A well-known verse by Indian poet-saint Tulsidas tells us that compassion is the root of religion, and ego the root of sin. The quality of compassion is important in various aspects of our life and for societal well-being. It has been described by holy men and philosophers as a necessity without which humanity cannot survive, and as one of mankind’s greatest treasures.
In fact, compassion itself is the greatest religion, following which brings about our spiritual development. It has the power to calm the fires of anger, animosity, and violence, and to turn an enemy into a friend. Cultivating compassion naturally develops other virtues in us, and having compassion for all creatures has been extolled as the easiest way to reach God.
Compassion fosters understanding and empathy, creating a supportive and caring environment that can be sensed not just by people but by other creatures as well. This is why even birds and animals do not fear approaching a compassionate person. Legends of life in ancient hermitages and religious communities tell of predators roaming there quietly with other creatures, and children playing with them. The compassionate air of the place soothed and disarmed them by removing their fears as well as aggressive tendencies.
Since compassion involves the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, it fosters empathy, allowing us to relate to others’ experiences and perspectives, promoting a sense of unity and shared humanity. This often leads to acts of kindness and altruism. Those who are compassionate are more likely to help others in need, contributing to the overall welfare of communities and society.
That is not all, compassion promotes open-mindedness and a willingness to understand differing viewpoints. In conflicts, a compassionate approach leads to more constructive dialogue and resolution, reducing hostility and promoting harmony.
Compassionate individuals also contribute to the creation of positive and inclusive cultures, be it in families, workplaces, or communities. This positive atmosphere encourages cooperation and mutual support.
The individual rewards of practising compassion go further. It helps one develop qualities such as patience, tolerance, and forgiveness.
The gift of compassion is the greatest gift. Material help can temporarily alleviate deprivations and mitigate suffering, but the hope, joy, and courage generated by the gift of compassion help the recipient overcome severe hardships and live a more fulfilling life. Compassion is the energy that steadies stumbling feet, infuses new inspiration into distressed hearts, uplifts the fallen, and shows the light to those lost in darkness.
This is why the scriptures urge us to be kind. Nearly every day we come across someone who we can cheer up, guide, or otherwise support with our kindness. Being compassionate costs us nothing – rather it brings the satisfaction of having done something good.
Since compassion transcends borders and cultural differences, when enough number of people start practising this virtue, they can create a global culture of compassion that shows the rest of the world a better way to live and solve the common challenges confronting humanity.
B.K. Geeta is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Abu Road, Rajasthan.