By Jeffrey Langlois
It seems to me that it is a great deficiency of our language that the same word is used to describe the way we feel about our spouse, our children, our siblings, our dog, chocolate ice-cream, and the reason why we give to charity. One word, love, is commonly used in all of the above instances. I love my friends. I love my dogs. I love God. I love great music. What a versatile word it is!
One meaning of the word love is to have compassion for someone, to care about their feelings and well-being. That is, in my opinion, the highest form of meaning that the word love can take.
The Saints and mystics of the world spoke of a universal love. A love that is synonymous with compassion. St Paul, in his letter to Corinthians (1st Corinthians-13) speaks of such love. The Greek word agape in Paul's letter, is translated as love in most English versions of the bible. Agape carries different connotations than the Greek word Phileo, which can be used to describe the love between a man and a woman. Agape connotes a tender affection and compassion.
Without getting into a discussion of the meanings of the various archaic words and phrases found in the King James version, Paul, in 1st Corinthians, chapter 13, is making the point that no matter what great talents and abilities we have, without love (compassion) our talents are worthless.
The Buddha spoke of a universal compassion. In all forms of Buddhism that I have ever studied, compassion for all sentient beings is of major importance. I believe that one of the most important hallmarks of a truly spiritually evolved person is that they feel the type universal compassion that is spoken of in Buddhism.
Compassion cannot be learned from books or taught by a guru. It cannot be forced. It comes naturally from within. It is born of empathy.
Most people develop a higher degree of compassion as they get older. Many people develop the quality of compassion only after reflecting on their own suffering. For someone who has realized the unity of all consciousness, the quality of compassion comes as a corollary to such an insight.
If upon seeing any sentient being suffer, be it a child, elderly person, or an injured dog, you feel sorrow and pain because of their suffering, then you have the quality of compassion. True compassion is selfless.
It is not enough to feel compassion for immediate family and your favorite pet. If you do not feel compassion every time you are aware of suffering, no matter who suffers, or why they suffer, then you do not have true compassion in your heart.
If a person has the gift of some sort of psychic power or has the knowledge of great esoteric learning, does that mean they are a deeply spiritual person? I would say not. Those are nice attributes to have, but in and of themselves, they do no make a person spiritual. Without having universal love and compassion in one's heart, a person is lacking in true spirituality, no matter what talents they possess and no matter what great depth of knowledge they have.
Jeffrey Benjamin Langlois
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