Compassion or Sympathy?

Two words that are generally very confusing are compassion and sympathy. I understood the difference between these two words when I read about a personality, who had a deep impact on the lives of millions, i.e., Siddharth Gautam.

When Siddhartha Gautam was born, the astrologers warned his father that Siddharth will either grow up to be a great ruler or, will give up everything to become a hermit. They also advised the king that if he wanted his son to grow up to be a great ruler, he should keep him away from any kind of pain and distress. As a result, Siddhartha was highly pampered and was endowed with all kinds of luxuries. Years passed by and Siddhartha grew up to be a handsome prince who was married to a beautiful princess named Yashodhara and soon became a father. His life was perfect in all ways, untouched by pain and distress.

One day he expressed a desire of going out into the capital and interacting with his subject. His wish was fulfilled but before that arrangements were made that during the journey, Siddhartha does not come across any kind of suffering. But fate had something else in the mind.

Siddhartha commanded his charioteer to take a different route and soon encountered several people who were suffering from pain, diseases, and all kinds of negativities. This experience left a deep impact on Siddhartha who then couldn’t get it out of his head. After many sleepless and thoughtful nights, he finally decided to give up his luxurious life to understand and help people who were in pain, to understand the meaning of life and the root cause of all sufferings. Later he attained enlightenment and came to be known as Lord Buddha.

In the above story, when Siddhartha saw his people suffering, he did not feel sorry for them but he did not stop there. The pity feeling soon ignited a desire that is still enlightening the life of millions. He could have carried on with his life and not bothered about those people. After all, he had nothing to lose. But something inside him did not allow him to let go.

That was his compassion.

These days we come across various news articles or day to day life experiences where we see people suffering from all kinds of problems. Surely we feel sorry for them and do wish that their pain and suffering come to an end but we don’t put an effort to make that happen. We simply carry on with our lives.

This is called sympathy.

What our society desperately needs at this point where millions are losing livelihood and all means of hope is not sympathy. Society needs compassion. In a minute, we can name several problems that our society is suffering from like discrimination, hunger, unemployment, crimes, etc. If we all try to uplift at least one person in the society from these problems, our society will automatically become a better place.

Let me know your views on this.

Published by Sruti Shivakumar

An architect from India on a journey of self exploration

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