Karen Armstrong is a British author of numerous works on comparative religion, who first rose to prominence with her highly successful A History of God. A former Catholic nun, she asserts that “All the great traditions are saying the same thing in much the same way, despite their surface differences.” They each have in common, she says, an emphasis upon the overriding importance of compassion, as expressed by way of the Golden Rule: Do not do to others what you would not have done to you.
On February 28, 2008 Karen Armstrong won the TED Prize and made a wish: “I wish that you would help with the creation, launch and propagation of a charter for compassion, crafted by a group of inspirational thinkers from the three Abrahamic traditions of Christianity, Judeaism and Islam based on the fundamental principle of the Golden Rule”. Since that day, thousands of people have contributed to the process.
Some local to us here in BC, may remember that on September 27, 2009 Karen participated in a session on compassion in action at the Vancouver Peace Summit with the Dalai Lama and many Nobel Laureates.
And finally on November 12, 2009 the Charter for Compassion was launched. A call to bring the world together…
The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.
It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.
We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.
We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.
Wow. And there you have it. The charter is precisely and perfectly stated. Compassion really is the common thread that runs through all of humanity and every religious, ethical and spiritual tradition. Now it’s up to each of us to affirm the charter. I have already affirmed it myself on the website below. Visit charterforcompassion.org to affirm the charter for yourself if you believe in these words. If we could all just believe in and act with this one common thread – compassion…
I’m holding on to another common thread – hope.
“A spiritual moment is when the boundaries of your ego dissolve. You feel interconnected to everything around you… You feel you are in the complete presence of love.” -Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
“Compassion, this is the word of which everyone has to remind themselves. Throughout the centuries, humans were one of the most cruel, harsh animals on the Earth. There was time when they spilled blood without a reason. There was a time when a small gunfire drove many countries to the war. There was time when millions of innocent souls died by a single press of button. We overcame every single problems that we faced. But we are having greater conflict ahead. Now, it is time to make some changes with care, kindness and motivation. Compassion, this is what we need.” – Ho June Chun, Agnostic/Athiest, Afghanistan
“This compassionate feeling is what drives us to act and it is in acting that we are free. We may not be able to measure the results of our individual action but as a group we shall surely be able to help humanity and in helping humanity we are also helping ourselves and providing for a sustainable future.” -Chandrabhan Sharma, Hindu, Trinidad and Tobago
“As technology brings us closer to one another it becomes more obvious that compassion as a catalyst for exercising love is the single most important characteristic to be nurtured by any society. It is the trait of harmonious coexistence, preventing and stopping war and bloodshed, helping the poor and broken, mending dispute and also spiritual insight. It is the responsibility of all in society who work with shaping people to promote and strengthen compassion and love in one another, to encourage greater understanding and tolerance and to praise helpful and unselfish acts of love.” -Carsten Nørgaard, Christian, Denmark
TED is a favourite of mine and is a huge source of inspiration to me regularly. In case you have not yet met TED, let me introduce you:
TED is owned by The Sapling Foundation, a private nonprofit foundation.
The goal of the foundation is to foster the spread of great ideas. It aims to provide a platform for the world’s smartest thinkers, greatest visionaries and most-inspiring teachers, so that millions of people can gain a better understanding of the biggest issues faced by the world, and a desire to help create a better future. Core to this goal is a belief that there is no greater force for changing the world than a powerful idea. Consider:
- An idea can be created out of nothing except an inspired imagination.
- An idea weighs nothing.
- It can be transferred across the world at the speed of light for virtually zero cost.
- And yet an idea, when received by a prepared mind, can have extraordinary impact.
- It can reshape that mind’s view of the world.
- It can dramatically alter the behavior of the mind’s owner.
- It can cause the mind to pass on the idea to others.
From left: Al Gore at TED2006; Jane Goodall at TED2003; Brian Greene at TED2005
TED is devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, California, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK, TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Program, the new TEDx community program, this year’s TEDIndia Conference and the annual TED Prize.
I’ve never physically been to a conference but I go to TED.com often and I’m always inspired by what I find there. On TED.com, they make the best talks and performances from TED and partners available to the world, for free. More than 450 TEDTalks are now available, with more added each week. All of the talks feature closed captions in English, and many feature subtitles in various languages. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.
TED mission: Spreading ideas. (Quoted directly from their website)
We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other. This site, launched April 2007, is an ever-evolving work in progress, and you’re an important part of it. Have an idea? We want to hear from you.
This would be where I insert a TEDTalks video but there are just so many too choose from that I couldn’t decide on only one. So here is the link to the sites most favourite talks: http://www.ted.com/talks/list
Here is a small list of just a few talks that I have enjoyed:
The talks are all usually around 18 minutes long each so before you start to explore them you may want to get comfortable; it’s easy to get watching these videos and forget everything else.