The fundamental need of all of us is love. Every living being is looking for pleasure—from the insignificant insect to the kings and prime ministers. Everyone is seeking pleasure, but there is only one pleasure that can reach the heart, and that is the pleasure of experiencing the heart’s need to give love and receive love. The pleasures of sensual experience, fame, acquisition of wealth, etc. can reach the mind and the senses, but they don’t really touch the heart. What if you were the proprietor of everything on earth when you were the only being on earth? There will be no one to love you and there will be no one to be loved by you. We need love; that’s our nature.
One thing that every spiritual path has in common is the characteristic of compassion. One who actually follows a spiritual path is an instrument of compassion. In Buddhism, one of the cardinal principles Lord Buddha taught was ahimsa, which means non-violence, respecting the integrity of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of all living beings.
In the Jain religion, they are very strict vegetarians because they want to reduce the amount of violence that they commit to others. During my spiritual search, while I was traveling in Iran, I studied Islam during the month of Ramadan from a very wonderful scholar of Koran. He told me that they follow the fast of Ramadan to develop compassion. He explained that people are hungry because they don’t have money. Giving charity to them to get our tax laid off is good, but it is not really fulfilling to the heart. To give in charity to get our name exalted is good, but it doesn’t touch our heart. But to give in charity because we actually feel for the suffering of someone else and out of love we really want to help that person, that is real charity. He fasted so that he could know what the pains of hunger are like and then when he sees someone hungry, he feels compassion for that person. The highest and most pleasing service that one can offer is to be willing to accept inconvenience and difficulty in order to show care and compassion to another.
– Radhanath Swami