Lenten Devotion - day 16
I can't help but explore other traditions... they make me a better Christian. They increase my compassion.
Today I’m considering the theme of compassion. Compassion, as you well know, is a central tenet of many spiritual traditions, and is particularly meaningful for a time such as Lent.
Maybe you are wondering why I’ve been discussing so many different spiritual paths in these letters. I am doing so, because while I am a Christian, I believe that Jesus spoke of things in a way that is remarkably similar to other traditions. This means that I can learn something from other paths. I do not walk the other paths. I am a follower of Jesus. But those paths can teach me how to better follow Jesus; and when it comes to compassion that is certainly true.
In Buddhism, compassion is one of the Four Immeasurables or Brahmaviharas, which are four virtues that are said to be essential for spiritual development. Compassion is the wish for all beings to be free from suffering and is seen as a key component of the path to enlightenment. Buddhists practice compassion through the cultivation of loving-kindness, which involves sending out positive thoughts and emotions towards oneself and others. We too can cultivate loving-kindness.
In Hinduism, the concept of ahimsa (non-violence) is closely related to compassion. Hindus believe that all beings are interconnected and that it is our duty to treat others with kindness and respect. Compassion is also seen as an essential quality for those who seek to attain liberation from the cycle of birth and death. We too can see that all beings are interconnected and strive to fulfill our duty.
In Islam, compassion is emphasized through the practice of zakat (charity) and the concept of rahma (mercy). Muslims are encouraged to be compassionate towards all beings, including animals and the environment. The prophet Muhammad is often described as a compassionate and merciful leader, and his example is seen as a model for all Muslims. We too can practice charity and mercy to all beings.
In Judaism, the concept of tikkun olam (repairer the world) is closely related to compassion. Jews believe that it is their duty to work towards creating a more just and compassionate world. Compassion is also a key part of the Jewish concept of chesed, which is often translated as loving-kindness and involves showing kindness and generosity towards others. We mustn’t forget Jesus is Jewish as we follow him to repair the world.
In our path, Christianity, compassion is a central part of Jesus's teachings. Jesus showed compassion towards those who were marginalized and oppressed, and he empowered his followers to do the same. Compassion is an important theme in the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, which teach the importance of showing kindness and forgiveness towards others.
At its core, compassion involves a deep sense of empathy and concern for the suffering of others. It is an acknowledgment that we are all interconnected, and that the pain and struggles of one person are felt by all. Compassion is not just an emotion, but an action-oriented response to suffering.
During Lent, we are invited to reflect on the suffering of Jesus on the cross, and to contemplate the ways in which his incarnational suffering can inspire us to greater compassion for others. We are also invited to reflect on the ways in which we ourselves may contribute to the suffering of others, and to seek forgiveness and make amends. And, might I add, we can look to so many and find ways to do this better. In fact, to do so, increases our compassion in this world because we begin to see God in them too.