Compassionate Living

Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.

—Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

An Appeal to the World

The Dalai Lama’s An Appeal to the World was a moving primer of his message for the 21st century. In an interview with television journalist Franz Alt, His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressed both the inward and outward paths of peace, war, climate change, materialism, meditation, universal ethics, and neuroscience.  His Holiness discussed six principles: 1) nonviolence—of which he had become a symbol to free Tibet; 2) tolerance—he envisioned no peace unless its among religions; 3) uniqueness of religions; 4) the meaning of religion—the Dalai Lama saw a believer as one who collaborated in preserving the earth; 5) patience—His Holiness was working on this virtue; and 6) death and rebirth—of which he had no clue what was going to happen.

Still the Dalai Lama presented the world with a “childlike faith” in political miracles saying, “One day we will cooperate well with China.” He put his greatest hope on China’s young people, and the 400 million who were Buddhists. His Holiness viewed the 65 years of Chinese Communism as an enormous spiritual void, as compared with 1,300 years of Tibetan Buddhism.

Twelve Steps

Karen Armstrong’s Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life was also pertinent for the 21st century. Armstrong used the Golden Rule as the foundation of her discourse on what it meant to live compassionately. She envisioned twelve steps, but thought that such an approach could take a life time. In the introduction to the text readers were introduced to the major faith traditions, and concepts based on compassion.  Later, Armstrong weaved these steps carefully by explaining what people should do to benefit from them. At each step they were presented with a discussion about how to use these teachings. These compassionate goals were carefully calibrated and based on the major religions of the world. Although every goal could stand alone, she was able to integrate each one with an affirmation and explanation.

This book related every topic to contemporary issues. Armstrong recognized all of us have had problems with which we were struggling. She explained how important it was for us to transcend the thinking of ourselves, and that people should reach out to the good aspects of life itself. They should treat others the way they would like to be treated. This dictum must also include our enemies that were suffering like us.

Armstrong’s work was formulated like the Twelve Steps Program for Alcohol Anonymous. Her vision of compassion grew out of her 2008 TED talk on compassion for which she won a $100,000 prize. This achievement led her to focus on the promulgation of the Golden Rule, and compassionate living in the world.

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