Compassion and Honesty

Posted: 28/06/2013 in Routine

Therefore, he who knows this, having become peaceful, controlled, detached, patient and concentrated, sees the atman in himself and sees all in the atman. Evil does not overcome him, but he overcomes all evil; evil does not consume him, but he consumes all evil. Free from evil, free from passion, free from doubt, he becomes a knower of Brahman.


The seventh yama is daya, compassion. Sometimes it is kind to be cruel, and at other times it is cruel to be kind. This statement has come forward from religion to religion, generation to generation. Compassion tempers all decisions, gives clemency, absolution, forgiveness as a boon even for the most heinous misdeeds. This is a quality built on steadfastness. Daya comes from deep sadhana, prolonged santosha, contentment, scriptural study and listening to the wise. It is the outgrowth of the unfolded soul, the maturing of higher consciousness. A compassionate person transcends even forgiveness by caring for the suffering of the person he has forgiven. The compassionate person is like a God. He is the boon-giver. Boons, which are gifts from the Gods, come unexpectedly, unasked-for. And so it is with the grace of a compassionate person.

A devotee asked, “What should we think about those who are cruel toward creatures, who casually kill flies and step on cockroaches?” Compassion is defined as conquering callous, cruel and insensitive feelings toward all beings. A compassionate person would tell a plant verbally if he was going to pick from it, intuiting that the plant has feelings of its own. A compassionate person would seek to keep pests away rather than killing them. A callous person would tear the plant up by its roots. A cruel person would, as a child, pull one wing off a fly and, unless corrected, mature this cruelty on through life until he maimed a fellow human. Compassion is just the opposite to all this.

When we find callous, cruel and insensitive people in our midst, we should not take them into our inner circles, but make them feel they must improve before admittance onto the spiritual path. Compassion is the outgrowth of being forgiving. It is the outgrowth of truthfulness, and of noninjury. It is a product of asteya, of brahmacharya and of kshama. It is, in fact, higher consciousness, based in the vishuddha chakra of divine love.

One can’t command compassion. Before compassion comes love. Compassion is the outgrowth of love. Love is the outgrowth of understanding. Understanding is the outgrowth of reason. One must have sufficient memory to remember the various points of reason and enough willpower to follow them through to be able to psychically look into the core of existence to gain the reverence for all life, all living organisms, animate or inanimate. Compassion is a very advanced spiritual quality. When you see it exhibited in someone, you know he is very advanced spiritually — probably an old soul. It really can’t be taught. Daya goes with ananda. Compassion and bliss are a one big package.

What is the difference between ahimsa and daya, compassion, one might ask? There is a distinct difference. Not harming others by thought, word or deed is a cardinal law of Hinduism and cannot be avoided, discarded, ignored or replaced by the more subtle concept of compassion. Ahimsa, among the yamas and niyamas, could be considered the only explicit commandment Hinduism gives. Compassion comes from the heart, comes spontaneously. It is a total flow of spiritual, material, intellectual giving, coming unbidden to the receiver.

Compassion by no means is foolishness or pretense. It is an overflowing of soulfulness. It is an outpouring of spiritual energy that comes through the person despite his thoughts or his personal feelings or his reason or good judgment. The person experiencing compassion is often turned around emotionally and mentally as he is giving this clemency, this boon of absolution, despite his own instinctive or intellectual inclinations. This is a spiritual outpouring through a person. Rishi Tirumular used the word arul for this yama. Arul means grace in the ancient Tamil language.

A devotee once e-mailed me, saying, “Recently I was going through some suffering and had bad thoughts and bad feelings for those who caused that suffering. Now that I’m feeling better, can I erase those bad thoughts and feelings?” Thoughts and bad feelings you have sent into the future are bound to come back to you. But, yes, you can mitigate and change that karma by being extra-special nice to those who abused you, hurt you or caused you to have bad thoughts and feelings against them. Being extra-special nice means accepting them for who they are. Don’t have critical thoughts or try to change them. Have compassion. They are who they are, and only they can change themselves. Be extra-special nice. Go out of your way to say good words, give a gift and have good feelings toward them.


The eighth yama is arjava, honesty. The most important rule of honesty is to be honest to oneself, to be able to face up to our problems and admit that we have been the creator of them. To be able to then reason them through, make soulfully honest decisions toward their solutions, is a boon, a gift from the Gods. To be honest with oneself brings peace of mind. Those who are frustrated, discontent, are now and have been dishonest with themselves. They blame others for their own faults and predicaments. They are always looking for a scapegoat, someone to blame something on. To deceive oneself is truly the ultimate of wrongdoing. To deceive oneself is truly ignorance in its truest form. Honesty begins within one’s own heart and soul and works its way out from there into dealing with other people. Polonius wisely said in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “This above all: to your own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, you cannot then be false to any man.”

The adage, “Say what you mean, and mean what you say” should be heard again and again by the youth, middle-aged and elderly alike. Sir Walter Scott once said, “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” Mark Twain observed, “The advantage of telling the truth is that you don’t have to remember what you said.” Another philosopher, wise in human nature, noted, “You can watch a thief, but you cannot watch a liar.” To be deceptive and not straightforward is thieving time from those you are deceiving. They are giving you their heart and mind, and you are twisting their thoughts to your own selfish ends, endeavoring to play them out, to take what they have, in favors or in kind, for your personal gain.

Deception is the cruelest of acts. A deceptive person is an insidious disease to society. Many parents, we are told, teach their children to be deceptive and cunning in order to get on in the world. They are not building good citizens. They are creating potential criminals who will eventually, if they perfect the art, ravage humankind. To be straightforward is the solution, no matter how difficult it is. To show remorse, be modest and show shame for misdeeds is the way to win back the faith, though maybe not the total trust, and a smidgen of respect from those who have discovered and exposed your deception. Arjava is straightness with neighbors, family and with your government. You pay your taxes. You observe the laws. You don’t fudge, bribe, cheat, steal or participate in fraud and other forms of manipulation.

Bribery corrupts the giver, the taker and the nation. It would be better not to have, not to do, and to live the simple life, if bribery were the alternative. To participate in bribery is to go into a deceptive, illegal partnership between the briber and the bribed. If and when discovered, embarrassment no end would fall on both parties involved in the crime, and even if not discovered, someone knows, someone is watching, your own conscience is watching. There is no law in any legal code of any government that says bribery is acceptable.

There are those who feel it is sufficient to be honest and straightforward with their friends and family, but feel justified to be dishonest with business associates, corporations, governments and strangers. These are the most despicable people. Obviously they have no knowledge of the laws of karma and no desire to obtain a better, or even a similar, birth. They may experience several abortions before obtaining a new physical body and then be an unwanted child. They may suffer child abuse, neglect, beatings, perhaps even be killed at a young age. These two-faced persons — honest to immediate friends and relatives, but dishonest and deceptive and involved in wrongdoings with business associates and in public life — deserve the punishment that only the lords of karma are able to deal out. These persons are training their sons and daughters to be like themselves and pull down humanity rather than uplift mankind.
Honesty in Monastic Life

We can say that sadhakas, yogis and swamis upholding their vows are the prism of honesty. The rays of their auras radiate out through all areas of life. They are the protectors, the stabilizers, the uplifters, the consolers, the sympathizers. They have the solution to all human problems and all human ills, or they know where to find those solutions, to whom to go or what scripture to read. To be a sadhaka, yogi or swami, honesty is the primal qualification, yes, primal qualification — honesty, arjava. No satguru would accept a monastic candidate who persists in patterns of deception, wrongdoing and outright lies and who shows no shame for misdeeds.

Human relations, especially the guru-disciple relationship, derive their strength from trust, which each shares and expresses. The breaking of the yama of arjava is the severing of that trust, which thereby provokes the destruction or demise of the relationship. When the relationship falls into distrust, suspicion, anger, hate, confusion and retaliation, this gives birth to argument.

Countries that have weak leadership and unstable governments that allow wrongdoing to become a way of life, deception to be the way of thinking, are participating in dividing the masses in this very way. People begin to distrust one another. Because they are involved in wrongdoing, they suspect others of being involved in wrongdoings. People become angry because they are involved in wrongdoing. And finally the country fails and goes into war or succumbs to innumerable internal problems. We see this happening all over the world. A strong democratic country is constantly showing up politicians who take bribes and presidents who are involved in deception and wrongdoing, who set a poor example for the masses as to how things should be. Higher-consciousness governments are able to maintain their economy and feed their people. Lower-consciousness governments are not.

Even large, successful corporate monopolies deem honesty as the first necessary qualification for an employee. When his deception and wrongdoing are discovered, he is irrevocably terminated. There are many religious organizations today that have deceptive, dishonest people within them who connive wrongdoings, and these religious groups are failing and reaping the rewards of failing through loss and confusion. It is up to the heads of those organizations to weed out the deceptive, corruptive, virus-like persons to maintain the spirituality and fulfill the original intent of the founders.

Arjava could well be interpreted as simplicity, as many commentators have done. It is easier to remember the truth than remember lies — white lies, gray lies or black lies. It is easier to be straightforward than conniving and deceptive, dishonest. A simple life is an honest life. An honest life is a simple life. When our wants which produce our needs are simple, there is no need to be deceptive or participate in wrongdoing. It’s as simple as that. Arjava means not complicating things, not ramifying concerns and anxieties. This is to say, when a situation occurs, handle the situation within the situation itself. Don’t use the emotion involved in the situation to motivate or manipulate for personal gain in another situation. Don’t owe people favors, and don’t allow people to owe you favors. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver, and do deliver what you promise. This is the Sanatana Dharma way. If the neo-Indian religion is teaching differently, pay no attention. It is all political, and it has no kinship to dharma.
Moderate Diet

The tenth yama is mitahara, moderate appetite. Similarly, mitavyayin is little or moderate spending, being economical or frugal, and mitasayan is sleeping little. Gorging oneself has always been a form of decadence in every culture and is considered unacceptable behavior. It is the behavior of people who gain wealth and luxuries from the miseries of others. Decadence, which is a dance of decay, has been the downfall of many governments, empires, kingdoms and principalities. Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, made the famous decadent statement just before the French Revolution: “If the people have no bread, let them eat cake.” Nearly everyone who heard that imperious insult, including its authoress, completely lost their heads. Decadence is a form of decay that the masses have riled against century upon century, millennium after millennium.

All this and more shows us that mitahara is a restraint that we must all obey and which is one of the most difficult. The body knows no wisdom as to shoulds and should-nots. It would eat and drink itself to death if it had its way, given its own instinctive intelligence. It is the mind that controls the body and emotions and must effect this restraint for its own preservation, health and wellness of being, to avoid the emptiness of “sick-being.”

According to ayurveda, not eating too much is the greatest thing you can do for health if you want a long life, ease in meditation and a balanced, happy mind. That is why, for thousands of years, yogis, sadhus and meditators have eaten moderately. There is almost nothing, apart from smoking and drugs, that hurts the body more than excessive eating, and excessive eating has to be defined in both the amount of food and the quality of food. If you are regularly eating rich, processed, dead foods, then you are not following mitahara, and you will have rich, finely processed, dead, dredged-up-from-the-past karmic experiences that will ruin your marriage, wreak havoc on your children and send you early to the funeral pyre.

For the twenty-first century, mitahara has still another meaning. Our rishis may have anticipated that the economy of mitahara makes it a global discipline — eating frugally, not squandering your wealth to overindulge yourself, not using the wealth of a nation to pamper the nation’s most prosperous, not using the resources of the Earth to satiate excessive appetites. If all are following mitahara, we will be able to better feed everyone on the planet; fewer will be hungry. We won’t have such extreme inequalities of excessive diet and inadequate diet, the incongruity of gluttony and malnutrition. We will have global moderation. The Hindu view is that we are part of ecology, an intricate part of the planet. Our physical body is a species here with rights equal to a flea, cockroach, bird, snake, a fish, a small animal or an elephant.
Diet and Good Health

By following mitahara you can be healthier, and you can be wealthier. A lot of money is wasted in the average family on food that could go toward many other things the family needs or wants. If you are healthier, you save on doctor bills, and because this also helps in sadhana and meditation, you will be healthy, happy and holy. Overeating repels one from spiritual sadhana, because the body becomes slothful and lazy, having to digest so much food and run it through its system. Eating is meant to nourish the body with vitamins and minerals to keep it functioning. It is not meant for mere personal, sensual pleasure. A slothful person naturally does not have the inclination to advance himself through education and meditation, and is unable to do anything but a simple, routine job.

We recently heard of a Western science lab study that fed two groups of rats different portions of food. Those who were allowed to have any amount of food they could eat lived a normal rat life span. Those who were given half that much lived twice as long. This so impressed the scientists that they immediately dropped their own calorie input and lost many pounds, realizing that a long, healthy life could be attained by not eating so much.

People on this planet are divided in two groups, as delineated by states of consciousness. The most obvious group is those ruled by lower consciousness, which proliferates deceit and dishonesty and the confusion in life that these bring, along with fear, anger, jealousy and the subsequent remorseful emotions that follow. On the purer side are those in higher consciousness, ruled by the powers of reason and memory, willpower, good judgment, universal love, compassion and more. A vegetarian diet helps to open the inner man to the outer person and brings forth higher consciousness. Eating meat, fish, fowl and eggs opens the doors to lower consciousness. It’s as simple as that. A vegetarian diet creates the right chemistry for spiritual life. Other diets create a different chemistry, which affects your endocrine glands and your entire system all day long. A vegetarian diet helps your system all day long. Food is chemistry, and chemistry affects consciousness; and if our goal is higher consciousness, we have to provide the chemistry that evokes it.
Take Charge Of Your Body

There is a wonderful breathing exercise you can perform to aid the digestion and elimination of food by stimulating the internal fire. Breathe in through your nose a normal breath, and out through your nose very fast while pulling the stomach in. Then relax your stomach and again breathe in naturally and then out quickly by pulling the stomach in to force the air out of the lungs. Do this for one minute, then rest for one minute, then do it again. Then rest for a minute and do it again. About three repetitions is generally enough to conquer indigestion or constipation. This pranayama amplifies the heat of the body and stimulates the fire that digests food and eliminates waste. It is especially good for those who are rather sedentary and do a lot of intellectual work, whose energies are in the intellect and may not be addressing their digestive needs adequately.

Take charge of your own body and see that it is working right, is healthy and you are eating right. If you do overindulge, then compensate by fasting occasionally and performing physical disciplines. Most people have certain cravings and desires which they permit themselves to indulge in, whether it be sweets or rich, exotic foods or overly spiced foods. Discovering and moderating such personal preferences and desires is part of the spiritual path. If you find you overindulge in jelly beans, cashew nuts, licorice, chocolate, varieties of softdrinks or exotic imported coffee, moderate those appetites. Then you are controlling the entire desire nature of the instinctive mind in the process. That is a central process of spiritual unfoldment — to control and moderate such desires.

The rishis of yore taught us to restrain desire. They used the words restrain and moderate rather than suppress or eliminate. We must remember that to restrain and moderate desire allows the energy which is restrained and moderated to enliven higher chakras, giving rise to creativity and intuition that will actually better mankind, one’s own household and the surrounding community.

The rishis have given us great knowledge to help us know what to do. Study your body and your diet and find out what works for you. Find out what foods give you indigestion and stop eating those things. But remember that eating right, in itself, is not spiritual life. In the early stages seekers often become obsessed with finding the perfect diet. That is a stage they have to go through in learning. They have to find out what is right for them. But it should balance out to a simple routine of eating to live, not living to eat.
Reasons for Vegetarianism

Vegetarianism has for thousands of years been a principle of health and environmental ethics throughout India. Though Muslim and Christian colonization radically undermined and eroded this ideal, it remains to this day a cardinal ethic of Hindu thought and practice. A subtle sense of guilt persists among Hindus who eat meat, and there exists an ongoing controversy on this issue. The Sanskrit for vegetarianism is shakahara, and one following a vegetarian diet is a shakahari. The term for meat-eating is mansahara, and the meat-eater is called mansahari. Ahara means “food” or “diet,” shaka means “vegetable,” and mansa means “meat” or “flesh.”

Amazingly, I have heard people define vegetarian as a diet which excludes the meat of animals but does permit fish and eggs. But what really is vegetarianism? It is living only on foods produced by plants, with the addition of dairy products. Vegetarian foods include grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, milk, yogurt, cheese and butter. The strictest vegetarians, known as vegans, exclude all dairy products. Natural, fresh foods, locally grown without insecticides or chemical fertilizers are preferred. A vegetarian diet does not include meat, fish, shellfish, fowl or eggs. For good health, even certain vegetarian foods are minimized: frozen and canned foods, highly processed foods, such as white rice, white sugar and white flour; and “junk” foods and beverages — those with abundant chemical additives, such as artificial sweeteners, colorings, flavorings and preservatives.

In the past fifty years millions of meat-eaters have made the decision to stop eating the flesh of other creatures. There are five major motivations for such a decision. 1) Many become vegetarian purely to uphold dharma, as the first duty to God and God’s creation as defined by Vedic scripture. 2) Some abjure meat-eating because of the karmic consequences, knowing that by involving oneself, even indirectly, in the cycle of inflicting injury, pain and death by eating other creatures, one must in the future experience in equal measure the suffering caused. 3) Spiritual consciousness is another reason. Food is the source of the body’s chemistry, and what we ingest affects our consciousness, emotions and experiential patterns. If one wants to live in higher consciousness, in peace and happiness and love for all creatures, then he cannot eat meat, fish, shellfish, fowl or eggs. By ingesting the grosser chemistries of animal foods, one introduces into the body and mind anger, jealousy, fear, anxiety, suspicion and a terrible fear of death, all of which are locked into the flesh of butchered creatures. 4) Medical studies prove that a vegetarian diet is easier to digest, provides a wider range of nutrients and imposes fewer burdens and impurities on the body. Vegetarians are less susceptible to all the major diseases that afflict contemporary humanity, and thus live longer, healthier, more productive lives. They have fewer physical complaints, less frequent visits to the doctor, fewer dental problems and smaller medical bills. Their immune system is stronger, their bodies purer and more refined, and their skin clearer, more supple and smooth. 5) Finally, there is the ecological reason. Planet Earth is suffering. In large measure, the escalating loss of species, destruction of ancient rainforests to create pasture lands for livestock, loss of topsoil and the consequent increase of water impurities and air pollution have all been traced to the single fact of meat in the human diet. No single decision that we can make as individuals or as a race can have such a dramatic effect on the improvement of our planetary ecology as the decision to not eat meat. Many conscious of the need to save the planet for future generations have made this decision for this reason and this reason alone.

  1. mike says:


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s