The Heart and Mind of Daya

3 February 2022

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The Heart and Mind of Daya (Compassion)

Our core values as espoused by Sree Narayana Guru are: Daya (Compassion), Satyam (Trust), Dharma (Righteousness) and Shanti (Peace). Let’s explore what Daya or Compassion means to us. How does ‘Daya’ translate into beliefs, daily actions and behaviours? What has our own personal experience of ‘Daya’ been like as a receiver or giver? How did giving and receiving ‘Daya’ make us feel? In his teachings, Guru emphasized the knowledge of self as essential to his notion of oneness. He claimed that consciousness of the self in relation to others was vital in our understanding of compassion.

Self-examination is essentially a key component in helping us feel empathy for another. If we have never received loving kindness, it would be difficult for us to treat others with loving kindness – not because we do not want to be kind but because we do not know how to be kind. Just as an empty glass will have nothing to offer, one who has been deprived of kindness will struggle to reach out and give.

The way of mindfulness, or the way of awareness, makes it clear that we need to first focus on the self. Self-care and self-examination are important attributes in our understanding of compassion. As opposed to a mindless way of living and doing, we need to bring our full attention to what we are and what we are doing. Modern living, in more ways than one, emphasizes a single minded pursuit for material success, and this pursuit places us in a state where we are inured to everything else, especially the positive virtues of being. It is a state where we have little awareness of the impact of our words and actions on others and on ourselves.

The residents experience the richness and vibrancy of the temple with all their senses through colours, rituals, smells and sounds. Some get to maintain the practices they may have followed when more able-bodied. There are opportunities to interact with other worshippers facilitating a profound social cohesion.

The participating youth volunteers also benefit. They gain insights from the life lessons of elders, realise the richness of the local culture, understand the values of respect and compassion, and learn about eldercare.

Mindfulness is achieved by leaving behind baggage from the past, and emphasizes by focusing on the present, the future will sort itself out. So, how do we bring the fullness of our attention to whatever we are to partake in? We need to bring not only our ‘minds’ but our ‘hearts’ into what we do.

Japanese artist and calligrapher, Kazuaki Tanahashi, describes the Japanese character of mindfulness as consisting of two interactive figures – the ‘Heart’ and the ‘Mind’.

To strike a balance between the ‘Heart’ and the ‘Mind’ is not easy.

Too much of the Heart, and all too often we become lost in sympathy or the sufferings of another. Too much of the Mind, and we are reduced to being cool observers, uninvolved and distant. To be effectively compassionate, we need to strike a balance. We need to cultivate a ‘Quiet Mind’ and an ‘Open Heart’.

What are the qualities of the Quiet Mind? It is Spaciousness and Clarity. It is essentially the source of our capacity for discerning wisdom.

What are the qualities of an Open Heart? It is tenderness, warmth and flow.

How do we attain a quiet mind and an open heart?

We need to be calm to connect with our inner selves and to be fully aware of our divinity. Use your breath as an anchor to help as a focus for your attention, bringing you back when your mind wanders. By bringing awareness to our breathing, we remind ourselves that we are here, and remain fully awake to what is going on in the present moment.

“To use your breathing to nurture mindfulness, simply tune in to the feeling of your breath entering and leaving your body. That’s all. Just feel the breath. Breathe and know that you’re breathing. Do not do it as deep or forced breathing, or going all out in trying to feel something special, or wondering whether you’re doing it right. It’s just the awareness of the breath moving in and the breath moving out.” – Kabat-Zinn

Doing this allows you to attain a meditative silence that will provide clarity that comes from a ‘quiet mind’ and ‘open heart’. Together these attributes allow us to tap deeper into human consciousness and provide clarity of thought. Perhaps compassion in the purest sense is the delicate balancing between a quiet mind and an open heart.

Sree Narayana Mission (Singapore) Pte.

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