The Compassionate Revolution

Throughout history, the world has seen revolutions come and go. Not one has truly lasted or achieved what humanity has hoped for: a revolution that respects and honours all life, bringing a worldwide peace and a sense of dignity for all. It’s a revolution that has nothing to do with politics or violent uprising of the masses. A revolution from within which begins right here, right now, within the heart of each of us, as a personal transformation. I call it a compassionate revolution because once we begin to cultivate compassion, we change the way we relate to and interact with the world.

A revolution from within which begins right here, right now, within the heart of each of us, as a personal transformation.

What Does It Mean To Be Compassionate?

Compassion is:

  • A deep feeling of empathy, the ability to put yourself completely in the position of someone else.

  • A true concern for the welfare of others, which may call upon us to have the courage to go against the mainstream.

  • Feeling a genuine sense of sorrow for the suffering of others, with understanding, mercy and grace.

  • A healthy desire to alleviate the sorrow and the suffering of others.

Compassion is not:

  • Allowing ourselves to be abused, taken advantage of or disrespected.

  • Compromising our integrity in order to satisfy someone else’s desires, which can be referred to as “idiot compassion”.

  • A rebellion; it’s about changing direction.

Compassion gives us the courage to put our fears aside. With kindness and forthrightness, we move forward, even if it means standing alone in our integrity.

Modern Day Examples

Mother Teresa, a woman of utmost humility, stood up to the economic power brokers of the world to maintain her works of charity without compromising her integrity and sense of true compassion.

Mahatma Gandhi first politically outmanoeuvred the apartheid government of South Africa and then the entire British Empire in his stand for human rights and independence while maintaining his deep sense of compassion.

People like Mother Theresa and Gandhi refused to be used by the world for selfish gain while maintaining their sense of compassion. Author James Baldwin once remarked,

“The entire world is held together by the very few people

who truly understand the meaning of love.”

Meditation and Compassion in Three Steps

Consider these three basic steps in your meditation practice to access your own sense of compassion and expand it to others:

  1. Begin by feeling genuine compassion for yourself. We can use our practice to find compassion for ourselves by facing up to the realities of our life, examining the underpinnings of our emotions and forgiving ourselves for past errors and wrongdoings.

  2. Allow the same sense of compassion we feel for ourselves to emanate out to others within our circle of life. Recognizing our own emotional life can help us feel sympathy, empathy and compassion for others. Realizing the emotions we see in others are the same as ours is a revolutionary notion of compassion.

  3. Taking the compassionate step even further, we reach out to those outside of our immediate circle of relationships and open our hearts to the world: to those difficult to love and doing great harm to others. We realize it is their actions that we dislike and that there are so many of us who are victims of suffering. Often the most violent offenders of human rights are people who have been the most abused.

Four Slogans For Compassion

Don’t be swayed by external circumstances: Although your external circumstances in life are always changing, your practice of compassion should be consistent, as a source of guidance and stability. Allow compassion to bridge the gap between your spiritual life and your work life.

Don’t expect applause: Compassion is a way of life, not a career option As meditation helps us discover our inner gifts, we use those gifts to show compassion to others. In the end compassion becomes it’s own reward in the form of love.

Of the witnesses, hold the principle one: Compassion is at the core of who we are. Love and respect yourself, as you are the principal witness to your life. Other people’s opinions should not sway you from doing what you know is right.

Don’t bring things to a painful point: Have your say in your heart. It’s not important to have the final say or the last word. Compassion will allow us to turn the other cheek or walk away from a hurtful situation. This does not mean we should isolate ourselves or engage in obsessive-compulsive behaviour to avoid problems. Compassion allows us to confront problems mindfully without reacting negatively.

How Do We Experience Compassion?

The Buddha tells us:

“Just as a fish cannot live without water, compassion cannot develop without egolessness or emptiness”

Compassion can be experienced as a sudden glimpse of truth or a feeling of trusting an openness of heart. It can be experienced as a sharp flash of insight.

It can also be experienced as an overwhelming feeling of altruism. Altruism is the principle of putting one’s own interests aside while acting for the interest of others. It can be experienced as a sense of clarity and warmth.

Historically, Buddhism has been a spiritual tradition that has always recognized humanity’s innate capacity for compassion. Meditation has always been used as a practice designed to systematically realize and cultivate our natural sense of compassion.

Today both Buddhism and cutting edge western science see compassion, empathy and altruism as inherent parts of the human experience. These qualities of mind and spirit serve to define us in the modern world.

Edited by: Ece Inan

About the author: Donald Francis is a meditation teacher and freelance writer. Incorporates art, music, poetry and literature into his teaching and makes meditation interesting and relevant to everyone. He lives in London, England.

Photo Credit: TBy Photo by Mountain (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons / Resized from original.

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Sangha Without Borders is currently physically located in London, UK