The Charter for Compassion
The Charter for Compassion is a natural Interfaith movement initiated by thoughtful, conscientious, educated people of many faiths, in response to the steady rise and growth of "fundamentalists" religious groups that interpret their scriptures literally and therefore tend to be theocratic.
Below you can read the Charter, and you can see and hear a video of one of its founders, Karen Armstrong. But it first should be said that wise mentality and point of view it expresses is not new, because truly wise people in the world have always been inspired by the universal Spirit of truth within us.
In a very significant way, that phenomenon increased significantly in the period historians call "The Enlightenment," also known at the Age of Reason, which inspired and motivated most of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America in 1776.
They helped make Deism, Freemasonry, other esoteric spiritual teachings and Eastern spiritual teachings accepted and popular, realizing the true intent of the great spiritual teachers, avatars and sages like Lao Tzu, Gautama the Buddha, Hillel the Elder, and Jesus of Nazareth.
Mainstream Western philosophers of the late 1700s helped to expand that trend, and they also became fascinated with Eastern culture, religion, literature and philosophy.
All that had a profound impact on the Western (European and American) cultural leaders by the middle of the 1800s, and it influenced such great philosophers and writers as Schopenhauer, Emerson, Thoreau, Nietzsche, Baudelaire, James, Shelley, and Whitman, among others.
In 1893 a Parliament of Religions was held in Chicago, and leaders from each of the great religions presented their views on life. This created even greater appreciation for Eastern religions, which were represented by notables such as Swami Vivekenanda, who spoke about Hinduism, and Soyen Shaku, a Zen-Buddhist abbot. Shortly after that, the first Buddhist society in the West was founded.
In 1925, an important and significant but far lesser known event in the U.S. was the arrival of the great Paramahansa Yogananda from India, sent to America by his guru to spread an Interfaith message and teach Hatha and Raja Yoga to Americans. And he established the Self Realization Fellowship, which is still going strong after growing significantly in the 1960s.
Such Interfaith movements were boosted by both Eastern and Western spiritual teachers in the 1960s and 1970s, and their impact still influences many of us. For example, many progressive Christians have been influenced, such as the scholars on the Jesus Seminar, like Karen Armstrong, the author of many great books like The History of God and The Battle for God, and a founding member of a wonderful Interfaith movement called The Charter for Compassion, which is as follows:
The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the center of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.
It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.
We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the center of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.
We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.
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(To visit the Charter for Compassion web site, and to see a video about it, click here.
To join and take action, click here.)
Here is an earlier video of Karen Armstrong talking about the Abrahamic religions and the Charter for Compassion: