It must be remembered that the first of the major religions to show us a path where compassion is the key to spiritual growth, is the Judaic Path of Moses to the Jews. That is often overlooked because of the several battles Jewish history shows were a part of that revelation. There are also commandments to kill transgressors outright for their sins. However, some of the things that are overlooked are of monumental importance. Though the Jews were settled in an area where there were enemies (and I do mean enemies, the folks around them wanted them out or dead or both) all around them, they were not instructed to kill or even bother those who were not bothering them in any way, very much a live and let live philosophy.
Further, a study of the commands to kill transgressors reveals that it was an attempt to purify the ranks from within, as most of those commands were aimed at those that had been taught the commandments, but chose to ignore them. In fact, if you examine the laws of Leviticus closely, you discover that the blood shed from animals was only for unintentional sin (and even that wasn’t necessary if you were among the poor); that, for intentional sin, the requirements were repentance and restitution to the one against whom the crime was committed.(Leviticus 5:2-13) In fact, the mitzvot regarding the treatment of neighbors and strangers alike were in all likelihood, the most compassionate set of commands put down by a lawmaker anywhere before then. Now, I am an egalitarian, so do not believe in putting women in a subservient role to men. At the same time, I do recognize that the Jewish treatment of women was far better than the surrounding cultures at the time of Moses.
Historically from the rabbi Y’shua we learn that love is the principle behind the mitzvot. But the “how to” of compassion, the path to learning to live in compassion is best learned from the Buddhist’s teachings. From Thich Naht Hanh comes a wonderful set of teachings on distancing oneself from the angry feelings that well up inside us. From the current Dalai Lama, a prolific writer, we have gained, as you saw a sample in the last post, a wonderful means of learning to live in compassion. His books are wonderful, and there are many to choose from. From each of these great teachers, Moses, who gave us a full list of what constituted compassionate behavior toward one’s fellow man, from Y’shua, the principles behind those examples, from Buddha, the very essential means of ridding ourselves of anger and learning compassionate behaviors at all levels of life.
In spite of, or because of, the very breadth of our upside down world, we have before us the means of becoming the generation that learned to be compassionate, with or without religion as our mainstay. What a marvelous time to be alive!