“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

—Dalai Lama

It was the deep-rooted love and compassion that made an ordinary British nurse, Florence Nightingale serve the wounded soldiers in Crimean War so selflessly that she became immortal in the pages of history as the ‘Lady With The Lamp’. It was the compassion and care of an understanding heart that led Raja Rammohun Roy to fight for women’s rights and start a movement to abolish the barbaric custom of Sati Pratha. It is compassion only which moves us to tears and impels us to help whenever we see a woman or child being assaulted.

Compassion is a feeling, an emotion that arises when we are confronted with another’s sufferings and feel motivated to relieve that suffering. It is the language of God that ultimately guides us in fulfilling our duties towards mankind in the best possible manner. The greatest example of compassion is Mother Teresa whose entire life was devoted in helping the destitute, the ailing and the impoverished unfortunates of society. This luminous messenger of God’s love once quoted, “You have never really lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” Even our Father of the Nation’s most powerful weapon “Ahimsa” is a by-product of compassion which was instrumental in liberation of India from the clutches of British slavery.

Compassion never leads us astray. It is the foundation stone for moral behaviour. A seed of compassion will always bloom into a morally right flower. Morality is the distinction between what is wrong and what is right. It is the code of conduct that every human should follow. And a heart full of compassion and love will never even think of harming others or doing something wrong. Even all our religions proclaim the importance of compassion, sympathy and kindness. Renowned as the Jewel of India’s spiritual wisdom, Bhagwad Gita says, “When a person responds to the joys and sorrows of others as if they were his own, he has attained the highest state of spiritual union.” Buddhism also places great emphasis on compassion or ‘karuna’. As per Buddhist beliefs, Compassion is the very essence of a spiritual life because all Buddhas are born from it. A famous story of Bhai Kanhaiya Ji, a disciple of Shri Guru Teg Bahadur Ji (ninth of ten Gurus of the Sikh religion), throws light on the concept of ‘sewa’ which is based on compassion has always restored our faith in humanity since eternity. During skirmishes between Sikhs and Mughals, Bhai Kanhaiya Ji served water to anyone who was thirsty, quenching the thirst of the dying and wounded soldiers without discriminating between the enemy and allies. When Guruji received complaints about the benevolent actions of Bhai Ji, he summoned him and asked an explanation to which, Bhai Kanhaiya Ji replied, “Yes, my Guru, what they say is true. But Maharaj, I saw no
Mughal or Sikh on the battlefield. I only saw human beings. And, Guru Ji, they all have the same God’s Spirit—Guru Ji, have you not taught us to treat all God’s people as the same?” The Guru was very pleased with the reply. He smiled and blessed Bhai Kanhaiya and said, “Bhai Kanhaiya Ji, you are right, you have understood the true message of Gurbani. From now on, you should also put the balm on the wounds of all who need it”. No wonder the news of Sikh volunteers helping thousands of forlorn refugees across the borders keep flashing every other day.

It is absolutely necessary to understand that this feeling of solicitude should not be limited to species of Homo sapiens solely. Rather we need to spread our good vibes to a larger cosmos of which we are a part of. Having compassion and empathy for the furry, feathered and finned friends is vital for preventing cruelty towards animals. Animals in our society are treated as non-living, non-feeling objects and yet they are not. They suffer, just as we do. We need to develop a tender attitude towards animals so that we can stop the inhuman way that they are treated every single day. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” It would not be wrong to say that people guided by emotions like compassion and love help to create a harmonious atmosphere for both humans and animals and hence contribute towards a progressive nation.

But the major question to ponder upon in this 21st century is that in our country where moral science is taught from a very tender age as a means to inculcate values, principles, ideals and virtues, where the mythological tales of benevolence and the doctrines of various religions are conscientiously broadcasted to us from time to time and where every antithetical stance is rebuffed by the moral police of the country, why are incidents of apathy and indifference shooting up. Almost every day we come across harrowing accounts of people being bashed up, molested or dying and no one coming forward to help. Why is this mockery of morality in India surging? Why we are becoming so self-centred that we have started to live by the phrase, ‘Apathy for all, Empathy for few’. Has Indian society built up blocks or rings around it, where benevolence hardly ever radiates beyond the closed circle of people we know? The honest answer is that the moral values taught in schools hardly take a practical form and are left confined to pages of books. The hardest task kids face today is learning morality without witnessing any. Lack of compassion and love for all is the reason behind negligence of moral duties. As per a famous saying, ‘Children close their ears to advice, but open their eyes to example’. If we want our society to progress morally, then qualities like compassion, kindness and love should be wired deep into the hearts of children. And this can be done by practising and not by preaching. Happiness and harmony can prevail only by practising compassion. Until we do not extend our compassionate hand towards humanity, peace and prosperity will not prevail. The appalling condition of Iraq and Syria is a contemporary example of this.

So, it is explicit that good moral values sprout in a heart where love and compassion exist. Hence, Arthur Schopenhauer has very aptly quoted, “Compassion is the basis of all Morality.”          

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