Having practiced compassion in thoughts and deeds for two days, I am beginning to realize that the spirit of compassion has spiritual basis. In order to understand and appreciate the emotion involved in compassion, one needs to practice empathy. I began looking at people from their perspective and standpoint. Here are the five action that I think are compassionate: (a) Listening to someone’s problem with complete attention (b) Helping people in need (c) Emotional intensity at the sight of someone in extreme trouble, and willingness to address the same (d) caring for pets and animals (e) Volunteering out to social service organizations. While these acts, identified above are the examples of compassion, there are many acts that are down right cruel, and the opposite of compassionate acts. These are (a) causing hurt to animals and people (b) laugh at the predicament of others (c) deciding not to help someone, when helping the person can make a difference to them (d) eve teasing (e) bullying.
I am now beginning to understand the difference between acts of compassion and acts that are not compassionate. The essence of compassion is feeling for others and sensitivity towards them. Compassion is not inherent in acts that appear compassionate. For example, I do not become compassionate simply because I perform the act of serving destitute and indigent if that’s my duty in the social service organization I work for. However, if my heart weeps at their suffering and I have the compelling need to serve them, then I am compassionate. Compassionate is neither inherent in words and deeds, but in heart and feelings which translate in words and deeds. Compassion is not pity, for when you pity someone you take a superior attitude, while compassion is an emotion that is fundamentally rooted in the relationship of one spirit to the other. You are compassionate by virtue of being able to see yourself as the other and understand them from their perspective. Compassion leads to kindness and forgiveness. Pity leads to the acts of benevolence. In compassion the relationship between the subject and the object of compassion is diminished while in pity the difference is exaggerated. When a person develops the spirit of compassion, it becomes a permanent characteristic of their personality.
Christianity is the religion that recommends compassion. The works of charity undertaken by the Christian religion follow from religious recommendation. The Eastern religions like Buddhism and Jainism strongly emphasize compassion. The universal compassion of Jainism extends to every being including micro-organisms. I am not sure how any one can take the idea of compassion to its logical conclusion the way Jainism has done. I cannot relate to compassion at that level. But presuming, it is possible to be so overwhelmingly compassionate as evidenced in the Jainism religion, it can be claimed that compassion in an individual continues to evolve. In other words, the two compassionate individuals have different degrees of compassion.