by Michael Ketterhagen
“Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.”
--Luke 6:36 (Jerusalem Bible)
“Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful.”
--Luke 6:36 (NABRevised) "Our Father is kind. You be kind.”
--Luke 6:36 (Eugene Peterson, “The Message”)
“The practice of compassion begins with discovering and acknowledging the injured person in us.”
--Pandit Rajmani Tigunait (commentary on Yoga Sutra 1:33, “The Secret of the Yoga Sutra”)
Christianity and Yoga agree in principles, again.
Jesus told his followers, as the three different translations of Luke’s Gospel say, to be compassionate, merciful, kind. Then, you will be acting like God the Father acts.
Patanjali, codifying the 7,000-year-old yoga philosophy and science, names compassion as a sign of God-consciousness in Yoga Sutra 1:33. In other words, we are in the same Divine order as God when we act compassionately, refraining from cruelty in all ways.
Yoga offers us a further insight in the commentary by Pandit Rajmani—in order to really be compassionate, or merciful, or kind, we have to be compassionate, merciful, kind to ourselves because all of us have been injured in one way or another.
There is a huge epidemic that is even worse than the Covid-19 pandemic. It is the epidemic that preceded the coronavirus—the epidemic of PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD, although always with the human race, was accelerated by the endless wars in dozens of countries, as humans continued to fight about oil resources or water shortages or power and control of wealth. For U.S. people, the 9/11 experience exploded the violence in the planet and seemed to give permission to political and civil wars in many countries which displaced millions of people and released millions of refugees.
In the U.S., the violence triggered by racial discord and the intense increase in domestic violence and child abuse added more traumatic stress to our human community. Now, especially in political discourse, the tension is increasing dramatically.
What’s the answer to all of this exploding need for kindness, mercy and compassion? Yoga says, we must acknowledge and discover the wounded person within ourselves. We must be kind, not over-indulgent, but truly kind to ourselves. We must nurture our bodies and minds with soft, non-critical and loving thoughts about ourselves. We must have mercy on our actions when we make mistakes that create even more stress.
All of this compassionate activity towards ourselves will take strong decision-making ability. It will take listening to the loving voice of our conscience, the voice of the Divine in us. And then, acting on that voice. Our conscience knows how to be kind, compassionate, and merciful to ourselves.
I pray to the Divinity in you! I pray that we listen to our conscience!