Living Compassion

Recently saw the movie Groundhog Day again, and the following reminded me of how Phil started turning around, after he had hit rock bottom. Everything else had failed when focusing on himself, what he wanted to get or was missing in himself. After he had given up all hope for himself, he had "nothing better" to do than helping others, even thought it's kind of all in vain, as it is only for one day. He also had to learn to accept, that he couldn't save e.g. the old man.

Living Compassion (from TAN03: Then and Now (class) 00:55:50.70 - 01:00:56.40)

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Most people come to spiritual practice--while initially they may say they want to benefit others--because they’ve heard that rhetoric, that’s not actually true. And they just want to find some inner peace. And often they have to let go of that idea of helping others because it’s more of an identity initially. And they start, "Okay, yeah, I want--need to work on what’s going on in me." And as they do that, then the process that I described earlier takes place. As they develop their meditation practice, and through the meditation practice primarily, they begin to understand the process of suffering.

Then they come to the understanding that the process of suffering works in them in exactly the same way as it works in everybody else. And then there’s a natural movement into compassion and a different motivation for practice. That process may take anywhere from a year or two to five or six years to mature. It usually doesn’t take longer than five or six years, and it can be faster, of course.

But this doesn’t say anything about how they’re living. They live as computer programmers, they live as cinematographers, they live as attorneys, housewives, advertising accountants—whatever—massage therapists, psychologists. And the process of maturation doesn’t necessarily take expression as social activism. In fact it very often doesn’t take expression as social activism, because what people often see, or frequently see, is that to truly help other people is a very, very non-trivial task. And it’s something that starts to radiate naturally in their lives rather than just adopting something, a form of life, which is actively helping people.

And it varies tremendously from individual to individual. Some people find that they’re in professions or in situations in which they can make slight shifts in how they’re doing their work, and it suddenly will produce far more benefit for people. And that’s something that they may choose to do.

Other people feel that they cannot be true to themselves if they’re continuing—I see this particularly in terms of financial analysts and so forth. They frequently come to a point in their careers where they know that they’re going to die internally or they have to be of service to others, and they do either one or the other. And then other people find that the way that they’re going to live their spiritual potential is living relatively isolated lives, but not with the intention of finding inner peace but of just deepening themselves, and whoever they run into they will teach or guide or whatever, but they aren’t trying to do it as such.

And so, from this point of view, I think it’s very, very much a matter of what’s appropriate for the individual. I don’t think there’s any way it should be. But it’s how one’s spiritual potential actually matures and finds expression in you and in your life.

And I really don’t think there are any rules or guidelines for you to say it should be this way or it should be that.