What Does “Compassion” Mean?

Compassion is the equivalent of miséricorde. It is a pity full of strength and kindness, a pity that pardons and makes amends, forgets all offences and wants always what is best for everyone.
[CWM2, 17:10]
…it is quite evident that with the amplitude and totality of the vision, there comes something which is a compassion that understands—not that pity of the superior for the inferior: the true divine Compassion, which is the total comprehension that each one is what he must be.
[CWM2, 11:29]

Divine Compassion

…which sees, understands, accepts the burden of others and is strong to help and heal, not with self-will and revolt against the suffering in the world and with ignorant accusation of the law of things and their source, but with light and knowledge and as an instrument of the Divine in its emergence.
[CWSA, 23:354]

Compassion of a Divine Soul

…compassion … of a divine soul overlooking men, embracing all other souls in himself, not the shrinking of the heart and the nerves and the flesh which is the ordinary human form of pity: nor does he attach a supreme importance to the life of the body, but looks beyond to the life of the soul and attaches to the other only an instrumental value.
[CWSA, 19:183]

Compassion: A Psychic Virtue

Compassion and gratitude are essentially psychic virtues. They appear in the consciousness only when the psychic being takes part in active life.
The vital and the physical experience them as weaknesses, for they curb the free expression of their impulses, which are based on the power of strength.
As always, the mind, when insufficiently educated, is the accomplice of the vital being and the slave of the physical nature, whose laws, so overpowering in their half-conscious mechanism, it does not fully understand. When the mind awakens to the awareness of the first psychic movements, it distorts them in its ignorance and changes compassion into pity or at best into charity, and gratitude into the wish to repay, followed, little by little, by the capacity to recognise and admire.
It is only when the psychic consciousness is all-powerful in the being that compassion for all that needs help, in whatever domain, and gratitude for all that manifests the divine presence and grace, in whatever form, are expressed in all their original and luminous purity, without mixing compassion with any trace of condescension or gratitude with any sense of inferiority.
[CWM2, 15:277]

Compassion: True Remedy for Suffering

…as soon as man rises to a little higher level, he begins to feel compassion towards animals and seeks to improve their lot. Yet there is an element of truth in the conception of the unfeeling superman: it is this, that the higher race will not feel the kind of egoistic, weak and sentimental pity which men call charity. This pity, which does more harm than good, will be replaced by a strong and enlightened compassion whose only purpose will be to provide a true remedy to suffering, not to perpetuate it.
[CWM2, 12:100]

Divine Law: The Law of Compassion

According to the law of man the guilty ought to be punished. But there is a law more imperative than the human law. It is the Divine law, the law of compassion and mercy.
It is because of this law that the world is able to endure and progress towards Truth and Love.
[CWM2, 14:24]

Divine Compassion and Divine Grace

…it is not a universal Divine Compassion either, acting impartially on all who approach it and acceding to all prayers. It does not select the righteous and reject the sinner. The Divine Grace came to aid the persecutor (Saul of Tarsus), it came to St. Augustine the profligate, to Jagai and Madhai of infamous fame, to Bilwamangal and many others whose conversion might well scandalise the puritanism of the human moral intelligence; but it can come to the righteous also—curing them of their self-righteousness and leading to a purer consciousness beyond these things.
[SABCL, 23:609]
Sweet Mother, what is a “divine disgust”?
…It is a disgust that is full of a total compassion.
It is something that takes upon itself the bad vibration in order to cure others of it. The consequences… (silence) of a wrong and low movement—instead of throwing it back with cold justice upon the one who has committed the mistake, it absorbs it, in order to transform it within itself, and diminishes as far as possible the material consequences of the fault committed. I believe that the old story about Shiva who had a black stain on his neck because he had swallowed all that was bad in the world, is an imaginative way of expressing this divine disgust. It made a black stain on his neck.
[CWM2, 6:286]

Pity and Compassion

529Self-pity is always born of self-love; but pity for others is not always born of love for its object. It is sometimes a self-regarding shrinking from the sight of pain; sometimes the rich man’s contemptuous dole to the pauper. Develop rather God’s divine compassion than human pity.
530Not pity that bites the heart and weakens the inner members, but a divine masterful and untroubled compassion and helpfulness is the virtue that we should encourage.
[from Sri Aurobindo’s Thoughts and Aphorisms]
Can there be any greater misfortune than to live without knowing the Supreme Lord? And yet this almost universal ill rarely excites any pity. Because one who knows that he is suffering from it also knows that the cure depends on him alone—for the Lord’s compassion is infinite.
[CWM2, 10:358]

Compassion and Sorrow

It is from a state of deep compassion that the Divine acts in Matter and this deep compassion is translated in Matter precisely by this psychic sorrow which is spoken about here… That is as though something were reversed, it is the same thing but reversed in this way (Mother joins her hands and then opens them as in an offering).
Well, the Divine’s state of compassion is translated in the psychic consciousness by a sorrow that is not egoistic, a sorrow that is the expression of the identification through sympathy with universal sorrow.

“Compassion in Reverse”

Even when one weeps over another’s misery, there is always a mixture. There is a mixture, but as soon as the psychic gets mingled in the sorrow, there is an element of “compassion in reverse” (that’s what I was trying to explain a moment ago) which comes into the being and, if one can disentangle the two, concentrate upon that, come out of one’s ego and unite with this compassion in reverse, through this one can come into contact with the great universal Compassion which is something immense, vast, calm, powerful, deep, full of perfect peace and an infinite sweetness. And this is what I mean when I say that if one just knows how to deepen one’s sorrow, go right to its very heart, rise beyond the egoistic and personal part and go deeper, one can open the door of a great revelation. That does not mean that you must seek sorrow for sorrow’s sake, but when it is there, when it comes upon you, always if you can manage to rise above the egoism of your sorrow—seeing first which is the egoistic part, what it is that makes you suffer, what the egoistic cause of your suffering is, and then rising above that and going beyond, towards something universal, towards a deep fundamental truth, then you enter that infinite Compassion, and there, truly it is a psychic door that opens. So, if someone sees me shedding tears, if at that moment one tries to unite completely—you understand, to enter into these tears, melt in them—this can open the door. One can open the door and have the full experience, a very exceptional experience, which leaves a very deep mark upon your consciousness.
[CWM2, 6:145]