A friend told me yesterday that he’d watched a graphic video set in some Muslim country, sorry, I don’t recall which one. Apparently a woman burned a Koran and was caught in the act by a bunch of raging fundamentalists. She was then publicly stoned, mutilated and battered to death. (Now, even if she felt compelled to do this for some excellent reason, I wondered horrified, why let anyone know? Some things truly boggle my imagination.) Anyway, her murder was caught by a photographer, who put his video up on the net, where it went viral. In one word, gruesome; only demons could behave like this.
Hypersensitive as I am, I could not bear to listen to the whole wretched story, but I was curious to know how he had felt as he watched it. He said that, due to a powerful metaphysical experience he had recently undergone, his entire way of viewing reality has changed. So he had viewed the terrible scene with equanimity, knowing the entire script was written in the flaming alphabet of karma.
I was not impressed by his calm simply because he was describing the dispassionate view of the sage, who sees all the hidden codes that spark off relative reality, and is therefore not bothered by the burning questions of the un-enlightened. But the genuine sage combines this wisdom with incredible compassion—not just for the victim, but for the aggressor/s, who possibly have no clue that what goes around is bound to come around, and that the ghastly abuse of that poor woman will, sooner or later, be their own fate, multiplied, when the karmic pendulum swings back with a vengeance.
I love Ramana Maharshi for a host of reasons. One major one is that, despite being able to read all the codes that generate relative reality, he still felt immense love for all beings, and especially for animals, who approached him with their problems and viewed him like a generous and loving father. There are hundreds of stories of his unbelievably sweet bond with all kinds of animals and birds, and every time I read one, tears spring to my eyes. In fact, when he was in the last stages of a painful cancer and about to die, he said: have the peacocks been fed?
When I make a close friend, I look for two traits working in tandem: intelligence combined with sweetness or kindness/compassion. I am repulsed by the cold intelligence of those who smugly claim they can watch the intense suffering of our world with equanimity. Some swear they love animals, for instance, but will simultaneously wound their human friends/mates with a variety of deceptions and broken promises. Is this not a shocking lack of empathy? Advaita is not two, and this means that love is not portioned out to this one, and not that one, no matter their outer form, but to all beings, spontaneously and without expectation of return. The Buddhists remind us that a great eagle needs two wings to fly—one being wisdom, the other compassion. Wisdom alone can be cold and callous, while compassion minus a comprehension of the nature of both absolute and relative reality can easily go the wrong way.
In eastern terms, every single thing that happens is the result of past karma (thought, speech and action), but that does not mean we cannot feel empathy for those in pain, and then do everything we can to assuage their anguish (although we are strongly advised not to ourselves veer off course while doing so). If we take care of ourselves, then we will be in a position to be there for others. And in Advaitic terms, as Ramana Maharshi so simply stated, finally, there are no others.
Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a hill of fire and light, who blasts open our spiritual heart so that we realize our Oneness with all beings!