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Lions Roar : March 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2011 58 about love as feeling or sentiment. love was a technical term used in the ancient near east in international treaties, in which two kings would promise to love each other. that meant they would look out for each other’s best interests, even if it went against their own immediate short-term in- terests, and be loyal and faithful to each other. this is something we can all do with our enemies. Because, as Mo tse said, if we don’t love our enemies in this way it will eventually rebound upon us. that’s what we’re seeing in our world today—bad karma has been sown in the past and some of it is coming back to haunt us. We are interconnected as never before, so that what happens today in afghanistan or gaza is likely to have re- percussions tomorrow in Washington or london. Because we are not sealed off in a separate, privileged enclave, we have to consider the theme of others’ suffering, which all religions place right at the top of their agendas. the central place of suffering is taught in the Buddha’s life story, in his determination to leave home, become a monk, and find a cure for the pain of the world. It is said that when he was born, his father the king held a feast and invited all the priests to come and tell the little boy’s fortune. one of these priests predicted that the young man would see four disturbing sights that would inspire him to leave the comforts of home and become a monk. this didn’t exactly fit his father’s career ambitions for his son, so he immured the little boy in a beautiful garden in a pleasure palace, and around it he planted guards to keep any disturbing sight at bay. Buddhism is a psycho- logically acute religion and this is a brilliant image of the mind in denial. We all want to keep pain at bay, to deny the pain in our own lives and endlessly put on a brave, cheery face. But if we do that, it’s likely that we’ll dismiss the pain of other people too, and the golden rule re- quires us to recognize our own pain so that we will not inflict such pain on other people. of course, it’s futile to try to keep suffering out of our lives, and indeed it proved futile for the Buddha too. When he was twenty-nine, the gods decided he had lived in his fool’s paradise long enough. Four gods, disguised as a corpse, a sick man, a poor man, and a monk, slipped past the guards into the garden. the young man was so appalled by these sights that he left home that very night, determined to find an end to the world’s pain. the purpose of this story, as in any mythos, is not simply to tell a charming tale. this story tells Buddhists what each one of them must do to achieve his or her own 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. compas- sion 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 com- passion 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; and to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all hu- man 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 prin- cipled 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 human- ity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community. With support from the TED Prize and the Fetzer Foundation, the Charter for Compassion was initiated by Karen Armstrong and created through an interfaith process. To join the more than 60,000 people who have affirmed the charter since its announce- ment in 2009, go to www.charterforcompassion.org. The Charter for Compassion the call to action that is inspiring people around the world to campaign for a more compassionate global community.