A Charter for Compassion
Compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical, humanist and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish others to treat us. It channels our energies to reach out to all neglected beings in pain and suffering. It is a calling to be gentle with all of Creation. It is a foundational virtue nudging us to become better versions of ourselves as we engage with others — with respect, in friendship and loving embrace.
Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of all creatures, including ourselves. It only works when we dethrone ourselves from the egoistical centre of our world and put an-Other there. It honours the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception or exclusion, with absolute justice and respect (while being acutely mindful of the contexts). It urges us to care for the sanctity of all beings, humans and non-humans.
It is also necessary for our public life as well as the private one – as public and self-compassion. It helps us to understand and refrain, as a way of life, from inflicting pain or creating situations that lead to pain and suffering of others. As life unfolds, we need to realise that the suffering that others go through may also come upon us.
Yet today, we are not alive or alert to our common humanity – interconnectedness and a sacred bond that hold us together in many ways. We speak, act and institutionalise in destructive ways: exclusive self-interest, hunger and famine, exploitation, impoverishment, denial of rights and dignity, incitement of hatred, provocation of violence, chauvinism, violent invasions, genocides, and denigration of others. All these have become a part of our ‘normality’ and therefore, do not command our critical attention or compassionate action.
While recognising and celebrating the compassionate acts of some individuals and communities, we must sincerely acknowledge and accept that, as a whole, we have failed. We have increased the sum total of human misery in the name of mindless economic growth, authoritarian power, military interventions, heartless education, unsustainable occupations, and spirit-less religions. We have also increased the sum total of the misery of all other beings globally in many diverse ways. We must be acutely aware that we have individually and collectively failed to live compassionately.
We, therefore, call upon all women, men, and the young among them, to:
RESTORE: Restore compassion at the centre of relationships, morality, religion, public policies, governance, and everyday action,
REACH OUT: Reach out to all and heal the world – work to end pain and suffering, destruction and death not only at the individual level but also at the structural level,
RETURN: Return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scriptures that breed violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate,
TRANSFORM: Work for a deep and disruptive transformation of governance, education, industry and the media (including social media) to enlarge our ‘compassionate footprint and handprint’,
RESPECT: Ensure that children and youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions, and cultures,
APPRECIATE: Encourage a positive appreciation and not just tolerance of diversity — indigenous communities, minorities, ethnic, religious and cultural,
STIMULATE: Actively stimulate the seeds of inclusivity, trust, grace, coexistence, and peace through authentic dialogue,
CULTIVATE: Nurture empathetic compassion for the suffering of all beings – the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised, and even those regarded as enemies, and
PURSUE: Seek meaningfulness, virtues, and values in the pursuit of happiness and work towards the physical and spiritual wellbeing of all.
We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our multi-polarised, violent and broken world. It is rooted in a principled and radical determination to transcend selfishness. It has the power to break down and transform ethnic, political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. It provides the basis to promote inclusive mutuality and dialogical coexistence. It is born again and again in our every smile and acts of friendliness and kindness.
We need to also recognise that compassion is born of our deep interdependence and interconnection. It nurtures life. It is therefore extremely essential to human relationships and a fulfilled, flourishing humanity extremely mindful of the biosphere. It is the path to collective enlightenment and is indispensable to create and sustain people-centred social institutions, a peaceful global community and deep coexistence with Nature.
Let compassion speak to all of us through our actions.