Since time immemorial it has been a human endeavor to find the philosopher’s stone – an alchemical substance which can convert any base metal to gold. It is also believed to be an “elixir of life” (Harry Potter readers will have more information on this subject).
Base metals are much like base thoughts – abundant, ugly, worthless.
How wonderful would life be if there existed a philosopher’s stone to turn basic (negative) thoughts into golden (positive) ones?
A few months back, I read Beyond Religion, an excellent book by HH Dalai Lama, which re-introduced me to a rather forgotten concept of “compassion”.
For some strange reason, Compassion kept coming centre-stage (in my mind) many times during the day. It was co-stage with almost all other types of emotions which shuttle back-and-forth during an arduous day.
I noticed something strange – almost every negative thought shriveled and exited in the presence of Compassion.
I caught onto this and experimented some more. If I had a reason to hate someone [sic], thinking compassionately about the same person (which did require a lot of effort and faith) made the hatred vanish in a puff. And with it vanished the burning, acidic, corrosiveness.
I discovered that none of the negative thoughts could withstand compassion – they all retreated without resistance. Compassion not only did an excellent job of extinguishing the self-consuming flames of negative thoughts but also left a very soothing after-effect. Be it anger, jealousy, arrogance, conceit,… hey Compassion has already worked its magic and shortened the list…
Though by definition, Compassion is about others, the first beneficiary is the giver (or so I realized). Compassion can win friends, and mellow down enemies.
And most good thoughts have compassion at their core. Consider Courtesy.
Compassion is now a very important part of my daily survival toolkit. It ensures for me a pleasant day despite the possibility of encountering people and situations which might not conform to my personal set of values and propriety.
Is Compassion really a philosopher’s stone? I appeal to your compassion for enlightening me…