Why so compassionate?

All parents know that there are moments when even the most happy child is fretful for no apparent reason. On such occasions, it may be possible to distract the little one with some activity, but from a spiritual point of view, this doesn’t solve the unhappiness; it only covers it. The unrecognised cause of the mood remains. And, as adults, we have similar moments, when, in spite of all that is positive in our life – friendships, family, career, accomplishments, whatever it is that is important to us – we feel dissatisfied and frustrated.

In the continuing series of posts on the freedom of the soul, Hazrat Inayat Khan tells us that our true nature – not the nature of our limited identity, but the nature of the soul, the divine spark that animates us – is infinite, and so it is not surprising if we sometimes chafe at our confinement. In this post, he says that the life of the soul “is freedom, it knows nothing but joy and sees nothing but beauty. Its own nature is peace, and its being is life itself. It is not intelligent; it is intelligence itself. It is spirit; its nature is not human but divine.”

Divine intelligence is all-pervading. So long as we are confined in our separate identity, we hold in consciousness our own perceptions, thoughts and feelings, but we must make an effort to recognise what others think and feel. When we rise above our personal borders – when, as the Sufis say, we die before death – then we find that the ocean of intelligence spreads to infinity.

In that infinity resides the source of Divine Compassion. In the prayer Saum we address the Divine Presence as ‘Most Merciful and Compassionate’ – but why so compassionate, and what does compassion mean? It is not something defined by behaviour; if it were so, it would be merely mechanical. Compassionate behaviour blooms as a result of first feeling the pains or sorrows of another. As the Divine Presence is infinite and all pervading, it does not merely observe us, but we – all that swirls within us – are none other than the experience of the Divine Consciousness, ripples on the surface of the limitless sea. The infinite Intelligence which perceives our every pain and also our every joy is in fact that same Divine Spirit.

For this reason, nothing can be hidden. As various scriptures have taught, all is revealed when we leave this plane of physical limitation, our hopes, our fears, our attempts at goodness and all our lies to others and to ourselves. But if we have sorrow for our shortcomings and errors, we can also have hope for forgiveness – for it is the Divine Presence that has lived it all, our longing, our mistakes, our blindness and also our repentance.

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