When you feel responsible for yourself and others, and practise empathy, you would have served the world well and truly, says MANAS DAS

Swami Vivekananda once said: “They alone live, who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive.” How can we live for others? What exactly was Swami Vivekananda talking about?

When I contemplated on Vivekananda’s words, the word “Empathy” came to mind. Empathy is a beautiful virtue. One who practices this virtue gets a larger field to serve others, love not one person but a number of people and reconnect with one’s own surrounding.

If we reflect on the word empathy, we discover its true meaning ― the ability to imagine how another person is feeling and so understand his/her mood. To further elaborate, empathy is: ‘the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner without any ambiguity.’

Manas Das

In our mundane life when we pursue our agenda, usually, we are so engrossed with our thoughts, actions and goals that we are not careful about others’ feeings, their thinking.  

Empathy is the ability to emotionally understand what other people feel, see things from their perspective, and imagine yourself in their place. Essentially, it is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and feeling what they must be feeling.

When you see another person suffering, you might be able to instantly envision yourself in that person’s place and feel sympathy for what she/he is going through. Then you get prepared to contribute to his happiness or comfort.

This urge is so satisfying that you enjoy giving. When one gives something in an unconditional or selfless manner without any expectation, that very act creates a pond of nectar within. While people are generally pretty well-attuned to their own feelings and emotions, getting into someone else’s head can be a bit more difficult. The ability to feel empathy allows people to “walk a mile in another’s shoes,” so to speak. It permits people to understand the emotions that others are feeling.

For many, seeing another person in pain and responding with indifference or even outright hostility seems utterly incomprehensible. But the fact that some people do respond in such a manner, clearly demonstrates that empathy is not necessarily a universal response to the suffering of others.

A wise person once said, “When you make peace with yourself, you can be at peace with the rest of the world. If you can recognize the spirit in yourself, you can recognize the spirit in everyone, and then you find it natural to be kind and well disposed to all.”

When you sit quietly and watch yourself, all kinds of things may come to the surface. Do nothing about them, don’t react to them; as they have come, so will they go, by themselves.

All that matters is mindfulness, total awareness of oneself, or rather of one’s mind. When we watch our thoughts passively, we very well see how they come and go. Leaving your front door and back door open, when you visit the world outside of you, you will find that your house is well guarded.

Allow thoughts to appear in the shore of the mind and again allow them to subside in that shore. Enjoy their presence but don’t serve them tea or snacks. Just ensure the mind stays calm but alert. Do not sleep; stay awake.

Happiness is an esoteric guest. It comes when you are not seeking it. When you are not making an effort to be happy, then happiness is there.

How beautiful this creation is? And how people distort this beauty in anticipation of personal pleasure, out of ignorance and callousness? The immense patience of creation will continue to absorb all trouble and torment.

Desires will continue to  grip us birth after birth. Choices will abound and surround the mind, no matter which corner of the earth you try to escape to. Only when grace leads the mind, and turns it silent, then dispassion tames the mind, and cools it.  Over time, one becomes like Buddha and looks at people everywhere with love, flying like a dove, enjoying every moment like a dervish.

To conclude, when you feel responsible for yourself and others, and practise empathy, you would have served the world well and truly.

Manas Das, is a graduate in Law, with a Science & Cost Accounting background from Cuttack, Odisha. He is a well-known poet and writer and writes both in Odiya and in the English language. Hailing from a cultured, humble family and pushed into entrepreneurship, he set up and managed a pharmaceutical manufacturing company for 44 years. He lives with his wife Lipipuspa in Odisha, and is blessed with a son and a daughter.

More Stories by Manas Das