“Having knowledge is not enough. We need to cultivate ‘grandmother mind’, a mind of great compassion, to go beyond our abilities and intelligence” – MARGUERITE THEOPHIL

As children, we had a rigorous upbringing, well in most cases this was the case, so I was also no exception to this. A sense of discipline was taught from the very beginning. Seriousness for studies was given…

…Strict regimen for studies and playtime etc. was to be followed. Overall, it was life was by design where parents’ instructions ruled the roost. There was no question of questioning them whether it was for learning poems or mathematics tables. As a child, I always thought, why this discipline, why this routine, why this strictness, be it school or home? But, when I grew up, I noticed that it stood us in good stead, not only me or my brother but our entire generation.

Leading a disciplined life and following a strict regimen helped in many ways, it was for our good. Did our parents lack compassion while raising their children? Certainly no! It was much more than today’s so-called ‘cool’ parents. Why do I say that?

Time passed, and we moved on…

Time revisited me when I became a mother and started raising my daughter. Checking our children for discipline etc. was termed as ‘nagging’ which was not a good thing to do with our children. I noticed that my mother, as a grandmother was much more lenient, loving & compassionate with my daughter. She never let me say anything to her, whatsoever ruckus she created. I noticed how indulgent my mother was towards her granddaughter, and yes, it often annoyed me, and when I grumbled once too often to my mother about how she did not show such indulgence and patience with me?

This set me thinking, where was this compassion while raising me? How come she has developed robai-shin, the mind of great compassion?

To this, her point was, “मूल से प्यारा सूद” (Interest dearer than principal). She added, “As parents, you are busy with a lot of responsibilities, and make a lot of mistakes with your children; hopefully this makes me as a grandmother learn to be more patient with the grandchildren.” How right she was!

It feels like Dogen chose this term knowing that parents have to have a different kind of mind than grandparents — parents’ time is taken with all the nuts and bolts of bringing up children; grandparenting allows one to step back a lot more.

Developing a grandmother’s mind takes its course, but for this, we don’t need to wait for becoming a grandmother, say to be 60-year-old and beyond.  We need to develop that compassion that is born out of intention, reflection, and learning. Robai-shin is also known as a ‘kind mind,’ and ‘compassionate mind.’ And know that it is not solely a familial bond — we can be ‘grandmother’ by others not related to us too, and we can grandmother anyone around us. And it’s also important to point out that this capacity for compassion can be a part of the approach of young men and women and old men or women too. We realize that grandmother mind is a widely applicable term for this way of being.

Overall, ‘grandmothering’ implies that one is loving and compassionate toward grandchildren, without conditions, with no strings attached. It involves caring for them selflessly without expecting or demanding anything in return, with only the children’s best interest in mind. This loving also means firmly refusing to allow any form of destructive behaviour, while always doing this with the utmost kindness.

Normally, it is noticed that for most of us, it is easier to extend our grandmother’s mind to others. But this grandmother’s mind is often taught as a way of others should apply to treating themselves. We will see that when we begin to cultivate our grandmother’s mind, we learn to treat ourselves with kindness and compassion.

Compassion is to be one with the person who is suffering. The value of compassion enables us to understand ourselves better and others better, and the more we understand others the more we will want to relieve their suffering. There is a need to develop the ability to see things from someone else’s perspective and sympathize with his emotions. It is a gateway to happiness when you feel one with others’ suffering. Your act makes him happy and you too!

“To suffer together” is the literal meaning of compassion. Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering. Compassion is not the same as empathy or altruism, though the concepts are related.

As explained by Dogen, he says, “Buddhist philosophy places much emphasis on the power of the mind. Our perceptual habits of mind can imprison us, yet when the true nature of mind is understood, our perceptions can also help free us.” He adds, “The Dhammapada states: “All things are preceded by the mind, led by the mind, created by the mind.” The mind, however, is no fixed thing- it can be cultivated, and what better than to cultivate it to express kindness, compassion, and empathy.”

 So, why compassion is considered an important virtue? It is important because it promotes meaningful connections, facilitates problem-solving, and improves health and well-being. Compassion, at its core, is about putting aside judgment and refusing to turn away from challenging situations.

Moreso, why compassion is known to be a strength?

Compassion brings together many attributes ranging from awareness, empathy, and distress tolerance, to courage, a caring intention, strength, and persistence. We need to employ these skills to prevent us from becoming overwhelmed.

So, HappyHo, spread happiness!