Friday, 2 November 2012

What Is Compassion and Why Does It Matter?

Compassion is as much about having a strong sense of empathy of other beings, and respect for the feelings of other beings, as it is the inclination to do the right thing by these other beings, given our empathetic sense of them, and our respect for their feelings.  More precisely, compassion is the fundamental modality of being, and well describes our awareness and understanding, of the connectedness of all things.  So what does this mean for us on a day to day basis.

Many of us hold to the principle of doing to others as we would have them do to us. Well, this is an aspect of compassionate living. In essence it relates to the reality that I exist in the universe, yet a part of the universe, just as all of those that I know exist in the universe, yet a part of the universe. I being one within the universe do the best that I may by all those others being each one within the universe. We do the best for each other because we respect that the universe is our perfect home and includes our bodies, and so we are actually doing the best for our own home and body.

Having a sense of the way that each one of us is naturally connected through the universe, our home, allows us to become more aware, not only of our own state of being, but also all those others with whom we share our lives and home.  Often, as our sense of awareness of the connection between all things begins to grow, one of the first things we may notice, is the pain or suffering that we feel that other people might be experiencing, through our empathy of them.

This sense of others pain or suffering naturally draws on our capacity to care, that is, to be concerned for, or have the best interests for, our fellow being.  Actually, it is through our inclination to be caring of others, that we allow ourselves the capacity to experience empathy of them.  So it is, that empathy naturally leads to caring, which naturally leads to empathy and back again, and thus the cycle continues.

Why then, does compassion matter to us?  Perhaps it is mostly because it centres around a fundamental aspect of life, that is it's cyclical nature.  More precisely, it encompasses the natural give and take of the universe and ourselves, at their highest possible level of operation.  Therefore, to be in a state of compassion, would be us living to our greatest potential.  One where we are willing to accept all that the universe may well offer us, and to share honestly of ourselves with the universe.

After all, isn't this essentially all we can ask for, that the universe provides what we require, and that we respond honestly with the universe, and essentially all those others with whom we share this universe, for they are equally a part of the universe too.  If we just consider the ideal nature of the environment the universe created for us here on the earth, it should be easy to see that the universe naturally cares for us.  What remains, is for us to care for the universe, perhaps as a beginning at home, caring for the earth and those with whom we share it.

Although there may be some value in considering ourselves in isolation, both from the universe, and from those that we share it with, in general it is better that we acknowledge the truth.  That is, I live in a universe that I'm also naturally a part of, just as much as the earth is, and everyone else living upon her.  Quite naturally, I share with the universe by caring for all that I know.  Through this caring for others, I may well come to a new appreciation and understanding of the experience of these others, and so not only am I now learning from my own experience, but I am also learning from the experiences of others.  Because I care, I can put myself in their shoes, and understand.

To close ourselves off to compassion, is to deny the truth about the connectedness of all things.  If I refuse to care for someone, it is like I am saying to myself that that being is not part of this universe, or they exist outside the universe, because I am refusing to acknowledge that we are connected.  All this achieves, it to make it impossible to put myself in their shoes, and honestly come to understand them.

This does not in any way work to disconnect that other person from the universe, but rather only serves to limit my understanding of them, or situations concerning them.  The less we are willing to care for others, the less the universe is able to communicate to us, through its caring for us, and the less we are likely to appreciate or understand what is going on around us.  Clearly it is, that not to care for others is not to care for ourselves, and equally to care for others is to care for ourselves.

What is compassion?  It is our willingness to acknowledge the connectedness of all things, and to care for them, as the universe cares for us.  Why does it matter?  Because it allows us an ever greater capacity to appreciate and understand through empathy, our surroundings, the earth, and the universe as a whole and all those with whom we share it.  Sharing is caring.  Compassionate beings are the caretakers of the universe, at least in our own small way.

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