Interfaith Week 2015
Tuesday 17th November, Kendal Town Hall
Readings and prayers on the theme of Compassion
Native American Proverb
First you are to think always of God.
Second you are to use all your powers to care for your people,
especially for the poor.
He who is incapable of hatred toward any being,
he who is kind and compassionate, free from selfishness
….such a devotee of Mine is My beloved.
Bhagavad Gita 12.13-14
Often in Jewish tradition, “compassion,” rachamim (which is connected to the Hebrew word for “womb,” rechem), is seen as an important corrective to justice. Whereas justice is unyielding, a strict demand for what is right and wrong, compassion allows for flexibility. It appeals to our merciful side, seeing forgiveness as the means of moving forward.
The need for a balance between justice and compassion is expressed in a midrash about the creation of the world:
There was a king who had delicate crystal goblets.
The ruler said, “If I pour hot water into them, they will expand and burst; if I pour cold water into them, they will contract and shatter.”
So what did the king do?
He mixed hot water with cold, poured the water into the cups, and they did not break.
So it was with God.
When it came time to create the world, God reflected,
“If I create the world with the attribute of compassion alone, there will be an overflow of wrongful acts. No one will be afraid of punishment. But if I create the world with justice alone, how could the world endure? It would shatter from the harshness. So I will create it with both justice and compassion, and it will endure.”
(B’reishit Rabbah 12:15)
From the Christian Bible
The Good Samaritan based on Luke10 27 in the New Testament.
In the temple one day an expert in the Law of Moses asked Jesus “Rabbi, what must I do to have eternal life?”
Jesus replied with a question: “What is written in the Scriptures?”, by which he was referring to the Old Testament. Quoting from Leviticus and Deuteronomy, two of the books which contain the moral guidelines and laws that the Jews follow, the man answered “The Scriptures say, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.’ They also say, ‘Love your neighbours as much as you love yourself.’
For clarification he then asked Jesus, “Who are my neighbours?”
Jesus responded with a parable:
“As a man, presumably a Jew, was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, robbers attacked him and grabbed everything he had. They beat him up and ran off, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, but when he saw the man, he crossed over to other side and ignored him. Later a temple helper came to the same place, and when he saw the man, who had been beaten up, he also went by on the other side.
Then a man from Samaria came traveling along that road. When he saw the man, he felt sorry for him and went over to see how he could help him. Completely ignoring the deep hatred the Jews felt for the Samaritans, he treated the man’s wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he lifted the wounded man onto his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.
The next morning he gave the innkeeper two silver coins and said, “Please take care of the man. If you spend more than this on him, I will pay you when I return.” “
Then Jesus asked, “Which one of these three people was a real neighbour to the man who was beaten up by robbers?”
The world suffers. But most men have their eyes and ears closed. They do not see the unbroken stream of tears flowing through life; they do not hear the cry of distress continually pervading the world. Their own little grief or joy bars their sight, deafens their ears. Bound by selfishness, their hearts turn stiff and narrow. Being stiff and narrow, how should they be able to strive for any higher goal, to realize that only release from selfish craving will affect their own freedom from suffering?
It is compassion that removes the heavy bar, opens the door to freedom, makes the narrow heart as wide as the world. Compassion takes away from the heart the inert weight, the paralyzing heaviness; it gives wings to those who cling to the lowlands of self.
Through compassion the fact of suffering remains vividly present to our mind, even at times when we personally are free from it. It gives us the rich experience of suffering, thus strengthening us to meet it prepared, when it does befall us.
Compassion reconciles us to our own destiny by showing us the life of others, often much harder than ours.
Behold the endless caravan of beings, men and beasts, burdened with sorrow and pain! The burden of every one of them, we also have carried in bygone times during the unfathomable sequence of repeated births. Behold this, and open your heart to compassion!
And this misery may well be our own destiny again! He who is without compassion now, will one day cry for it. If sympathy with others is lacking, it will have to be acquired through one’s own long and painful experience. This is the great law of life. Knowing this, keep guard over yourself!
Beings, sunk in ignorance, lost in delusion, hasten from one state of suffering to another, not knowing the real cause, not knowing the escape from it. This insight into the general law of suffering is the real foundation of our compassion, not any isolated fact of suffering.
Hence our compassion will also include those who at the moment may be happy, but act with an evil and deluded mind. In their present deeds we shall foresee their future state of distress, and compassion will arise.
The compassion of the wise man does not render him a victim of suffering. His thoughts, words and deeds are full of pity. But his heart does not waver; unchanged it remains, serene and calm. How else should he be able to help?
May such compassion arise in our hearts! Compassion that is sublime nobility of heart and intellect which knows, understands and is ready to help.
Compassion that is strength and gives strength: this is highest compassion.
And what is the highest manifestation of compassion?
To show to the world the path leading to the end of suffering, the path pointed out, trodden and realized to perfection by Him, the Exalted One, the Buddha.
How to cite this document (a suggested style): “The Four Sublime States: Contemplations on Love, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity”, by Nyanaponika Thera. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel006.html
The Compassion of Our Creator, Allah and Its Reflection in a Human Being
A man was forgiven his sins because he was merciful.
Abu Hararia reported that The Messenger of Allah Prophet Muhammad (The Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“ Once a man suffered from thirst while he was walking on a journey.
When he found a well, he climbed down into it to drink from it.
Then he came out and saw a dog lolling its tongue from thirst and licking the ground.
The man said:
“This dog has suffered thirst just as I have suffered from it.”
He climbed down the well again, filled his shoe with water, and caught it in his mouth as he climbed up.
Then he gave the dog a drink.
Allah appreciated this deed, so he forgave him
(his sins and caused his destiny to be Paradise)
A companion of Prophet Muhammad (The Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) asked:
“Is there a reward for charity even for the animals?”
The Prophet (PBUH) replied:
“In every living being there is a reward for charity.”
(Source – Sahih Muslim 2044)
When the Human Race ceases to instill and promote genuine compassion –
the act of doing something positive to help others, then we lose part of what it means to be Human, by rejecting the very disposition of our Creator, Allah, from whom we will seek compassion.
Truly, we earn what we send before us.
Kendal Ecumenical Group
Please consider four words. Faith, religion, ecumenism and compassion.
Faith is a personal attribute, but the word has come to be used as a synonym for religion.
A religion is an organised collection of beliefs, cultural systems and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence.
Ecumenism is rather a big step beyond inter-faith, it refers to the whole of humankind, including those of no religion. Unfortunately it is a much misunderstood and much misused word.
Kendal Ecumenical Group has read, listened to or discussed with many religious leaders, some more ecumenical than others. Some stand out. The Dalai Lama proved to be ecumenically well ahead of the best of the rest. We present a selection of relevant, but short, quotations from statements by His Holiness.
““I always try to share with others the idea that in order to become compassionate it is not necessary to become religious.”
“Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.”
”Whether you believe in God or not does not matter so much.
Whether you believe in Buddha or not does not matter so much.
Whether you believe in reincarnation or not does not matter so much.
You must lead a good life.
A good life does not mean just good food, good clothes, good shelter. These are not sufficient. A good motivation is what is needed: compassion – without dogmatism, – without complicated philosophy. Just understand that all others are human brothers and sisters. Just respect their rights and human dignity.”
“Compassion is not at all religious business. It is important to know it is human business. It is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is a question of human survival.”
“Compassion naturally creates a positive atmosphere. As a result you feel peaceful and content. It gives the feeling that is the basis of inner peace.”
Faith and Fire
BUDDHISM KARUNA (COMPASSION)
Read by Jacquetta Gomes Bodhicarini Upasika Jayasili on behalf of Faith and Fire. Faith and Fire is a partnership between the CFOA Chief Fire Officers Association, FRS Fire and Rescue Services and faith communities to develop mutual respect
My first Preceptor was Theravada Buddhist Monk the Venerable Narada Maha Thera (1898 –1983). In 1975 he gave me The Five Precepts (Panca Sila) and the Buddhist name Jayasili at Vajirarama Monastery in Colombo Sri Lanka. I will read extracts from the section on Compassion (Karuna) from his most famous book The Buddha and His Teachings of which I have an autographed copy.
Compassion (karuna). It is defined as that which makes the hearts of the good quiver when others are subject to suffering, or that which dissipates the sufferings of others. Its chief characteristic is the wish to remove the woes of others. It is compassion that compels one to serve others with altruistic motives. A truly compassionate person lives not for himself but for others. Buddhist compassion, it should be noted, does not consist in mere shedding of tears and the like, for the indirect enemy of compassion is passionate grief (domanassa). Compassion embraces all sorrow-stricken beings.
The poor and the needy, the sick and the helpless, the lonely and the destitute, the ignorant and the vicious, the impure and the undisciplined are some that demand the compassion of kind-hearted, noble-minded men and women, to whatever religion or to whatever race they belong.
Even more than poverty sickness prevails throughout the world. The Buddha set a noble example by attending on the sick Himself and exhorting His disciples with the memorable words: “He who ministers unto the sick ministers unto me.” People avoid those who suffer from contagious diseases. But compassionate physicians, attend on them so as to heal them. Otherwise they might die
Some countries are materially rich but spiritually poor, while some others are spiritually rich but materially poor. It is the paramount duty of the wealthy to come to the succour of the poor, who unfortunately lack most of the necessaries of life. As the materially rich should have compassion on the materially poor and try to elevate them, it is the duty of the spiritually rich, too, to have compassion on the spiritually poor though they may be materially rich. Wealth alone cannot give genuine happiness. Peace of mind can be gained not by material treasures but by spiritual treasures.
As a rule the Buddha went in search of the poor, the ignorant and the vicious, but the good and the virtuous came in search of the Buddha. The Buddha’s advice is to shun the company of the foolish. That does not mean that the good should not associate with them so as to reform them.
The world needs today compassionate men and women to banish violence and cruelty from the face of the earth.
VOICE OF THE VOICELESS
BY Ella Wheeler Wilcox
I am the voice of the voiceless:
Through me, the dumb shall speak;
Till the deaf world’s ear be made to hear
The cry of the wordless weak.
From street, from cage and from kennel,
From jungle, and stall, the wail
Of my tortured kin proclaims the sin
Of the mighty against the frail
For love is the true religion,
And love is the law sublime;
And all is wrought, where love is not
Will die at the touch of time.
Oh shame on the mothers of mortals
Who have not stopped to teach
Of the sorrow that lies in dear, dumb eyes,
The sorrow that has no speech.
The same Power formed the sparrow
That fashioned man-the King;
The God of the whole gave a living soul
To furred and to feathered thing.
And I am my brother’s keeper,
And I will fight his fight;
And speak the word for beast and bird
Till the world shall set things right.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Candy Bomber
There is a scripture in the book of Jude in the New Testament that says if you have compassion you can make a difference. A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Lt. Gail Halvorsen of the U.S. Air Force decided that he wanted to make a difference. He was in the first group of airmen sent to Frankfurt, Germany, when Russia blockaded West Berlin in 1948. The USA came to the aid of the German people by flying in food, coal, medicine and other basic supplies. “I thought we’d only be there a short time,” he said, “as surely world opinion wouldn’t allow another country to starve two and a half million people for long. But in the end we carried on operating the airlift for 18 months.”
On one of his days off, Lt. Halvorsen decided to hike into the city to take some pictures. He came upon a barbed wire fence that separated him from some German children who were playing. After talking with them for a while, Lt. Halvorsen realised that there was something about these kids that was different from others he’d met while a serviceman. “Most children would clamour round us asking for candy or gum,” he explained. “But these were subdued. They had been through so much. Their city had been practically destroyed; many of them had lost family members in the war. Yet not one of them asked me for anything.” He reached in his pocket and found only two sticks of gum. He passed them through the fence and watched as, without any arguments, they divided the small pieces of gum into even smaller pieces and when there was none left to divide, passed the wrappers around to smell.”
An aircraft swooping by suddenly gave the Lieutenant an idea. He told the children he’d be back next day, and if they promised they would share it, he would drop some candy from his plane as it flew into the city. “How will we know which plane is yours?” they asked. “I shall wiggle my wings!” he replied. So next day he dropped 3 candy-laden parachutes to the kids waiting patiently below. “When we flew back out of the city ,” said Lt. Halvorsen, “they were standing there waving the three white hankies which we’d used for the chutes.” Other men in his company offered contributions from their rations. His Commander called him in and told him that a candy bar dropped from the sky had hit a reporter on the head, and now the story was all over the front pages in Berlin. “The German people loved it, and that kept me out of trouble,” said the Lieutenant.
As the operation grew larger, more and more people joined in. Radio stations along the East Coast of America sent out appeals for handkerchiefs. People in Massachusetts sent big boxes of candy already attached to parachutes. The “Weekly Reader”, a children’s newsletter, encouraged kids to send small contributions to their counterparts in Germany, and the response was overwhelming. More than 7,000 pounds of candy from the Candy companies of USA were shipped over, many of which were saved for Christmas to give out to the children in West Berlin.
“One little girl sent me a map with her letter,”said Lt. Halvorsen. “She said her house was the white house with chickens in the yard and she’d be waiting outside at 2pm. I couldn’t find her and had to mail the package instead. Twenty years later, this grateful girl, now grown up with her own family, wrote and invited me to dinner in that same home. We still keep in touch to this day.” A lad called Peter Zimmerman wrote of how he had lost both his parents in the war, and could the Lieutenant find someone in the U.S. to adopt him. This was duly done – a family in Pennsylvania welcomed him into their home. The letters kept coming; children from East Berlin wanted him to drop candy for them too.
“Some propaganda was published saying it was all a capitalistic operation by the U.S. Government, “said Lt. Halvorsen, ” but there was never anything official about it. It wasn’t controlled by any agency of the government.”
In the present day, Gail Halvorsen serves as a Bishop for the Church in the Oak Hill Ward, Provo, Utah. To this American serviceman remembered by thousands as the ‘Candy Bomber’ or ‘Uncle Wiggly-Wings’, having compassion for others has proved to be a way of life.
I Believe by Sheila Cassidy
no pain is lost.
No tear unmarked,
no cry of anguish
lost in the hail of gunfire
or blanked out by the padded cell.
I believe that pain
are somehow saved,
used in the Divine economy.
shed in Salvador
will irrigate the heart
of some financier
a million miles away.
by lava, flood or earthquake
will be caught up
like mist and fall again,
a gentle rain
on arid hearts
or souls despairing
in the back streets
The word “compassion” comes from the Latin, meaning “to suffer with”. Compassion requires that we are able to step outside ourselves and suffer with others, becoming aware of their experience. It means detaching ourselves from the grip of our egos, that part of us which is constantly saying “Me, ,me, me!” so urgently and wrapping us in a cocoon of self-interest. The Muslim poet and mystic, Rumi, knew this so well. In many of his poems, he urges us to escape the tyranny of ourselves and become selfless. Paradoxically, when we become selfless, we find our true selves and our lives become more intense, fluid and expansive. Though it may require us to become as nothing, Rumi promises that we will discover an ocean of love and compassion that will more than make up for our ego’s losses, an ocean that may even make us a little drunk…
Selflessness (by Rumi)
Whether it’s sugar or poison, how sweet is selflessness!
You grab a hat, you have no head. How sweet is selflessness!
When you fall into its trap, and try to get out but find no escape…
when you take just a sip of its wine, how sweet is selflessness!
Face your fear and be a man; you’re alive, so be in motion.
Abandon gold for a heart of gold. How sweet is selflessness!
You spread yourself like freezing rain. Experience the miracle of melting.
Don’t be sad about this material world. How sweet is selflessness!
Don’t complain that you’re trapped, that your cup of life is full to the brim.
Find new life even in old age. How sweet is selflessness!
How can you stay sober in this ocean of wine?
Surrender your skepticism! How sweet is selflessness!
When those black curls of Hers appear, ambergris seems less than worthless,
but what musk, what fragrant ambergris is this sweet selflessness!
Come on, to the rose garden, friend, join the gathering of the drunks,
A glass in every hand! How sweet is selflessness!
See the power truly present, witnessing each and every soul,
far beyond even selflessness. How sweet is selflessness!
[Ghazel 2504: Divani Shamsi Tabrizi, trans. by Kabir Helminski and Ahmad Rezwani, Love’s Ripening]
“Man is, in reality, a spiritual being,
and only when he lives in the spirit is he truly happy.”
We believe that life should be seen as an eternal process of joyous spiritual discovery.
How do we become more spiritual? By following the word of God which has been given to us by a succession of teachers. We are taught to be truthful, honest, and reliable, not to kill, and not to commit other crimes. These virtues are the foundation of what is required. However, such a man could also be cold and indifferent to the suffering of others. So we are also taught to love our fellow man and to develop tender passions, for example: kindness, sympathy, generosity, understanding, courtesy, forgiveness, compassion.
Qualities such as these are developed by thinking and acting in the light of divine guidance:
“Strive ye to gladden every soul.”
“O Ye beloved of the Lord! The kingdom of God is founded upon equity and justice, and also upon mercy, compassion, and kindness to every living soul. Strive ye, then, with all your heart to treat compassionately all humankind.”
“I want you to be happy….to laugh, smile and rejoice in order that others may be made happy by you.”
These are all the words of Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah. He is regarded by Baha’is as the perfect exemplar and we have many stories from his life to inspire us.
It was very early in the morning and most people were still in bed. Abdu’l-Baha was in the street when a poor man passed by. His clothes were thin and torn and very dirty. Maybe he had slept that night on the cold pavement, or under a bridge. Abdu’l-Baha walked up to that lonely old man, held his hand and spoke to him lovingly. The old man was very sad and it took a long time but eventually he gave a little smile. Then, Abdu’l-Baha looked at the man’s ragged trousers. Abdu’l-Baha was wearing a long cloak, or robe called an aba. He went to a dark porch, took off his own trousers, which he was wearing under the cloak, and gave them to the old man.
“Let it be seen that you are filled with universal love. When you meet a stranger, speak to him as a friend; if he seems to be lonely try to help him, give him of your willing service; if he be sad console him, if poor succour him, if oppressed rescue him, if in misery comfort him. In so doing you will manifest that not in words only, but in deed and in truth, you think of all men as your brothers.” Abdu’l-Baha
Thank you for assuring you are with us.
Thank you for assuring you are in us.
Thank you for assuring you are us.
Grant us the boon of love, health and happiness so that we can shine in the radiance of your praise.
Keep us positive, keep us happy, keep us peaceful and selfless so that we can serve you all over the world as long as we live on this planet.
May this day be one with everyone to find the one within and without, and may your joy and peace prevail all around us unto infinity.
words by Yogi Bhajan
Message from Co-Chairs of the Inter Faith Network
“Inter faith understanding and cooperation are of year-round and ever growing importance but national Inter Faith Week provides a special time in the year when the spotlight falls on these issues. It is a time when people in communities around the country highlight the significance of faith and the contribution that faith communities make to society. Young and old of all backgrounds get the chance to find out more about their neighbours’ faiths and beliefs and to discuss, debate, learn, contribute together to projects and celebrate their diversity. Finding commonalities, sharing what matters most deeply to us, asking questions, exploring differences of view – these are all part of the Week. We hope that as many people as possible will take the opportunity to join in one of the hundreds of events happening.”
The Rt Revd Richard Atkinson and Mr Vivian Wineman, Co-Chairs of IFN