an excerpt from the book; UNDERSTANDING TAO and Being Good
TAO of Compassion: Have compassion for all sentient beings causing them no unnecessary hurt nor needless harm.
In Buddhism, sentient beings are beings with consciousness, sentience, or in some contexts, life itself. Sentient beings are composed of The Five Aggregates, or Skandhas: matter, sensation, perception, mental formations and consciousness.
The definition of a sentient being is a creature that can suffer and feel pain, mostly animals and humans. Generally, in law, a sentient being is one with the faculty of sensation and the power to perceive, reason, and think.
In modern Western philosophy, sentience is the ability to experience sensations.
Taoism represents a school of thought that developed over a period of 3,000 years. The word Tao in Chinese simply means The Way.
The ultimate goals of Taoism do differ from the similar goals in Buddhism and Hinduism. In Taoism the goal is to let go of organized societies and become one with nature, having compassion for all. This chapter will look at compassion and explore if we still know "The Way."
There is a difference between compassion, empathy, and sympathy. Compassion is sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Empathy means that you feel what a person is feeling. Sympathy means you can understand what the person is feeling. Compassion is the willingness to relieve the suffering of another.
So then, a lack of compassion is a situation where one will not comfort or aid another during their strife or pain. Here are some examples that demonstrate that lack.
Not able to share anything with others
Unwilling to help others in need, especially your family and friends
Having too much ego and unaccepting of other's opinions
Unwilling to donate money to the poor and needy
Hurting the feelings of others repeatedly
Lacking a sense of responsibility
Self-defensive and self-centered
It would seem there are many similarities in those with a lack of compassion, and narcissistic or selfish personalities.
"With malice towards none, with charity for all" has long been a fundamental American value.
Compassion is a gift that anyone can give to another. We all need it and we can all give it, yet so many times today it is completely lacking. Why? Where has it gone? We need to get it back today more than ever!
Let's look at some history.
The Civil War changed the lives of civilians as well as those of soldiers. Women had the burden of feeding and caring for their families, while assuming the role of their husbands. The civilians had to deal with the wartime ravages of inflation, illness, shortage of supplies, and very long waits for any news of their loved ones.
One tale from that bloody conflict was of a Confederate soldier dodging rifle fire from Union soldiers, as he crossed a wall to bring canteens of water to give to the North's own wounded. In other instances, soldiers from both sides would call temporary timeouts, in order to exchange newspapers, coffee, and tobacco. You may have heard the story from WW1 of the British and German soldiers singing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve. During that Christmas cease-fire, they met in No-Man's Land, exchanged food and gifts, and played in some friendly football games.
There is a heartwarming WW2 story during the Battle of the Bulge, of a woman and her son who hoped they were safe from all the soldiers in the countryside.
Americans showed up at her door with wounded and she took them in, even though the penalty to her for doing so was death. Soon, Germans also arrived. She convinced them to leave their weapons outside in exchange for a hot Christmas Eve meal. She also hid the American's weapons, and all shared the hot meal together. The German medic cared for the American's wounds, and the next day they went their separate ways.
We can go on and on with stories like these demonstrating incidents of human kindness and compassion.
To make sure we follow Tao and don't lose our way, first we must care! Of course, there are those who will take advantage. They cheat on welfare, cheat on taxes, and some of those holding the signs on our street corners are fakes. Social media trolls will attack every story with snarky glee! Compassion burnout is real. We are bombarded by the news media with all the details of local and global disasters, terrible crimes, political scandals, refugee crises, and all the tragedies of multiple never-ending wars. Now we have the COVID-19 Corona virus! What are we to do, and how are we to cope?
Again, it starts with caring. Modern life can get in the way of our ability to practice compassion. Technology has dramatically altered how we communicate. We no longer talk face to face, hiding behind e-mails, text messages, and social media. People like to think of themselves as better or more generous than their neighbors, but when put to the test, many times self-interest will shift their morals. In fact, social scientists have tested this and were able to shift opinions based on how the participants would benefit.
So, if we start by actually caring, what's next? The best way to be compassionate toward others is to begin with yourself. Forgive yourself for mistakes and congratulate yourself for small victories. Make eye-contact with people and practice active LISTENING! Let them know you are truly paying attention to them. Ask open-ended questions to learn what the problem is and how you may help.
Touch is important, and hugging is great, but be careful! While touch is very important, it must be appropriate and its always better to ask first. Would you like a hug? Give positive reinforcement. It may be just what they need to get un-stuck in their current situation. Show your emotions. It's OK to laugh or cry, it shows your humanity. Show kindness and be a giver. Give without the expectation of any return. Respect privacy. Don't gossip. When you've listened attentively and shown you care, now become their advocate as well. Get them to the resources they need. And lastly, always think before you speak. Words can wound as well as heal.
Another way we can show compassion is by volunteering. Remember, spending time helping people is good for the body, mind, and soul.
To have compassion simply ask yourself - am I living kindly? Am I treating others with the same kindness that I treat myself? If you can answer yes, then you are following Tao.
"Simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world." - Lao Tzu
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