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Lions Roar : March 2011
54 SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2011 I love the endeavor takIng place to encourage a scientific way of thinking about compassion, happening in places like the center for compassion and altruism research and education here at Stanford University. I also want to talk about a different kind of science of compassion. Years ago, when I was a young writer, I read a quote from the great Islamist scholar louis Massignon, who said that a historian of religion should not approach the great spiritual- ities of the past solely from the standpoint of post-enlightenment rationalism. Instead, he said, you should reproduce, in a scholarly fashion, the spiritual, social, intellectual, political, and economic ambience of the time until you had so broadened your perspective that you could imagine yourself in a similar circumstance, feeling the same way as people did then. this is what Massignon called the science of compassion. It is science not in the modern sense, but science from the point of view of the latin sciencia, the form of knowledge that is acquired through compassion. By putting yourself in the other’s place, he said, by putting yourself in their shoes, you “make place” for the other in your mind. When I read that, I was immediately struck by this phrase—to make place for the other. It seemed to be the only authentic way to approach the study of religion. It transformed both my All religions preach it, we’re all taught it, but how many of us live it? In this adaptation of her 2010 Meng-Wu Lecture at Stanford University, religious historian and compassion activist KAren ArMStrong argues that living the golden rule is the key to our future. Love thy neighbor. Likening to the self. Do unto others. Loving-kindness. no matter what you call it, it all comes down to the goLDen rULe