When was the last time you felt happy; felt joy, contentment and good will towards others? It is a great feeling! One that everyone strives to achieve in their life. Everyone wants to be happy. What about sadness and depression? When was the last time you experienced those emotions? Happiness and sadness are two sides of the same coin, the coin of passion and emotion. You cannot have one without experiencing the other. Both are created by the mind and both are equally captivating. Caught in the thralls of emotion it becomes impossible to experience peace. Most people would choose happiness over peace, because of the pleasant sensations that it involves, but ‘what goes up must come down’, and the debilitating despondencies of grief and sorrow are the inevitable conclusion. Peace, on the other hand, transcends emotionality and is the answer to both happiness and sadness.
Most religions view ‘dispassion’ as the solution, or at least a part of the solution. Dispassion has been described as coldness or aloofness; the state of being uninvolved and emotionally detached. These definitions do not sound like anything that one would strive to obtain. How then can dispassion be the path to peace and love? Compassion must also be present before the road is complete.
Compassion is the feeling of empathy towards beings that are suffering and the desire to help. It is the expression of the heart, where dispassion is the expression of the mind. The heart and the mind must be in accord before peace can be achieved. Dispassion alone will not achieve peace. Dispassion is the ‘zero point’. It is a point of neutrality where emotions have subsided and life has no meaning. It is a point of complete calm but it is a point with no love. Because your essence is love, you realize for certain that this is not where you belong, so you begin reconnecting to your heart and to life.
Dispassion is a necessary component to peace, but not the essential one. Compassion must be present; the heart and mind unified! In reality, the heart must engulf the mind and rule it. Incapable of compassion, the mind must be dominated and tamed before peace can be achieved.
Compassion is not to be confused with sympathy. Where compassion means staying above the suffering and extending a hand, sympathy means identifying with the sufferer and descending into the morass they have created. A compassionate person knows that suffering is a self-created illusion which can only be dispelled through dispassion. It is analogous to helping a person that has fallen down into a well. A compassionate person would lower a rope and allow the person to pull themselves out, while a sympathetic person would jump down into the well with them to help. Now they are both stuck in the well!
There are many ways to culture compassion and dispassion. Years ago I attended a lecture in Katmandu, Nepal sponsored by a European Buddhist group and given by a Rinpoche or Tibetan Holy Man. His discourse was translated into both English and German, so I was able to understand it twice. During the talk, I suddenly had an epiphany through a vision in my mind of two men sitting back to back staring in opposite directions. One man was a Buddhist contemplating the emptiness and enormity of the void, while the other was a Christian looking forward into the fullness of God and creation. I saw quite clearly at the time that although both men were looking in opposite directions, they both had the desire and resolve to expand consciousness and merge with the infinite. I also saw that both directions were valid. All paths lead to God!
Happiness is a pleasant emotion. It is certainly one that supports life and uplifts the spirit. But it is also one that keeps us caught within the trap of emotionality. Do not value it too much and instead strive to develop compassion for all things and the desire to transcend transient emotional states and find peace. Peace is a permanent level of consciousness which contains love, joy and also happiness.