“For those who may not find happiness to exercise religious faith, it’s okay to remain a radical atheist, it’s absolutely an individual right, but the important thing is with a compassionate heart — then no problem.” His Holyness the Dalai Lama
“It is lack of love for ourselves that inhibits our compassion toward others. If we make friends with ourselves, then there is no obstacle to opening our hearts and minds to others.” Unknown.
“The value of compassion cannot be over-emphasized. Anyone can criticize. It takes a true believer to be compassionate. No greater burden can be borne by an individual than to know no one cares or understands.” Arthur H Stainbach
We often think of peace as the absence of war; that if the powerful countries would reduce their arsenals, we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds – our prejudices, fears, and ignorance. Even if we transported all the bombs to the moon, the roots of war and the reasons for bombs would still be here, in our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we would make new bombs. Seek to become more aware of what causes anger and separation, and what overcomes them. Root out the violence in your life, and learn to live compassionately and mindfully . Thich Nhat Hanh
In seperateness lies the world’s great misery, in compassion lies the world’s true strength. The Buddha.
Compassion is the virtue of empathy for the suffering of others. It is regarded as a fundamental part of human love, and a cornerstone of greater social interconnection and humanism—foundational to the highest principles in philosophy, society, and personhood.
Compassion is often regarded as emotional in nature, and there is an aspect of compassion which regards a quantitative dimension, such that individual’s compassion is often given a property of “depth,” “vigor,” or “passion.” The etymology of “compassion” is Latin, meaning “co-suffering.” More virtuous than simple empathy, compassion commonly gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another’s suffering. It is often, though not inevitably, the key component in what manifests in the social context as altruism. In ethical terms, the various expressions down the ages of the so-called Golden Rule embody by implication the principle of compassion: Do to others what you would have them do to you.
The English noun compassion, meaning to suffer together with, comes from Latin. Compassion is thus related in origin, form and meaning to the English noun patient (= one who suffers) Ranked a great virtue in numerous philosophies, compassion is considered in almost all the major religious traditions as among the greatest of virtues.
Compassion is that which makes the heart of the good move at the pain of others. It crushes and destroys the pain of others; thus, it is called compassion. It is called compassion because it shelters and embraces the distressed. The Buddha.
Compassion or Karuna is at the transcendental and experiential heart of the Buddha’s teachings. He was reputedly asked by his personal attendant, Ananda, “Would it be true to say that the cultivation of loving kindness and compassion is a part of our practice?” To which the Buddha replied, “No. It would not be true to say that the cultivation of loving kindness and compassion is part of our practice. It would be true to say that the cultivation of loving kindness and compassion is all of our practice.”
The first of what in English are called the Four Noble Truths is the truth of suffereing or dukkha (unsatisfactoriness or stress). Dukkha is identified as one of the three distinguishing charactoristics of all conditioned existence. It arises as a consequence of the failure to adapt to change or anicca (the second characteristic) and the insubstantiality, lack of fixed identity, the horrendous lack of certainty of anatta (the third characteristic) to which all this constant change in turn gives rise. Compassion made possible by observation and accurate perception is the appropriate practical response. The ultimate and earnest wish, manifest in the Buddha, both as archetype and as historical entity, is to relieve the suffering of all living beings everywhere.
His Holyness the Dalai Lama has said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” The American monk Bhikkhu Bodhi states that compassion “supplies the complement to loving kindness: whereas loving kindness has the characteristic of wishing for the happiness and welfare of others, compassion has the characteristic of wishing that others be free from suffering, a wish to be extended without limits to all living beings. Like metta, compassion arises by entering into the subjectivity of others, by sharing their interiority in a deep and total way. It springs up by considering that all beings, like ourselves, wish to be free from suffering, yet despite their wishes continue to be harassed by pain, fear, sorrow, and other forms of dukkha.”
At the same time, it is emphasised that in order to manifest effective compassion for others it is first of all necessary to be able to experience and fully appreciate one’s own suffering and to have, as a consequence, compassion for oneself. The Buddha is reported to have said, “It is possible to travel the whole world in search of one who is more worthy of compassion than oneself. No such person can be found.”
Compassion is the antidote to the self-chosen poison of anger.
In the various Hindu traditions, compassion is called daya, and, along with charity and self-control, is one of the three central virtues.The importance of compassion in the Hindu traditions reaches as far back as the Vedas, sacred texts composed over a period prior to 1500 B.C. While the early Vedas sometimes glorifies war and the worship of the war god, Indra, Indra too is compassionate towards humans & humanity, though he is the war god, he is dis-compassionate towards Asuras – The evil people who cause sufferings to the human race. Later Vedas demonstrates a greater sensitivity to the values of compassion. The central concept particularly relevant to compassion in Hindu spirituality is that of ahimsa. The exact definition of ahimsa varies from one tradition to another. Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word which can be translated most directly as “refraining from harmfulness.” It is a derivation of himsa which means harmful, or having the intent to cause harm.
The prayers of Vasudeva Datta, for example, a 16th century Vaishnava holy man or sadhu, exemplify compassion within Gaudiya Vaishnavism. He prayed to the Lord Krishna asking him to “deliver all conditioned souls” because his “heart breaks to see the sufferings of all conditioned souls”.
In the Jewish tradition, God is the Compassionate and is invoked as the Father of Compassion: hence Raḥmana or Compassionate becomes the usual designation for His revealed word. (Compare, below, the frequent use of raḥman in the Quran). Sorrow and pity for one in distress, creating a desire to relieve, is a feeling ascribed alike to man and God: in Biblical Hebrew, (“riḥam,” from “reḥem,” the mother, womb), “to pity” or “to show mercy” in view of the sufferer’s helplessness, hence also “to forgive” (Hab. iii. 2);, “to forbear” (Ex. ii. 6; I Sam. xv. 3; Jer. xv. 15, xxi. 7.) The Rabbis speak of the “thirteen attributes of compassion.” The Biblical conception of compassion is the feeling of the parent for the child. Hence the prophet’s appeal in confirmation of his trust in God invokes the feeling of a mother for her offspring (Isa. xlix. 15).
A classic articulation of the Golden Rule (see above) came from the first century Rabbi Hillel the Elder. Renowned in the Jewish tradition as a sage and a scholar, he is associated with the development of the Mishnah and the Talmud and, as such, one of the most important figures in Jewish history. Asked for a summary of the Jewish religion in the “while standing on one leg” meaning in the most concise terms, Hillel stated: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah. The rest is the explanation; go and learn.”
Many Jewish sources speak of the importance of compassion for animals. Significant rabbis who have done so include Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch,Rabbi Simhah Zissel Ziv, and Rabbi Moshe Cordovero.
Compassion in action: an 18th-century Italian depiction of the Parable of the Good Samaritan
The Christian Bible’s second Epistle to the Corinthians is but one place where God is spoken of as the “Father of compassion” and the “God of all comfort” It reads as follows: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. Jesus embodies for Christians, the very essence of compassion and relational care. Christ challenges Christians to forsake their own desires and to act compassionately towards others, particularly those in need or distress. Jesus assures his listeners in the Sermon on the Mount that, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” In the Parable of the Good Samaritan he holds up to his followers the ideal of compassionate conduct. True Christian compassion, say the Gospels, should extend to all, even to the extent of loving one’s enemies.
In the Muslim tradition, foremost among God’s attributes are mercy and compassion or, in the canonical language of Arabic, Rahman and Rahim. Each of the 114 chapters of the Quran, with one exception, begins with the verse, “In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful,”. The Arabic word for compassion is rahmah. As a cultural influence, its roots abound in the Quran. A good Muslim is to commence each day, each prayer and each significant action by invoking God the Merciful and Compassionate, i.e. by reciting Bism-i-llah a-Rahman-i-Rahim. The womb and family ties are characterized by compassion and named after the exalted attribute of God “Al-Rahim” (The Compassionate).
The Muslim scriptures urge compassion towards captives as well as to widows, orphans and the poor. Zakat, a toll tax to help the poor and needy, is obligatory upon all Muslims deemed wealthy enough to do so (calculated by assessing the net wealth of an adult at the end of a year)(9:60). One of the practical purposes of fasting or sawm during the month of Ramadan is to help one empathize with the hunger pangs of those less fortunate, to enhance sensitivity to the suffering of others and develop compassion for the poor and destitute. The Prophet is referred to by the Quran as the Mercy for the World (21:107); and one of the sayings of the Prophet informs the faithful that, “God is more loving and kinder than a mother to her dear child.”
Compassion for all life, human and non-human, is central to the Jain tradition. Though all life is considered sacred, human life is deemed the highest form of earthly existence. To kill any person, no matter their crime, is considered unimaginably abhorrent. It is the only substantial religious tradition that requires both monks and laity to be vegetarian. It is suggested that certain strains of the Hindu tradition became vegetarian due to strong Jain influences. The Jain tradition’s stance on nonviolence, however, goes far beyond vegetarianism. Jains refuse food obtained with unnecessary cruelty. Many practice veganism. Jains run animal shelters all over India: Delhi has a bird hospital run by Jains; every city and town in Bundelkhand has animal shelters run by Jains. Jain monks go to lengths to avoid killing any living creature, sweeping the ground in front of them in order to avoid killing insects, and even wearing a face mask to avoid inhaling the smallest fly.