“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
In Father Ted’s sermon, he also told us of a Rabbi Hillel, a contemporary of Jesus who was famous for a similar answer to a trick question. Asked if he could recite the entire Torah while standing on one leg, he stood on one leg and said, “What is hateful to you, don’t do to others. That is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary. Go and learn.”
In Islam, ‘compassion’ is the most frequently occurring word in the Qur’an. Each of its 114 chapters, with the exception of the 9th, begins with the invocation ‘In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful…’
Love and Compassion are also central to Hinduism and the most important practice of ‘seeing the Self in the other’ (strikingly similar to ‘Love thy neighbor as thy Self’).
Daya or Compassion is a fundamental teaching of the Sikh religion, where it means ‘suffering in the suffering of all others’ and it is believed that Enlightenment cannot be reached through meditation alone but the spiritual seeker must also do good works towards their fellow humans.
Compassion is so important to Buddhists that they have been known to remove insects from the ground before putting up posts during construction, as to not harm any creature, however small.
Compassionate to even smaller creatures still, devout Jains sweep the path before them as they walk and wear masks as to not step on or breath in, thus inadvertently killing, any minute invisible insects.
How is it then that we have seen so much violence in the name of religion? It is a very peculiar quirk of humans that we can have so many beautiful religions that all profess love and compassion as their central tenets, yet we use those religions to argue, discriminate, hate and at worst kill each other.
In my tradition of contradicting myself, I have two “buts” to that statement.
But, I don’t think it really is our different religions that drive us to those extremes of disunity, warfare and violence. I think the conflict is really about something else altogether and religion is just used as an excuse. The reasons for violence throughout history are such basic things as greed, land or power and instead of kings or emperors, or nowadays politicians, saying to their armies “I want that gold and that treasure in that land, let’s kill them for it” and just being honest about it, they say “Those heathens are doing the devil’s work, let’s go kill them.” I guess they figured their citizens would be less likely to want to die just to feed their king’s coffers.
The second but is: But I think more and more, people are seeing the absurdity of this kind of religious disagreement about which way of practicing love and compassion is right. We are finding the common ground that we all share. In fact, I believe this call for unity, understanding, kindness and compassion among all peoples was actually central to many of the prophets, founders and sons of God who started these religions in the first place. They themselves were trying to reform the baser human tendencies of greed and violence and taught instead LOVE.
The Gospels are full of stories of Jesus sitting down to dine with tax collectors, accepting the devotion of a prostitute (that was NOT Mary Magdalene, but that is the subject for another post), and of showing mercy and inclusion to gentiles of all sorts.
For Muslims, at the heart of their faith is the principal of tawhid or oneness. This oneness has been described as that which dominates the mind in Islam, while the heart is intrinsically linked to the concept of compassion. “My Mercy encompasses all things” (Qur’an 7:156). Islam sees love and compassion – the ability to feel with the other, as expressions of the interconnected oneness of all human beings, reflecting the oneness and unity of God.
The Muslim leader Badshah Khan, who waged nonviolent resistance for Indian independence alongside Gandhi has said:
“It is my inmost conviction that Islam is amal, yakeen, huhabat – selfless service, faith and love…. My religion is truth, love and service to God and humanity. Every religion that has come into the world has brought the message of love and brotherhood. Those who are indifferent to the welfare of their fellowmen, whose hearts are empty of love, they do not know the meaning of religion.”
This is why religious or spiritual figures from all different faiths and religions are often found saying “Love is my religion” or the like. This is why I am an Everything.
This is also what Karen Armstrong discovered when she founded the Charter for Compassion. The bottom line of virtually all religions is compassion – so let’s stop squabbling about the different nuances of compassion or who we believe said that compassion is most important or what name we use to refer to the All Compassionate One – and let’s start making COMPASSION a part of our every day life and all that we do. Instead of worrying which prophet is the most right or most godly about compassion, isn’t it more important to actually practice the compassion they all speak of? That is what putting all our varying religions into action actually looks like. And that is what will bring about the Unity of God that all our prophets, saints and Holy Ones of all religions have taught in one way or another. That is what we have always yearned for.
That is why I stand on one foot and say – Love! The rest is commentary.
Please enjoy the inspiring Charter for Compassion video – and if you haven’t already, please sign the charter.