What does compassion mean? Here’s a powerful definition from the book Compassion, by Henri J.M. Nouwen, Donald P. McNeill and Douglas A. Morrison: “The word ‘compassion’ is derived from the Latin words pati and cum, which together mean ‘to suffer with.’ Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”
For more information about what compassion means, visit: www.henrinouwen.org
The invitation to speak and act "In the Name of God, The Merciful, The Compassionate"
According to Islamic belief, God (or Allah) has 99 names or attributes, and chief among these are ‘The Merciful’ and ‘The Compassionate’. In fact, each book of the Qur’an begins with the invocation, “In the name of God, The Merciful, The Compassionate.” These words (which in Arabic are called the Bismillah) are delivered by the Archangel Gabriel as he dictates the text of the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. The clear understanding is that whatever God has to say to us is informed by both mercy and compassion. Moreover, If God speaks to us with an attitude of mercy and compassion, isn’t it our responsibility to not only to speak but also act in the name of God the Merciful, The Compassionate? Beginning our actions and communications with this powerful phrase can help to keep us focused on the way we speak and act as we embark upon compassionate endeavors.
For additional information about the Bismillah visit: wahiduddin.net
Ahimsa, embracing compassion through active, creative non-violence
The Hindu concept of Ahimsa reminds us that non-violence is more that simply the absence of violent action. Ahimsa literally means “absence of the desire to kill or harm” any creature. It calls us to realize that we must learn to be non-violent in the words we use and in the ways we deal with each other at work, school and home. We must also learn to take creative action to remove those things that lead to violence: injustice, poverty, hunger, and repression. Ahimsa includes an attitude of creative non-violence toward all creation, not just humans but also our animal companions and the entire environment. Creative non-violence can take the form of non-violent direct action (in the way that Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. acted) but also involvement in politics, volunteer efforts with relief agencies, education and more.
For additional information about Ahimsa visit: himalayanacademy.com
From the Baha’i Faith:
An invocation of God's blessing on our compassionate actions
Before we move forward with any plans for compassionate action, it would do us well to thank God for inspiring us, and to invoke the Divine's blessing on our efforts with these words from the last great prophet of the Baha'i faith: “O Thou the Compassionate God! Bestow upon me a heart, which like unto a glass, may be illumined with the light of Thy love, and confer upon me a thought which may change this world into a rose-garden through the spiritual bounty. Thou art the Compassionate, the Merciful! Thou art the Great beneficent God!” – Prayer for Compassion, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
For additional information about the Baha'i Faith and compassion visit: www.bahai.us
Tikkun Olam, “repairing the world”
For progressive Jews, a popular way of framing the need for compassionate action is to speak of Tikkun Olam, or “repairing the world. This concept is often associated with a 16th Century Jewish mystic named Isaac Luria. Luria wrote that at the beginning of time, G!d contracted part of itself into vessels of light in order to create the world. Because G!d’s majesty is so great, the vessels shattered and their shards were scattered throughout the universe. According to Luria and other mystics, we can repair this broken world by performing acts of mercy and kindness (mitzvot). According to the tradition of Tikkun Olam, no one person or generation can complete the task of repairing the world, but all of us are required to be some part of the repairing process if we are obedient to the will of G!d.
For additional information about Tikkun Olam visit: www.myjewishlearning.com
From Tibetan Buddhism:
Two meditation techniques that can help us express more compassion toward ourselves and others
The Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chodron shares with us of two related meditation techniques, Maitri and Tonglen that can help us feel more compassion for ourselves and others. Both techniques are counter intuitive: Maitri calls us to embrace and befriend our pain rather than fix it or escape it; tonglen invites us to take on the suffering of those in pain, and send them goodness and healing. Maitri means adopting an attitude of ‘unconditional friendliness’ toward ourselves—even when we are consumed with self loathing. It invites us to embrace what Chodron calls ‘the embarrassment of being you.’ "In tonglen practice," according to Chodron, "when we see or feel suffering, we breathe in the notion of completely feeling it…Then we breathe out, radiating compassion, lovingkindness,.." She says that whenever we encounter someone or something that is suffering, we should breathe in with the notion that this creature be free of suffering, and breathe out to the suffering creature some kind of ‘good heart’ or well-being.”
From The Unitarian Universalist Tradition:
Compassion makes the Golden Rule work
Compassion is what makes the Golden Rule work. We should remember that even the Golden Rule can become ''imperial" if we just assume that others want to be treated the way we do. It's often best to do with someone, rather than to them. George Bernard Shaw, voicing the dissent that Unitarian Universalists always try to honor, said, “Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you – tastes vary.” And so it is compassion that we are called upon to use first when invoking the Golden Rule. Being compassionate means taking the time to try to feel with someone, to try to find oneness and even understanding with them before we do anything else.
For additional information about UU guiding principles visit: www.uua.org/beliefs/principles