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Yogi Bhajan Lecture: The Test of Compassion

Excerpts from a lecture given on 7/11/86

What is that one thing that qualifies a human to be human? The only beautiful thing which makes you human is compassion. Without it you are worth nothing.

Just think about it. Think of vengeance. Think of lies. Think of truth. Think of God. Think of greatness. Think of anything. Take compassion out of it, and you'll find everything is bitter. There is absolutely no grace without compassion. Let us discuss. Let us have a good debate.

Student: Well, everybody should have compassion.

Yogi Bhajan: What do you mean, "Everybody should have compassion?" They all know they don't have it. Who are you telling?

Student: Well, it's just my opinion. We're better people if we have compassion, if we use it.

Yogi Bhajan: Do you use it?

Student: Sometimes.

Yogi Bhajan: Why not all the time?

Student: Because it's hard to use it all the time.

Yogi Bhajan: What is hard and soft about it?

Student: It's not a matter of hard and soft. It's a matter of hard and easy.

Yogi Bhajan: What is hard and easy? You are a very intelligent woman, so why don't you just talk straight. I'll talk straight, and we will come to a certain understanding, draw certain conclusions, which are very good. Let us be healthy about it. I want to know why we, all of us, aren't compassionate all the time. Why don't we use it? What stops us?

Student: Well, I guess for me it's because I quit caring about the other person, and so that makes me not compassionate.

Yogi Bhajan: You quit caring for somebody? Compassion is a way of life. It is not something you can quit at any time—switch on, switch off.

Student: I know. But that's what I do. It switches on and off.

Yogi Bhajan: How can you do that, tell me? In my whole life I have suffered; I have been betrayed; I have been in pain. But I can't not be compassionate. I have been advised, I have been told, everything. It doesn't matter. I can't change my nature. To be compassionate or to have compassion is a nature, a quality. It's a reality/non-reality, and it's a non-reality/reality. You can't change it How can you shift gears? When you're compassionate, you're compassionate—no matter what.

If you're compassionate, you are compassionate. I have gone through every positive and negative, upper and lower. People tell me I'm great, people tell me I'm nothing. That's all right. I'm good, I'm bad; it doesn't make sense. But I want to know how you can be compassionate and then not compassionate. You can be right and wrong. You can be up and down. You can be idiotic and wise. I can understand everything else, but how can you be compassionate and then not compassionate? I want to learn that. If I learn that I'll be a great man.

Student: You forget to remember God.

Yogi Bhajan: We forget all the time. I was eating a peach, but I forgot this peach was made by God. Can a man make a peach? I was just going through it. I was eating a peach. I remembered God more than I could have remembered Him by doing anything else. 

How can we be compassionate?

Student: I've figured out why it is that I become un­compassionate.

Yogi Bhajan: Yes?

Student: I start thinking about myself first, before the other person.

Yogi Bhajan: Do you know one thing? When God made you, he made the entire environment, right? You and the environment are no different. Suppose you are healthy right now, and you happen to fly on an airplane. You are dropped in the middle of the Gobi Desert, perfectly healthy. Two hundred fifty miles around there is no water. What are you going to do?

Student: Become unhealthy.

Yogi Bhajan: Because the water—the environment—and you are one thing, right? You as you alone cannot exist; that's what I'm trying to explain. Peaches and beaches can coexist; but peaches do not grow on beaches. Compassion is the value. Compassion is the life. Compassion is the power. Compassion is the God. Compassion is the meditation. Compassion is the truth. Compassion is compassion.

Student: I feel that compassion is the art of perceiving the other person's consciousness. It is becoming one with that person, an ultimate Oneness.

Yogi Bhajan: Very true.

Student: It is experiencing another human being with no judgment of right and wrong whatsoever. There is no good or bad.

Yogi Bhajan: God, you know that much? How come you, knowing that much, still have not grown wings out of your armpits?

Student: I'll look when I go home. Compassion involves the highest faculties of the human. It involves tolerance, patience, sensitivity; and it involves all those things in combination.

Yogi Bhajan: True. What you have said is true. Compassion is the strength through which you can suffer and not feel it; otherwise the pain is terrible. To elevate another human being is my way of life.

Student: Why do some people turn compassion on and off?

Yogi Bhajan: People lose compassion and people get angry. The situation is very simple. In compassion there's one bad thing: if you are compassionate, then you admire another person—uplift another person—and that can bring with it animosity. Just remember this: compassion does not dwell on very safe ground. When you tell somebody, "You are very good." They say, "Well, all right, if I am so good, let me tell you where you exist"—it's called a "good­ness reaction."

You love somebody, you befriend somebody, you elevate somebody, you are kind to somebody, and that person will totally turn their back on you—totally negative, extremely destructive. What do you call that? The test of compassion.

Compassion tests itself.

Student: May I ask a question? Is betrayal always something which in history accompanies...

Yogi Bhajan: Betrayal is the act of kindness.

Student: How is it the act of kindness?

Yogi Bhajan: Because when you are betrayed, then you know where God is. When you are betrayed by your loved one, you are tortured by your sweet ones, and you are done in by those whom you call relatives, that is the time you look toward God:

Dukh daaroo sukh rog
"Suffering is the medicine, pleasure is the disease."
-Guru Nanak, Siri Guru Granth Sahib, page 469

That's the truth. l don't mind being betrayed. It is a qualification. I believe that treachery is a virtue that you have to go through. It's painful. I'm not saying it's not painful. After all, what is not painful? Everything is painful. Just imagining that everything is green, doesn't make it true.

I don't believe that betrayal, treachery, lies, and slander are bad. I don't like them, but I don't feel they are bad. They are simply the challenges that will come to you.

The alternative to life is the test of compassion. Life is compassion—that's human. Anything else doesn't matter. Elevate. You don't elevate because you will suffer, because the higher you put somebody, the lower that person will take you in vengeance—that's the rule. It's not something you have to worry about. But that doesn't mean that you should stop your habit, stop elevating people.

The idea is to get you to understand the basic involvement of life. The secret of success, the secret to your entire greatness, is to relate to the totality of God. Call it God, call it cosmic law, call it anything. That which is total is that which is life; life is total, not partial. Partial life is confrontation: what is your gain and what is your life? Where are you and where are you not? Who are you and who are you not? Beyond confrontation there is acceptance, and that is totality. Do you understand that? There is a vastness in you.

Sometimes you are challenged by everything and face adversity everywhere. But still remember that you are you, you have grace, you have an identity, you have a God, and you believe in it, and you continue. 

© The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan

The complete lecture can be found in I am a Woman pps. 141 - 144, available through KRI.