“If we could see the whole truth of any situation, our only response would be one of compassion.”

In an essay titled “Empathy with the Enemy”, the philosopher and writer, Roman Krznaric writes of visiting Guatemala some years after the civil war during which “the military had killed an estimated 200,000 indigenous people, mostly Mayans, in their attempts to uproot leftist guerrillas.” The Guatemala that Roman now saw was a country ruled by “thirty or so” oligarchs “families of European origin who dominated the economy and politics, and who kept Guatemala impoverished.”

As Roman endeavoured to understand the oligarchs’ “mental outlook” through conversations with some of them, he found their ideas and “opinions detestable. These were the kinds of attitudes that had made possible the tortures, rapes, and murders of so many thousands of indigenous people during the civil war, a tiny fraction of which I had heard about first-hand during my earlier stay in the jungle village.”

But he also discovered that “You can gain an understanding of somebody’s worldview without having to agree with their beliefs or principles” — indeed, it is vital to do so.

As Roman’s conversations progressed, he found that during the civil war, families of the oligarchs had also suffered with members being “assassinated and their children kidnapped by the guerrillas and other armed groups.” Roman writes: “I suddenly found myself empathising with the enemy – seeing the war from their perspective –and felt genuine compassion for them.”

Roman makes the deep point that while it is important to emphatise with the “dispossessed or disadvantaged”, it is equally necessary to “extend our empathetic imaginations….also to those whose views and actions we might oppose or disdain, from wealthy bankers to bombastic politicians to racist work colleagues – even the sibling who broke a favourite toy.”

In “The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness”, Mingyur Rinpoche teaches: “If we could see the whole truth of any situation, our only response would be one of compassion.”

Peace 😊

“Selfishness is the chief sin, thinking of ourselves first.”

In a piece dated September 1937 (“Albert Einstein, The Human Side: Glimpses from His Archives”), Albert Einstein writes: “Our time is distinguished by wonderful achievements in the fields of scientific understanding and the technical application of those insights. Who would not be cheered by this? But let us not forget that knowledge and skills alone cannot lead humanity to a happy and dignified life. Humanity has every reason to place the proclaimers of high moral standards and values above the discoverers of objective truth. What humanity owes to personalities like Buddha, Moses, and Jesus ranks for me higher than all the achievements of the enquiring and constructive mind.”

And what is it about the great sages that Einstein values above all else? He mentions this in a letter about twenty years earlier, dated 6th December 1917, as World War was raging: “More and more I come to value charity and love of one’s fellow being above everything else. . . .”

In the same letter, he laments, “How is it at all possible that this culture-loving era could be so monstrously amoral?….All our lauded technological progress — our very civilizatiobs — is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal.”

Swami Vivekananda, in a Talk delivered at the Temple in Rameswaram (“The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda” — Volume 3″) gives us a lesson that sums up all morality and philosophy. If each of us lives by it in our daily lives, perhaps there may emerge a way out of this mess we have created. “Selfishness is the chief sin, thinking of ourselves first. He who thinks, “I will eat first, I will have more money than others, and I will possess everything”, he who thinks, “I will get to heaven before others I will get Mukti before others” is the selfish man. The unselfish man says, “I will be last, I do not care to go to heaven, I will even go to hell if by doing so I can help my brothers.”….He who has more of this unselfishness is more spiritual and nearer to Shiva. Whether he is learned or ignorant, he is nearer to Shiva than anybody else….And if a man is selfish, even though he has visited all the temples, seen all the places of pilgrimage, and painted himself like a leopard, he is still further off from Shiva.”

Peace 😊