It is through compassion, that we understand

Ready for another of Yogi Bhajan’s 5 Sutras?

Yogi Bhajan, a master of kundalini yoga and spiritual teacher for decades to thousands worldwide, taught a set of principles that he coined the Five Sutras of the Aquarian Age.

This edition of Soul Notes continues our 5-part series, with this one devoted to Sutra #4: “Understand through compassion, or you will misunderstand the times.”

“Understand through compassion, or you will misunderstand the times.”

[Sutra 4, Yogi Bhajan]

This sutra is one of pure beauty.

With this sutra, it just seems right to take it word by word, each precious word. Remember dissecting and diagramming sentences in English class? Okay, I won’t go there exactly, but I do feel that this particular sutra packs an especially powerful punch! Let’s explore each word or phrase in turn. Throughout, I invite you to tune in and lean into the feelings each invokes.


Understand what, or whom? Does it relate to “the times”? Understand the times? If so, it is a reference to understanding the new age, the Aquarian age. Or, rather, does it mean to understand each other? How about remembering to understand ourselves? I’d venture to say that the answer to these questions is “all of the above.”


Notice that the sutra includes the word, “through.” The word chosen was not “by” or “with” compassion. It’s through compassion. Through suggests that it comes from within, and not from without, from outside ourselves. Through suggests motion, flow, fluidity. It is not passive. It’s active. As so shall we be active in invoking this sutra and its intention.

It is through and from the heart, not the mind, that we live compassion – we ARE compassion. No matter how many positive thoughts  we may have, it is through a compassionate heart that we live in and through our truth. It is through and from the heart that we embody our divine essence.


The word compassion means “to suffer with.”   Suffer means to carry or to bear. So, we carry that feeling or emotion. Again, it’s active, not passive.

Compassion also suggests a shared feeling, understanding or experience. At its core, it suggests oneness, not separateness. This harkens us back to Sutra #1: Recognize that the other person is you. (For a refresher on Sutra 1, go here.)

Recently I started my “Family to Family” training with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), a mental health organization devoted to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. As I shared in an earlier post, my brother died by suicide. And, as a child, on more than one occasion I witnessed my mother (who is bipolar) attempting to kill herself. I believe strongly that part of my own spiritual path and calling includes helping others whose families include one or more persons living with a mental illness.

Through the Family to Family course we are learning about brain disorders, including: schizophrenia, bipolar, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and related mental misfirings.

A recent class session was devoted to empathy and compassion – for our loved ones (suffering from these types of brain disorders), and for ourselves. According to the NAMI Family to Family program, empathy is: “The intimate comprehension of another person’s thoughts and feelings, without imposing our own judgment or expectations.”

Many of the behaviors displayed by someone with these disorders seemingly don’t “make sense” to the other family members. Additionally, the behaviors are often erratic and unpredictable, leaving the family members living in a constant state of uneasiness. And, for the person with the disorder, the behaviors often are driven by the need for self-protection and a yearning to feel safe in what truly seems to them to be an unsafe world.

Throughout the empathy learning module, we explored a number of guidelines. Although created to help family members feel compassion toward the person with a brain disorder, I’d venture to say that as with Sutra #4, these are wise words to apply to many a situation in each of our lives. A few of the guidelines are: 1. Don’t criticize; 2. Don’t buy into the stigma all around you; 3. Praise the positive behavior every chance you get; 4. It’s okay to set limits – all persons require rules of conduct and cooperative standards by which to live; 5. Remember, everyone can only try to do their best; and 6. Live from a place of grace (tolerance, endurance and self-restraint), while at the same time extending compassion to ourselves during those times when we may not quite muster up all these graces.

“Let compassion win, and you win.” –Yogi Bhajan.

Or you will misunderstand the times

The times are these.  Right now.  The new age.  The Aquarian age.  These are exciting and exalted times.  Through compassion, may we each rise to meet them.

Okay, your turn:

In what ways has compassion served you and those around you? Is there a time when you wished you had shown more compassion, to yourself or to someone else? What does it feel like, for you, to feel compassion?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2015 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.

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