Compassion requires you to dethrone yourself from the centre of your world and put others in your place.
This was the point that eminent historian and author Karen Armstrong focused on and kept coming back to in her lecture titled ‘The need for compassion in a fractured world’ in the Aga Khan University auditorium on Monday afternoon.
Ms Armstrong set the tone of her talk by asking the question as to what is meant by compassion. Answering the query she said people often confused compassion with pity or mercy. The word had Latin roots which meant to “to feel with the others” or “to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes”.
Ms Armstrong said compassion was about equality. It required you to look into your heart, discover pain and see if you could in any circumstance inflict that pain upon someone else. In every single religious tradition, she argued, it had been expressed as the golden rule. Confucius enunciated it as “do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire”.
Referring to the title of the lecture, Ms Armstrong talked about how compassion worked in a fragmented world. She said she was a Brit and was struggling at home with Brexit. Also, we had Donald Trump (in global politics) and had renewed tension with India (and Pakistan). “The world would not be a better place unless we learned to treat all peoples as we wished to be treated ourselves.”