"Yet sadly we hear little about compassion these days. I have lost count of the number of times I have jumped into a London taxi and, when the cabbie asks how I make a living, have been informed categorically that religion has been the cause of all the major wars in history. In fact, the causes of conflict are usually greed, envy, and ambition, but in an effort to sanitize them, these self-serving emotions have often been cloaked in religious rhetoric" (p. 4).Today, I ran across a short interview entitled Religion is not the source of conflict. You may want to read it, especially if you don't have the book we are using.
The text of the Charter for Compassion is found on pages 6-8 in the book and on the Charter for Compassion site, where you can also sign the Charter, if you haven't already. Also available is a printable flyer of the Charter.
The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.
It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others — even our enemies — is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.
We therefore call upon all men and women
We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous, and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological, and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.
- to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion;
- to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate;
- to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions, and cultures;
- to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity;
- to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings — even those regarded as enemies.
1. What has been your experience of compassion and — on the other hand — the growing "extremism, intolerance, and hatred" (p.6) that leads to further alienation.SCHEDULE: I plan to begin our discussions of each step on the third Monday of the month. The discussion itself, however, can continue the entire month — or any time after that, "forever." If newcomers happen upon this after we've completed our discussion, I'll try to pick it up again with them. The First Step will be posted on Monday, January 20, 2014.
2. How do you feel about Armstrong's desire "to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity" (p. 7) and "to transcend ... religious boundaries" (p. 8)?
3. What does "compassion" actually mean (p. 8)? How can we "translate [it] into practical, realistic action" (p. 8)?
4. What words have you looked up so far? Is it important to you to understand the nuances of words like "numinous" as used in Armstrong's mention of cave art?
"Their depiction of the animals on whom these hunting communities were entirely dependent has a numinous quality" (p. 16).5. "Because it runs counter to the Darwinian vision, advocates of evolutionary theory ... have found altruism problematic" (p. 12). Is this going to cause a problem for Armstrong's ideas about compassion? Are we humans too selfish for this to work?
6. Did you pick up on Armstrong's reason for making this a 12-step program (see p. 23)? What's our addiction?
Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life ~ by Karen Armstrong, 2010