Saturday, October 8, 2011


Compassion is defined as a deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it. Wikipedia states that compassion is a virtue in which the emotional capacities of empathy and sympathy are regarded as a part of love itself, and a cornerstone of greater social interconnection and humanism.
Last week a dear friend forwarded a video of Tenzin Robert Thurman speaking at Chautauqua Institution in 2009. Robert Thurman is the first American to be ordained a Tibetan Monk by the Dalai Lama. He is a scholar, author and tireless proponent of peace.

In this video Robert Thurman asks that we develop compassion for all, including our enemies. He prescribes a seven-step meditation exercise to extend compassion beyond our inner circle, encouraging universal compassion and responsibility. Although he shares from the Buddhist perspective, his message is at the heart of all spiritual traditions.

I began reflecting on the meaning of compassion in my own life and my limitations in seeing beyond my inner circle. At my core I believe that all human beings carry both light and shadow but I recognize that I often experience judgement about others, especially leaders, who appear to be void of compassion for others. However I want to become a universally compassionate person who lives from an expansive heart space.  How do I become part of the change the world needs? How do I begin to expand my perspective of compassion to include all of humanity? How do I become peace?

These questions sent me on a Internet search for deeper insight and awareness about this principle of compassion with the intention to move from my head into my heart, for myself and the world.

I found that Buddah said, "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." Christ challenged mankind to forsake their own desires and to act compassionately towards others, particularly those in need or distress. Through the ages Rabbis have spoken of the "thirteen attributes of compassion." The Biblical conception of compassion is the feeling of the parent for the child.

During my exploration I came across an organization called "Charter for Compassion." The original contributors of the Charter are a group of multi-faith, multi-national religious thinkers and leaders. The council of contributors has grown and includes many spiritual leaders as well as muscians and writers throughout the world. (

The Charter for Compassion states...
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 center of our world and put another there, and to honor 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 ~ to restore compassion to the center 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.

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.
I encourage everyone interested in world peace to explore this amazing website. There are inspirational resources and ideas for acting with compassion on a daily basis. By affirming your participation in this project you join thousands of others, worldwide, who have made the same agreement.

May we become the change we want to see. May we practice universal compassion, finding joy in living in kindness for our self and others. May we practice peace!

Blessings of PEACE, COMPASSION, and LIGHT ~ Gretchen

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