This is not a rhetorical question, I really would like to know the real meaning of this word, because I guess I still do not have this adorable quality…
I have found some answers but they are not sufficient to me. Please help!
Compassion is a human emotion prompted by the pain of others. More vigorous than empathy, the feeling commonly gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another’s suffering. It is often, though not inevitably, the key component in what manifests in the social context as altruism. In ethical terms, the various expressions down the ages of the so-called Golden Rule embody by implication the principle of compassion: Do to others what you would have them do to you. The English noun compassion, meaning to suffer together with, comes from the Latin.
Well, if I analyse that explanation, then I admit I am quite an altruist. And I also live according to the rule Do to others what you would have them do to you. Albite, honestly this is not the best rule, because obviously not everyone may like to be treated like myself (straight and direct), it is also not desirable in many cultures. I like another rule better: Do to others what they want you to do to them. But that one is not easy to fulfill, as we cannot always know what type of behaviour a next person prefers. Where I have a difficulty is with the first sentence – I am not sure I want to co-suffer. I certainly not. I do experience pain for others, but this is something else: if somebody’s heart is in pain (physically or emotionally) my own will also hurt, however this happens automatically, my body just works this way. Even if in this way I take aways some pain, still I would not call it compassion because it is not done consciously.
Another explanation from my previous post : “The compassionate heart forgives instantly”, if it is so, then I must be called a compassionate person because forgiving has always been the easiest thing for me.
If I see the pain of others my first intention is to help, however I can. And mostly I know how. I will not co-suffer though, will not cry or moan. I just help however I can.
And yet… I can’t call myself a compassionate person. I just can’t explain why, but this is what I feel. Something is missing…
I wonder how do YOU see compassion? And if you consider yourself a compassionate person, then how is it being expressed in your life?
Thank you very much indeed,
(image by me)
wow. a powerful post indeed, a task not to be taken lightly. I’ll try but please keep in mind it is only my opinion others WILL vary.
I don’t think you lack compassion, for you do feel the sorrows, and pain of your fellow human. Your ability and willingness to help out or lend a hand even suggest so. I do think you have become sort of un-attached emotionally in the sense you don’t allow such turmoils to effect you the way it effects most in connection with being compassionate. Understandably so if you’ve been taken advantage of or experienced the end of a relationship in a trumatic way. I myself can become detatched from emotions and still feel for someone suffering a tragedy, enough so to want to help, but then again I can look at a situatuon and feel nothing at all. Fear not, you are compassionate, when the time is right and all line up in the stars for it to be time, the emotion part will come thru. In the mean time, do as you do. Hope this wasn’t too quirky and maybe helped a little. Great question, take care.
[…] a quest for us all https://1000petals.wordpress.com/2009/10/09/tell-me-what-is-compassion/ […]
Compassion is Love in action.
Tanya, thanks, this is so beautiful and poetic. But..how? I mean if I am expressing love then I am loving.
I understand that compassion without love is not possible.
I do love. And express my love in action. But it is not compassion to me, it is Love.
Axinia, I feel that you are too happy to be compassionate 🙂
Btw, I have read there is such a thing as ‘line of compassion’ on the hand. It appears on the mount of Jupiter, diagonally from the side of the hand towards the middle finger. Now you can check your hand 🙂
Thank you swaps, but honeslty, I don’t think I am compassonate (i have not foudn the line either, may be you can send me the picture showing where exactly it must be).
In fact I was always thinking that to learn compassion is my life task. Because i concider it the highest spiritual quality..
Let me try to explain…May be because I feel that the human beings themselves cause their sufferings… mostly one can easily track the cause of suffering to mistakes, created by our ego/conditionings. Naturally I try to see beyond, to see the bigger picture and still help. Bus basically, may be that is the reason why I think I lack comapassion – because I see all therse hidden things behind…And often I also see that some people actually like to suffer!
You know, I never give money to the beggars. never.
Great post! In my opinion compassion means to understand another beings suffering, and if you see that they are suffering it compels you to help them.So in my view of compassion one doesn’t have to be emotionally attached to help another.
CECE, thank you. But tell me what do you mean “compassion means to understand another beings suffering”?
Like, take a common examle of an alcoholiker wofe (There are million of them in Russia! and I know some personally) – the poor women, they do suffer, being often beaten and experiencing all the disgusting manifestaions of alcoholism…BUT THEY STAY WITH THE HUSBAND. This is something where I have no compassion. They are ready to suffer and to go achead with that, they do not divorce and so I should I have compassion here? I surely tried to speak to them and to explaing things, but nothing helps. My own cousin is married to an alcoholiker since 20(!!) years, they have no children and she is sill there…I mean this goes beyond my understanding.
i think love is more fundamental description of the state we, yogis, live. compassion is reaction of love to somebody’s struggle.
What a fabulous post!!! 🙂 One doesn’t really have to understand the meaning of the English word compassion to know what compassion is. If you can feel the pain of unknown strangers and takes steps to alleviate it, then you ARE compassionate, Axinia! 🙂
Compassion is that which makes the heart of the good move at the pain of others. It crushes and destroys the pain of others; thus, it is called compassion. It is called compassion because it shelters and embraces the distressed. – The Buddha.
Buddha hit the nail on the head when he clearly stated that compassion is that which makes the heart of the good move against the pain of others. For compassion is a key differentiator between the good and the evil, the semi-civilised and the civilised, the savage barbaric hordes and the decent cultured humans. For compassion is something that CANNOT be felt by the filthy sub-human, sub-animal scum creatures that pass off as Homo sapiens because they happen to have human bodies.
If a decent civilised human being comes across a suffering fellow being (be it human or animal), his/her heart would be moved and (s)he would find himself/herself acting to put an end to its suffering. On the other hand, if a sub-human filth being 👿 comes across a suffering fellow being, the heart of the filthy creature would feel nothing, absolutely nothing! For the heart of such a creature merely pumps blood to its limbs, just like the heart of a filthy toad, it doesn’t have any other ability. So the filth being would merely walk past the sufferer/feign ignorance/remain silent. The more barbaric among the filth beings 👿 would say: Why should I/we bother? How does it affect me/us? Don’t I/we have enough things to do or worry about myself/ourselves? Why should I/we intervene/interfere? Being born of and raised by sub-human savages, that is all the lowly filth beings are capable of thinking. Of course, there is another category of despicable scum beings. Such sordid scum creatures would say: Let nobody intervene or do anything now. It is all because of “fate” and “previous births’ karma”. It’s all a part of the “karmic plan” of the imaginary entity. Instead of doing something, let us all sing praises to the “all-powerful” imaginary entity. Yet another section of sewer creatures would actually take perverse pleasure in watching the suffering and may even cause even more suffering to the horribly suffering being. 😡
While those in the first category are the good ones that the Buddha described, the filth beings in the second, third and fourth categories are those that make the human species seem lowlier than animals. YES, it’s TRUE that even animals (albeit higher ones like mammals and birds) FEEL compassion. I have personally observed compassion being exhibited by animals such as stray dogs, apart from pet cats and dogs.
There are many examples of emotional behaviour in animals which were proved by scientific studies. Elephants caring for a crippled herd member seem to show empathy. A funeral ritual performed by magpies suggests grief. Divers who freed a humpback whale caught in a crab line describe its reaction as one of gratitude. These days, few doubt that animals have emotions. A classic study in 1964 found that hungry rhesus monkeys would not take food they had been offered if doing so meant that another monkey received an electric shock. The same is true of rats. Mice appear to empathise with pain in other critters they’re familiar with, a capacity previously thought to exist only in higher primates. When mice saw others they knew showing pain, they responded with signs of empathy, such as staying close by, according to a new study.
Thank you Raj, I am very impressed by these comments of yours. Your understanding of compassion is very deep indeed.
I like your example of animals showing empathy, this is truly amazing, although it is probably not the same as people do.
As for the law of karma, I consider it is the biggest problem of the Western civiliasation that it does not recongize this. Luckily today more and more people here start understanding that any our action has a deeper impact on our future and future of our children. This is what make people take “everything” from life and do not care about the later impact. Knowing that everything done wrong comes back like a bumerang is essential for a human beahviour. This is the law of life. I am happy to see that the awarenss for that is increasing.
I’m not sure if animals (humans ARE animals, by the way 🙂 ) showing empathy is so amazing, Axinia 😐 Things like empathy, compassion and even altruism are certainly a part of animal nature (mammals and birds). I’m guilty of having had a very low opinion of rats and mice because they seem creepy, but after I discovered they are capable of showing empathy that some sub-animal scum creatures passing off as Homo sapiens aren’t, I immediately corrected my view of them.
Please take a look at this amazing video and let me know how the noble act of this dog is different from that of the Good Samaritan whom Jesus described:
And the noble behaviour of animals often crosses the species barrier as this heroic hippo has shown:
If at all there is a difference – it’s not in the way they FEEL it but in the way they express it and it’s NOT their fault in any way. Since most animals and birds cannot use their hands in the way apes do, they are naturally limited in what they can DO to express compassion. I do feel Nature has erred in giving apes and not some other animal family the ability to use hands freely 😐
There certainly exists some law of natural justice, that one’s individual and collective actions and intentions will certainly come back to haunt them or their offspring later on. After all, one only reaps what one has sown. But it has got nothing to do with karma as it’s normally touted. The so-called “previous births’ karma” is a savage, depraved superstition and if Western civilisation starts believing in such crap, it will hurtle down to lowly, primitive Third World status faster than one can say the phrase “global economic crisis”.
Also Axinia, I think love and compassion are two mutually exclusive things. Though they can overlap and usually do, compassion is possible without love and love is possible without compassion. The confusion about love and compassion in what Jesus said must arise because the “holy book” containing Christ’s teachings was translated into English from some other language. (I guess it was Aramaic, or was it old Hebrew?)
Compassion is also a key identifier of civilised societies. That’s because of the composition of civilised societies. A civilised First World country will always have a majority/large numbers of compassionate humans who help to define the behaviour of the civilised world and vehemently oppose any acts of barbarism by their governments. In the semi-civilised Third World, decent humans form a minority or have no voice because the savage, barbaric, rapidly overbreeding, uncultured hordes define the behaviour of the lowly Third World.
Of course, the criminal elites of the First World hate the compassionate behaviour that is inculcated in their citizens. Therefore they try to promote the Third World model to pull down their own societies and profit from it. The Third World model includes deceptional lies from the controlled mass media/voracious arse-licking “journalists”, the promotion of drugs, alcohol and filth such as porn to numb the minds of citizens from a young age and taking control of the educational system. Control of the education system by the criminal politicians and barbaric bureaucrats is a very important part of the sewer model of the Third World. Education is something that can change/improve the behaviour of humans dramatically. By taking away control of education from parents and teachers and putting it in the hands of a few filthy politicians and bureaucrats, the entire society can be made to behave in the manner of sewer creatures desired by the establishment. That’s why home-schooling is becoming a rage in parts of the First World as the sewer people of the political and bureacratic establishment attempt to take more control of the educational system. This is because the “globalisation project” of the world criminals is going on at full swing to reduce the entire planet to a global semi-civilised Third World village inhabited a majority of the lowly, primitive, semi-civilised, rapidly overbreeding hordes controlled tightly by the criminal elites.
One of the finest examples of compassion was narrated by Jesus and is called the parable of the Good Samaritan:
“A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
Compassion is the ultimate and most meaningful embodiment of emotional maturity. It is through compassion that a person achieves the highest peak and deepest reach in his or her search for self-fulfillment. – Arthur Jersild
Raj, your passage on education is just brilliant! -so true..
And I also love the last quote of Arthur Jersild, althought it does not say “what” compassion exactly mean.
I think some words are acquiring an entirely new meaning in today’s world 😐
When I first read a headline on the internet that Obama has won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, my first reaction was to click on the calendar to make doubly sure it was not the 1st of April 🙂
Of course, it wasn’t a joke 😐 Obama had indeed won the Nobel “Peace” Prize 😯 Hmmmm, I guess the Prize was awarded for the man who personally put his signature on the “drone attacks in Af-Pak” that transforms living Afghans and Pakistanis (including women and children) into little pieces of flesh, not to mention the absolute powerlessness of the “messiah of change” to make petty sub-human Third World tyrants (who go with a begging bowl around the world) behave in a civilised manner, nor the manner in which an illegal, violent occupation in West Asia has been made permanent, nor the continued existence of a notorious prison in a Carribbean island, all with the blessings of the “agent of change” 🙄
Considering that this Nobel Prize was awarded to worthies like Henry Kissinger and Shimon Peres in the past, I guess there should be a slight change in the way it is spelt. The Nobel “Piece” Prize would be a better word, to be awarded to the person who is responsible for turning living humans into “pieces” of bleeding, rotting flesh.
I’ll propose three contenders for the next year’s Nobel “Piece” Prize –
1) the bloody blue-turbaned thug (inhu)Manmohan Singh,
2) his sidekick Pee ‘Shit’ambaram and
3) Miguel Matias.
The first two are personally responsible for the murder, mayhem, rape and destruction that they are going to unleash on India’s impoverished central and eastern tribal heartlands. They (along with bloody criminals like the “marxist commie” nicknamed “Buddha” who was responsible for, uhm, some bloodshed in places like Nandigram, Singur and Lalgarh) have set aside 7300 crore rupees or 1,064,000,000 EUR (of stolen taxpayer money, if I may add) for this little act of mass murder to be unleashed by mercenaries. Of course, that’s an “investment” whose “returns” are going to be much more – the wholesale loot of the minerals that the tribal lands hold by the greedy corporate pigs 👿 after the wholesale slaughter of the tribals who own these lands.
This just goes to prove my theory of a HUGE gap in compassion, ethics and other civilisational aspects between the First World and the lowly Third World. When the Bush-Blair barbarians planned their butchery in Iraq and during the act itself, tens of thousands of Americans and Brits from all walks of life protested vehemently against the bloodshed unleashed by their filthy tyrants againt a foreign people. When (inhu)Manmohan and ‘Shit’ambaram are planning a similar act of mass butchery against their own people, I don’t see even a handful of Indians protesting or raising their voices against it. Such is the lowly nature of the semi-civilised hordes of the Third World 😦
As for Miguel Matias, well I guess this creature doesn’t deserve to be in such mass-mudering company. He just happens to be, uhm, another of those “Josef Fritzls” 😡
Raj, I had the same reaction to thes news. I thought “FOR WHAT ACHEIVEMENTS, beg yor pardon?!?”, but this is all politics…all these presidents are just some marionetts and the true rulers are someody else. I guess we will never knew who.
It is very convenient for the masses to associate the political happenings with some real people, blame or parise them. it is ideal for a brain washed socienties, no matter where in the wolrd. That is why when I hear that Obama is so good and Putin is so bad…I only laugh. These people mean really nothing, they have no real power.
exellent comments, Raj. I am not sure however that the people in the First World (btw how silly it sounds, First or Thirs world) are more compassionate than, say, Indians.
There is simply more suffering in the “Third world”, and people have more chances to express compassion. In the West people do not see much suffering live, so they have not many chances to experience and express compassion.
On the other hand I think it is Westen people who really suffer but this is sufering of another kind.
Thanks, Volodimir 🙂 I think the First World and the Third World differ in most aspects to such a large extent that they would look like they belong to different planets, so the terms First and Third Worlds/Worlders are fairly accurate to describe the differences between the two/those who inhabit the two.
Actually, using the terms First and Third Worlds/Worlders seems to be a somewhat polite way of describing the civilised countries/peoples and the barbaric semi-civilised countries and the hordes that inhabit them 😉 Of course, it is not fair to say that all Third Worlders are semi-civilised while all First Worlders are civilised because there are plenty of exceptions in both cases. However, exceptions cannot be used as the rule, especially when it comes to describing things like behaviour and civilisational aspects.
A few years down the line, there will be no differences at all, NOT because the semi-civilised will civilise themselves so soon, but because the rapidly overbreeding hordes belonging to semi-civilised societies will pull down the civilised peoples in alliance with the criminal elites who control the civilised world. Sickeningly, it’s all going according to the plan of the crooks 😡 The USA will perhaps be the first First World country that will be reduced to Third World status 😐
The sickening thing is, despite the fact that there is much MORE suffering in the Third World, the hordes that inhabit them are LESS compassionate. Think of it, if compassion were a characteristic virtue of the inhabitants of the semi-civilised countries, they would be a part of the First World now and would not be languishing in the lowly Third World. It’s all a result of their primitive evolutionary status as a society – their goals of existence are merely their own basic needs and rapid overbreeding, just like the lower forms of life like reptiles and amphibians 😡 The Third World as a whole isn’t quite capable (yet) of exhibiting the higher evolutionary values shown by birds and mammals 😐 That the behaviour of the Third World primitives is going to define general human behaviour of a post-globalised world is the tragedy of humankind 😦
Volodimir, if you really want to understand how notorious the savage semi-civilised Third World countries and their criminal, sub-human elites are, then I suggest you to read this article. Believe me, the true bloodthirsty nature of a semi-civilised Third World country and its populace can never be understood from your short, limited India trips 😐 You won’t find such an article written by the voracious arse-licking “journalists” who work for the “mainstream media” either.
Why do we assume that suffering people are seeking our help?? Should compassion always lead to benevolence?
that is the question 🙂
For me, the phrase is “to practise compassion.” Like all things we practise we do not always get it right.
As for me, compassion has always been defined by this video:
thank you for the video, it`s very powerful indeed!
I wonder why Raj and swaps gave examples of compassion shown by Christ. Are there no such examples in indian religious tradition?
Volodimir dear, that’s a fantastic question! And the answer – it is simply too much to expect a degenerate, regressive, mediaeval, backward thing such as Indian “culture” (that is known for some of the most disgusting practices such as the filthy caste system, barbaric sati etc.) to ever be associated deeply with a noble human value like compassion. While much (not all) of the culture of the rest of the world has moved on from their savage, primitive pasts, Indian “culture” is still caught in a time trap somewhere in 1st millenium BCE. As such, looking to find noble human values or progressive ideas in such a “culture” would be as futile as searching for reindeer in the Arabian desert 😐
It’s all because of the massive delusion created by bubble-dwelling and belief in savagely twisted concepts like “fate” and “previous’ births karma”. Now, let’s consider a case where a horde of savages are forcing a terrified woman to jump into the funeral pyre of her husband. What do you think will happen to a man who tries to stop this noxious act and save the woman, if only out of sheer compassion for a fellow human? He would probably be lynched by the filthies 😯 for daring to interfere with the great “culture” 🙄
To be balanced, there are examples of compassion, but they were usually associated with Buddhist/Jain ideals. One incident concerns the Buddha. His cousin had shot a bird flying peacefully in the sky. The arrow had penetrated its body. Bleeding, it fell to the ground. The cousin claimed it by conquest but Buddha gently took up the bird, smoothened its ruffled feathers, removed the piercing arrow and applied soothing honey to the smarting wound. He brought back the bird to health and let it fly away in freedom. The highest religion is to earnestly strive to reduce the sum total of the world’s suffering by taking things in our own hands.
Now, “taking things in one’s own hands” is not something one would normally associate with delusional bubble-dwellers who believe that everything (including suffering) is pre-ordained by the imaginary entity as a result of the “previous births’ karma”. Blind belief in such crap has led to a decandent, regressive, primitive “culture” that isn’t capable of even keeping up with the civilisational advancement of the rest of the world 😦
for me a person can only activate (not such a good word) compassion when he or she is in love then his heart is filled and the mind clear to traslate the feelling in to something practical. compassion is not suffering with others it’s to recognize their suffering and having the desire to help them not to be blind or ignore the suffering of others….. if you suffer by their suffering for me it meens that compassion is not such high……the feeling is actually quiet elaveiting…….something like that….for me compassion is something very high
Axinia, I think you are a compassionate person because everything is at different levels. For example not everyone can have the same level of compassion as say Mother Theresa. Only those who are sensitive can be compassionate and you are a sensitive person Axinia. And when I say sensitive, I mean sensitive to the pain of others. People who are sensitive to their own pain all the time are incapable of being compassionate, mainly because they have a lot of inner problems. They need to sort themselves out first before they can understand the meaning of true compassion. One has to be able to put one’s own discomfort, opinions, pain etc aside before one can be compassionate. One’s own pain and discomfort colours one’s approach to another.
thank you Nita very much.
I find it interesting when you say “People who are sensitive to their own pain all the time are incapable of being compassionate, mainly because they have a lot of inner problems. They need to sort themselves out first before they can understand the meaning of true compassion.”
It is a very good point, for one had to know first what the pain is, and then only one can be compassionate. And it is also true, that people who are very busy with thier own pains and problems, can hardly see other’s pain.
why do you want to “know” compassion, you can feel it in your heart not by reading meanings in wikipedia. About “interacting” in a healthy and cool why with our inner pain: this is good. In our process of growth during the lifetime pain is needed, just little oasis of pain scatetred here and there during the journey -SY makes it sweeter, more acceptable and understandable.It is one of the keys to open up and absorb compassion. One side of compassion is also built in, just like innocence it may be covered by someclouds, only need some brushing up! lots of love & thanks for the very sweet post ….
Hi my dear friend! thanks a lot for this lovely note.
I woudl not have risen the topic if I were not so important to me. I somehow found out that while posessing many importatnt quatlities,I truly miss compassion.. Adn there fore naturally I woudl love to develop this as well. I checked up Wikipedia and asked for the opions because i was really keen to know what OTHER’S experiences of compassion are.
I trealise now that probably as same as LOVE, compassion can not be defined in words. No wonder that love and compassion are often named together…LIke, other qalities are easiy to classify – we all know what makes forginveness or generosity.
maybe because compassion is the mother of all the qualities, so it is difficult to describe… (?)
[…] Tell me, what is compassion? […]