. They will not guide us to do the opposite.

The other take is don’t compare the greatness of your Teacher with anyone else. Let others discover it themselves. You can surely let people know about the Teacher and how much they have helped you. However, the moment we compare that our Teacher is better than someone else’s teacher then we are entering into foolishness.

I remember reading a book by Osho, where he said very beautifully that Spiritual Masters have no problems with each other, it is the disciples who have problems because they compare and bicker with one another.

Every Teacher may not be qualified to guide someone to the Ultimate Truth, but at least a Teacher can guide someone to walk a few steps forward. Even that is good enough.

Elevate your Self

Following from yesterday’s post, I wanted to continue with discussing Allama Iqbal’s poetry, specifically from the poem ‘Dayar-e-Ishq’.

Khudhi Ko Ker Buland Itna Ke Har Taqdeer Se Pehle
Khuda Bande Se Khud Pochay Bata Teri Raza Kya Hai
Elevate your Self to such great heights that before issuing every decree of destiny, 
That God should ask you, 'Tell me, what is your wish?' 

Here Iqbal is really instructing his son on what to do. The best thing to do in life is to elevate your Self. What is this Self? Who is it? Where does this Self reside? In the some of the Upanishads, they didn’t see the soul and God as two different things but called it the Self, obviously with the capital ‘S’. This was to make us, the listener/reader understand that the true Self is not our ego but the limitless, indivisible, formless existence that witnesses through our senses. Here Iqbal is referring to this true Self. Before I go on, I want to make sure that I clarify what I term as the ego in a quick sentence. The ego is the accumulation of everything that I think is ‘me’ like ‘I am my body’, ‘I am my mind’ or anything subject to change, decay or death. As I have established what the ego is and what the true Self is, the poem further expresses to reach great heights. There is nothing higher than living an awakened life that is in awareness of our true Self.

In fact, here Iqbal really sets an interesting tone that by reaching such great heights that whenever destiny has to be written, or shall we say the results of our karma is to be issued, that God has to ask us what our wish is, what our desire is, what will satisfy us. It’s such delicate poetry that it can be interpreted in many ways. From the point of view that I look at it from, is that once there is oneness with the Formless, then you are literally writing your destiny. This isn’t some new-agey nonsense that whatever you wish for will be manifested. As you are the Self, the Formless, you will be honest in the result of your own karma. Also, anyone who reaches such great heights, most likely will not make mistakes. But sometimes, we do make subtle mistakes and an elevated Self will notice this and will be fair in its outcome.

This line just stood out to me because it contains oneness with one Self – which is the same as oneness with God. How many of us can attain to such heights? Who knows? But one sure thing is that we need to practice. Simply saying nice words, thinking nice thoughts will never be enough but sincere concentration and meditation on the Formless will elevate us. We can do it and it all depends on how important it is for us to reach that life-transforming moment.

Planning

Planning is an essential tool to being prepared for the present but more so, live the present so the plan is executed. Nothing ever goes to plan but the effort never goes to waste. Being prepared, understanding what failed and what succeeded provides hints to what the future beholds.

Our behavior changes when we understand that we are liable for our own self. How much can we blame the outside society, our genes for who we are. If we think we can change, then you can change. It is as simple as that. If you can imagine it, then all you need to do is take one step forward to make it a reality.

Live life but make sure you are always safe – physically, mentally and financially. Eat wisely, think wisely and spend wisely. Spend time or money on what increases your intelligence more than anything else. More knowledge can mean a better planner, an imagination that reaches far and wide and being in the present brings an awareness that only a few ever encounter.

Mentors

Having mentors is incredibly important and having had my fair share of mentors, I feel my whole life has been incredibly enriched by them.

It is not always about the lesson that you have learned but more about how you grow and evolve as a person from the lesson. If you have evolved then you know the lesson has benefitted you in many ways and you can continue to grow and enhance your life.

We all want a life that is holistically enriching and we can do this with the help of getting different mentors. You can have one for finance, for health, for spirituality etc. Making sure that you can make your life the best that you can is what will always make you wake up in the morning full of gratitude.

Choosing your mentors has to be a thought out decision because you need to make sure that your mentor will always be there for you to help you grow and see unique perspectives. When someone has your best interests first, you know that they are worth keeping in your life.

I have benefitted a lot from my mentors and some are not alive today, but they have helped me grow so immensely that I cannot think of my life without them. I have learned valuable lessons and this has allowed me to have a broad-mind, filled with compassion and understanding.

Mentors show you the path and walk along with you. This is why mentors have a great positive effect. They are not like role models, where images of their greatness can be shattered. However, a mentor is someone where even their flaws have something of great value about them.

I hope you have a mentor and let me know your experiences with mentors?

Some rules that I keep for relationships

There are times when we make a decision and we may not be appreciated for it even though it makes total sense to ourselves. We may choose to limit a certain relationship of any kind to avoid any further misunderstanding or mishap. It is better to save yourself than bring harm to yourself. Keeping someone at arm’s length is a worthy suggesting if someone has a record for creating disturbance or has a knack for rudeness. By doing this, we keep our peace of mind.

I have had to make decisions about my relationships with people and some have fizzled away and some have got stronger. Some relationships carry on in the background strong and resilient despite the irregular conversations. There are a few rules that I keep and I will let you know them.

  1. Forgive everyone that makes a mistake to you, if they have hurt you in anyway. It heals yourself first before there can be  healing in a relationship, if the desire is there to do so.
  2. Respect people for who they are, for their character and never for their position or title.
  3. Remember that love stems from you and that is what you share with the world. Just because someone loves you, it doesn’t mean you can just strive on that.
  4. Work with those that disagree with you and maintain balance even in the most trying of times.

I have added one rule since yesterday because this is very much needed in my life.

  1. Try to keep a calm mind even when the energy of disturbance is super strong. Be mindful when disturbance smashes into your peace.