Sunday Service: Something Higher Than Compassion

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Week of Aug 30 – Sept 5, 2015

One of my favorite essays on spirituality that I’ve written over the years is about the difference between compassion and love. Compassion is good, I argue in the essay, but it still is secondary to love. That’s because compassion still treats the other person as “other,” while truly loving someone is recognizing that they are part of you and not other than yourself. Properly loving others, as Swami Bhajanananda noted in a talk he gave at a conference of Ramakrishna monks in 2005, is a key component of spiritual life.

Speaking of Ramakrishna monks, just yesterday I got word that the general secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, Swami Suhitananda, will be visiting New York after attending the Parliament of Religions in Salt Late City. If you’re in the greater New York metro area on September 20, please join me and others in this rare opportunity to see this distinguished monk in person. You can learn more about this and other upcoming New York events on our New York services page.


Peter Kowalke


LoveThis Week’s Spiritual Talk

The Limits of Compassion

By Peter Kowalke

Don’t be compassionate.

Compassion is okay. We can have compassion for others, and this will make us happier and more fulfilled. But we can do better: We can love.

The difference between compassion and love is the difference between walking five minutes each morning and jogging for 45. Compassion is generously, selflessly giving to others. Which is good. But how much better to give and not even realize you’re being selfless? This is a higher state of giving, at once easier and more profound in its effects on the giver and the receiver. This higher state of giving can only come from loving, which is the act of finding yourself in another person to the point that you stop thinking of them as someone else.

But let’s step back. Why give at all? The best reason to give has nothing to do with altruism or a better society; the world will be fine even without our help, and the world doesn’t need another martyr. The reason to give is that it makes you a better person by expanding your sense of self to include others. This expansion of self gets you closer to a feeling of oneness with everything around you, which ultimately gets you closer to God and a tranquility that transcends the slings and arrows of the world.

Compassion takes us half the way. We expand ourselves a tiny bit when we give, looking outside ourselves and perhaps feeling a kinship with others or a sense of purpose. There’s still the sense that we’re giving to someone else, however; there’s still an “us” and a “them.” Love dwarfs the expansive power of compassion because real love has no concept of self or other; a mother gives to her child because she feels connected with her baby and therefore must help, not because she wants to make the world a better place! Love done right denies any difference between the giver and the receiver, and this directly creates an understanding of expansion and oneness with the world.

Loving this way is easy but requires some unlearning.

(read more)


Video of the Week

Looking Inward to Grow Outward

Finding lasting happiness. Applying the Bhagavad Gita to daily life. Learning about the history of Vedanta in the U.S. These are some of the topics covered at American Vedanta’s YouTube channel. We curate a list of spiritual videos that will help advance your spirituality and expand your mind. When wanting spiritual videos, give our YouTube channel a look.

We also recommend other resources such as Booksaudio lectures and web sites, among other resources.


Spiritual Fitness

Do You have a Spiritual Routine?

Vedanta, if not practical, has no other relevancy. The key to practical Vedanta is an individualized spiritual routine.

There are six components of a good spiritual routine.

Swan1. Find a Community. If you have an existing church, temple or mosque, attend regularly. If not, join our Facebook group and see our list of recommended spiritual organizations.

2. Seek Guidance. Find a mentor within your existing spiritual community or contact us for a referral.

3. Attend Spiritual Services Regularly. If you don’t live near an appropriate spiritual community, we offer a weekly spiritual talk delivered by email, Facebook and Twitter. We also host a regular Vedanta Dinner for those who live in the New York City area.

4. Incorporate Individual Study. We keep a list of books and resources for your individual study needs.

5. Take Responsibility for Your Spiritual Life. Read our talk about listening to your own inner compass and contact us when you have a question that your spiritual community isn’t answering adequately.

6. Leverage Rituals Thoughtfully. As an example, read our essay about the power of saying grace.

Our longer talk about spiritual routine can be found here.

Happy Sunday! Peace be unto you. Peace be unto all.

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