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A Call for Compassionate Action

”I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship. I see your beauty. I hear your need. I feel your feelings. My wisdom flows from the Highest Source in you. I salute that Source in you. Let us work together for unity and love.”

—Mahatma Gandhi

In these days of increasing global unrest, with mass protests taking place across the world calling for change, we experience our hearts going out to all those who are caught up in demonstrations which demand that basic human rights and autonomy are addressed in the policies of global authorities. Protestors take action on behalf of all living beings, and nature herself. These brave few are calling for change for themselves, their families, communities, countries, and for the world. Their voice acts as a sounding call for all of humanity caught in dysfunctional and repressive systems of authority. Voices that state, “Enough!”. The wave of uprisings has increased exponentially.

For the most part, the intention and motive behind the actions of these ‘new paradigm crusaders’ is humanitarian, except for the few who descend into rioting and looting. However, the rioters and looters must not be polarized or judged, but instead, recognized as representative of the dark underbelly of a humanitywhich has been suppressed for millennia. This shadow aspect of the collective has been split off, for fear of the potential consequences of challenging or resisting a repressive system. Resistance has resulted in the death of millions who dared to stand up for human rights and equality. This includes the untimely death of some of the greatest humanitarian ‘leaders’, who stood for peace, restorative justice, equality, and human rights.

Losing a Battle to Win a War – Through Compassionate Action; Non-Violence; Non-Participation and Peaceful Protest

The ‘rioters’ and ‘looters’ need an exemplary, non-violent role model, one in which they can trust and believe, who speaks their language, and is able to permeate their hearts and minds to help them recognize how to achieve change and fair justice. One in which, through non-violent means, can elicit a response that brings real hope, and potential for change. Consider a scene from the film Braveheart, where the uncle of the newly orphaned, William Wallace, teaches the young boy how it will be the use of his mind, not his sword, that will win the day.

At the core of the wound of humanity lies a cauldron of deeply repressed, unexpressed emotions that go back for thousands of years, and are contained within our genetic blueprint. These include; anger, rage, grief, sadness, hurt and pain. Where do these emotions go if there is no appropriate system in place to ensure that they are seen, heard and validated? What happens is that these repressed emotions hide behind the insidious veils of consumerism and addiction, and, can unexpectedly and spontaneously, erupt like a powerful volcano. This release, at both a personal and collective level, is dangerous and has a destructive impact, rather than a constructive outcome.

The times we now live in call for Compassionate Action and acting with compassion. It is time for us to feel compassion for those who need to see, hear and validate us. Throughout history, humanity has attempted to live in peace and harmony, in equality and freedom. To date, all attempts to achieve this have often resulted in violence, blame and attack. As Gandhi stated “Non-violence which is a quality of the heart, cannot come by an appeal to the brain”. Humanity has been stuck in a pattern of reaction, (instead of response), and, because of this, has been caught in an ever decreasing spiral, which continues to maintain a model of duality. Now is the time to appeal to the hearts of those in authority by aligning with, and co-creating a model for unity, through the means of non-violence, non-participation and peaceful protest.

Sometimes we have to lose a battle to win a war. In our modern global society, the ‘battle’ that needs to be lost is the desire for ‘revenge’ through violence, and the ‘war’ to be won is ‘equality’ and ‘unity’ gained by engaging the heart and mind and the ethics of non-violence. As Gandhi so eloquently shared – “Remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won.”

The Compassionate Heart

At the very core of the human heart lies an innate capacity for deep reflection, contemplation, perception, and unconditional acceptance, which can inform, expand and transform our experience and outlook on life. A perception of the world that is cultivated and expressed through the heart, as well as the mind, leads us, through liberation and understanding, into a new landscape of insight and experience.

Compassion constitutes a deep awareness of the suffering of another, without the need to relieve or fix it, but at the same time, feeling total appreciation for its value while remaining in a non-judgmental state. Compassionate action is an unconditional action, when we choose not to polarize into blame, shame, or finger pointing. Instead, we maintain an open heart and extend an unconditional hand in support of the need that lies behind the perceived dysfunctional behavior of another. 

We have many resources available to us which speak of, promote and teach us to reconnect with compassion and compassionate action. These include the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, the ongoing influence and impact of Martin Luther King, the teachings of H.H. The Dalai Lama, and Thich Nhat Hanh, the role model of Nelson Mandela, the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with the support of Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu, the introduction into the mainstream of non-violent communication by Marshall Rosenberg, and the teachings of Buddhism which, in its many forms, extols the virtues of compassion. For example, Mahayana Buddhism teaches boundless loving kindness, boundless compassion for all beings, boundless joy (in the happiness of others) and boundless equanimity (the desire to help all beings regardless of size or status). Two mighty foundation stones which underpin our capacity for deep reflection, contemplation, perception, and acceptance are – Truth and Love. The cornerstones which support these are understanding (the new forgiveness), empathy and compassion.

Understanding Versus Forgiveness

The act of forgiveness is a delicate balance that can easily err on the side of blame and shame to evoke feelings of guilt and powerlessness in the one ‘forgiven’, and a sense of power in the one who forgives, if not offered from a place of deep humility and the purest of hearts. Behind true forgiveness is the capacity for deep understanding and empathy for another, (not sympathy, which is feeling sorry for). Empathy leads to compassion, and compassion takes us into ‘right relationship’ with another, when both listener and aggrieved feel a tangible quality of heart which, because the heart is leading the way, becomes compassionate action.

Compassionate Action

Compassionate Action requires transparency of heart, humility of expression and a total commitment to non-violence in word, action or deed. The ‘consumer mind’ needs to be superseded by the natural mind, which will recognize the richness that comes from interaction with other people, and with nature, when it comes from a compassionate heart. Compassionate Action lies in our ability to identify directly with people, especially those who are in pain, who are angry and, because of that, deeply hurt.

Compassionate Action requires us to feel. Empathy allows us to feel the difficult emotions of another as if they were our own. We literally put ourselves in their shoes. We imagine what it would feel like in our own life in regard to what the other is sharing. When one shares sadness, we can relate to a time when we felt sad. When another expresses anger, we can recall how it feels to be angry. If we can respond to what lies behind the anger, we will connect with another at an empathic and compassionate level, which will allow the potential for a richer connection that may be of benefit to both parties.

Compassionate Action in a group context must bear one defining fact in mind, a fact that Gandhi, the Father of Nonviolence, reiterated time and time again; “Compassionate Action is not about defeating an ‘opponent’; it is more about winning them over, exposing them to the real truth inherent within any given situation. It reveals to them the injustice that they are involved in so that they can move forward to some degree of compromise that creates liberation for both the ‘opposition’ and the ‘compassionate actionist’. Both parties can pull away from their dispute with dignity because the perpetuation of force and wrong-doing by the oppressor have been effectively neutralized through the peaceful and ethically-based responses of the compassionate actionist. No amount of contemplation and deliberation, discussion and consultation, investigation and study, is of any real value unless it is supported by compassionate action.”

Ours is a vulnerable world, where conflict and tension are ever present from the personal level, to that of international politics. This is a reality that we confront both individually, and collectively, and one that can stretch us to our very limits. However, if are willing to prioritize the cultivation and embodiment of compassion and compassionate action, then, with perseverance and dedication, we can initiate a measurable worldshift.

The crux of the wise teachings of those who stand for compassionate action is to remind us that when we hurt others, we hurt ourselves. We must come to realize that it is only through understanding, empathy and compassion, that compassionate action can emerge to dissolve tension, and resolve conflict, with both Self and other, with dignity, respect, and in unity.

Compassion, Empathy, Understanding, Acceptance, Humility, Gratitude, Hope, Trust, and Compassionate Action in service to Self, Other, and the World, are the torches to bear in a new paradigm. Embrace all in compassionate understanding. Serve all through compassionate action. A Compassionate Heart is what lies at the heart of Contemporary Spirituality for an Evolving World.

“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of Compassion.” 

—Thich Nhat Hanh


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