By Isis Win
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.
Perhaps the word is not as old as the sentiment, but certainly compassion has existed from our early days of tribal gathering. Compassion, the highest level of empathy for the suffering is a fundamental part of human love, humanism and altruism. It is the cornerstone of religion and perhaps, one of the feelings most considered by philosophers and poets. As well, it is the principle of socialization and the formation for the many different groups that populated the world through our entire history. Psychology and sociology have studied it, and concur that our world without it, would not be the same, not as we know it. Compassion is an innate human virtue that can either die or be greatly enhanced through the learning process of interactivity among people.
From the religious point, compassion is referred as the inter connection between God and the self. It is the love from the parent for the child, according to Judaism (Kabbalah). And it is a tradition among their followers to consciously exercise it, a classic articulation of the Golden Rule.
In Christianity, the Bible refers about it in 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.” As well, the Gospels extend compassion to all, even to loving one’s enemies.
In Islam, God’s attributes are mercy and compassion (Rahaman and Rahim) and well, each of the 114 chapters of the Quran, with one exception start with the verse “In the name of God the compassionate, the merciful”. In the Muslim tradition, a good Muslim starts each day with a prayer invoking God the Merciful and Compassionate. Family ties are characterized by compassion and named after the exalted attribute of God “Al-Rahim” (the compassionate). During Ramadan, fasting is used as a help to empathize with the hunger of the less fortunate and to enhance the sensitivity to the sufferings of others and develop compassion for the poor and destitute.
Hinduism in their various traditions, compassion (Daya) is about charity and self-control, one of the three central virtues. Prior to 1500 B.C., the Vedas emphasized the importance of compassion to be observed.
In Buddhism, compassion (Karuna) is 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 Dalai Lama has said: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
In Jainism, compassion for all life, human and non-human, is central to the Jain tradition. It is believed that vegetarianism is the result of compassion.
There are some that experience compassion for others, some that seem not to know what that is and there are many whose lives revolve around compassion. Among those that ignore it or are incapable of experiencing it, are the social psychopaths that exercise their passion for cruelty and kill people. Neurologists and DNA researchers have established the paths of compassion in the brain and the strands that define if someone is a psychopath or not. Very few people lack this strand but those that exhibit it do not necessarily become psychopaths. So what does define that outcome? Cultural influence through a person’s period of upbringing, extreme stress and frustration that does not find an outlet. So, now we have an idea of what compassion is. The nurturing of empathy to others and their suffering. Most people know it well, had experienced it through their lives and reacted in an altruistic form. But as well, there are many individuals unable to represent their empathy or compassion. The reason I wrote this blog is the result of the constant accusations by a few radio personalities and some organizations against LGBT people and illegal immigrants, who declaim against them and deny social and civil rights of these minorities. Another reason is the constant vitriol among politicians seeking to gather either power or office, by belittling and attacking their opponent. The irony of this case is that all use their anger and lack of compassion against something they do not understand or that is not approved based on their religion. That includes priest and preachers in almost all denominations. As well, “some common criminals” that hate westerners and their countries and justify their criminal behavior in religion, such as Jihad.
LGBT and illegal immigrants are the main recipients of this lack of compassion and love for the other in the last few years. Those who cannot show compassion despise those people who perhaps are more deserving than themselves, people who have suffered from ostracism, rejection, lack of support and understanding, or received abuse and fell into poverty, due to the opportunities denied to them because they do not “fit” in our society, according to these bigots. But those people whom they have discriminated against do not react the same way against them. As well, the intolerant claim that some people are not deserving of compassion because they are who they are, even though they are not criminals, mean-intentioned towards others or do wrong. Of course, there are bad apples among those discriminated against, but there are many more in the mainstream, and bigots do not target them. Their war is going too far at this point. They, the intolerant, not only exhibit their lack of love for other human beings, but as well, their lack of love for themselves and the God they claim to love, worship and follow. Their God, regardless of denomination, would never do that to anyone.
But that is me, I am compassionate because that is the way I was raised and that is the way I’ve chosen to live my life. As well, I’ve chosen not to remain quiet because intolerants and bigots not only are hurting themselves – but they are hurting everyone else with their poison. I wonder what their children are like; I wish them well and I wish they depart from intolerance and choose to become loving and supportive of the stigmatized, segregated and rejected, because those are suffering people in need of compassion.
We live in a complex world. A world that is constantly threatened by violence and insecurity, fear and paranoia. Bigots should not fear any other – but the ones that threaten everyone, not our own kind, and not because someone does not conform to their view of life or condition. For as long as compassion is not what rules our destiny, no one, including our loving children are safe. Gandhi provided a grand example to the world with his support to those that demanded freedom and the right to choose what they judge best to their interest – by showing his love and compassion – even to those that antagonized his people and country, and his followers resorted to a Non-Violence approach, that according to many, doesn’t work. It did for India and to date, they are not only free and pacific people but they are experiencing the largest boost in their country, socially, culturally, spiritually and financially. On the other hand, we in America are feuding in partisan venues, for issues that do not belong to the political realm but rather, to the legal, social realms, and to something that the Constitution ruled: that our nation is the nation of everyone. And this principle brought the incredible progress that we all know about since those old days of the Founders of America. Many Americans wonder if we are in decay, if the nation is experiencing a fall from that privileged place in the world we’ve known for so long.
There is only one way we can insure the future of this nation: to exercise that fundamental principle of empathy and compassion towards those who may be believed to be wrong. It is our example that will straighten the path of those that need direction. And our example must be based on an undeniable compassion towards everyone. If you are not convinced yet about what compassion is about and how much it belongs to our realm, read again Buddha’s thought above. If you are among us, compassionate people, spread the word and lets change what we can, now that we can.
We don’t have to agree with anyone who does not concur with our lifestyle, principles, faith, moral standards, etc., especially if we don’t fully know and understand what those individuals are about, more so if what they show as their direction in life maybe scary to us. But we owe to everyone the benefit of the doubt. Undeniably, we most honor their choices and condition as human beings and their efforts to better their conditions in life. Doing the contrary is against our constitutional principle that provides us freedom and opportunity and the same principle that this nation has fought for since its inception. Going against this principle is a violation of the cornerstone of our government, nation and everyone that contributes to it. But we can not disregard the fact that the reason the US became independent and created its constitution is because in order to achieve that high place in the world with our society, legal system, even the forces that protects us, compassion must be observed unrelentingly by every single person that steps into, lives on and forms part of our society and country. Doing the contrary simply dilutes that principle that make each of us and the nation who we are and what we stand for, especially if those ostracized by our societal norms have not been proven guilty for any other crime, but their willingness and investment to better their lives, the lives of their beloved ones and such contribute to the well-being of our nation and everyone in it. Let compassion rule your heart and mind and shall you receive equally the same.