Dr Mark Atkinson's Blog

18Nov 2012

The Power of Compassion

Imagine a world where everyone embraces the following golden rules

  1. We use empathy — moral imagination — to put ourselves in others’ shoes.
  2. We act towards others as we would want them to act toward us.
  3. We refuse, under any circumstance, to carry out actions which would cause others harm.

How would this impact our life and the world? Its a fascinating question and one we might well discover the answer to. On February 28th 2008 the religious scholar Karen Armstrong won the TED Prize and made a wish: to unite the world around compassion.  One year later and with the input of over 150,000 different people here is what has emerged to make this come true:

The Charter for Compassion:

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
* 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

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 indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

Take Action: If you have been moved by what you have just read I encourage you to go the  charters website to find out how you can get involved.

Author: Mark Atkinson