A few weeks back I put forth a Facebook challenge on a social experiment. In a nut shell I asked you all no matter if you were religious or not to please go look at a religion that you felt you would have nothing in common with. Then try to find something you could agree within the religion you chose and apply it in your daily lives. Taking the God part out of the factor. A common thread if you will. Something we could see in each other that would give all of us a foundation to work towards world peace.
My Social Experiment for those of you that don’t know wasn’t a simple one. I really kind of put a challenge out there.
Not everyone found or even recognized the common thread I knew was within every religion in one form or another. So what was this social experiment designed to find or get people to see if they were willing to let their walls down and set their preconceived notions and biases aside, even if just for a moment? The one true thing that is taught by every religion….
Humans are selfish! It’s so easy to say. The same goes for so many other assertions. Greed is good. Cooperation is for suckers. Competition is natural, war is inevitable. Some Religion or another is to blame. Now because these kinds of claims reflect age-old assumptions about emotion. We have regarded that emotions are the foundation of irrationality, and sin.
The idea of the seven deadly sins takes our destructive passions for granted. Plato compared the human soul to a chariot: the intellect is the driver and the emotions are the horses. Life is a continual struggle to keep the emotions under control.
The concern we feel for another being’s welfare, has been treated with downright derision. Immanuel Kant saw it as a weak and misguided sentiment: (Bunny Ears) “Such benevolence is called soft-heartedness and should not occur at all among human beings,”. But yet is a basic human nature that can be taught out of us in certain environments. As children we automatically have compassion. But as adults sometimes we have to be reminded of it. Re-kindled if you will
But yet Every Religion teaches compassion in one way or another. Yes every Religion, even Satanism. And for example here are the 11 rules to Satanism
1 Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked.
2 Do not tell your troubles to others unless you are sure they want to hear them.
3 When in another lair, show him respect or else do not go there.
4 If a guest in your lair annoys you, treat him cruelly and without mercy.
5 Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal.
6 Do not take that which does not belong to you unless it is a burden to the other person and he cries out to be relieved.
7 Acknowledge the power of magic if you have employed it successfully to obtain your desires. If you deny the power of magic after having called upon it with success, you will lose all you have obtained.
8 Do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself.
9 Do not harm little children.
10 Do not kill non-human animals unless you are attacked or for your food.
11 When walking in open territory, bother no one. If someone bothers you, ask him to stop. If he does not stop, destroy him.
Whoa wait a minute there? Did maybe we misunderstand a religion? Satanism teaches compassion? Well to a degree anyways but still there none the less could we maybe have misunderstood other religions too? Isa?
Recent studies of compassion argue persuasively for a different take on human nature, one that rejects the preeminence of self-interest. These studies support a view of the emotions as rational, functional, and adaptive—a view which has its origins in Darwin’s Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals. Compassion and benevolence, this research suggests, are an evolved part of human nature, rooted in our brain and biology, and ready to be cultivated for the greater good.
The biological basis of compassion
First consider the recent study of the biological basis of compassion. If such a basis exists, we should be wired up, so to speak, to respond to others in need. Recent evidence supports this point convincingly. University of Wisconsin psychologist Jack Nietzsche found in an experiment that when mothers looked at pictures of their babies, they not only reported feeling more compassionate love than when they saw other babies; they also demonstrated unique activity in a region of their brains associated with the positive emotions. Nietzsche’s finding suggests that this region of the brain is attuned to the first objects of our compassion—our offspring.
But this compassionate instinct isn’t limited to parents’ brains. In a different set of studies, Joshua Greene and Jonathan Cohen of Princeton University found that when subjects contemplated harm being done to others, a similar network of regions in their brains lit up. Our children and victims of violence—two very different subjects, yet united by the similar neurological reactions they provoke. This consistency strongly suggests that compassion isn’t simply a fickle or irrational emotion, but rather an innate human response embedded into the folds of our brains.
In other research by Emory University neuroscientists James Riling and Gregory Berns, participants were given the chance to help someone else while their brain activity was recorded. Helping others triggered activity in the caudate nucleus and anterior cingulate, portions of the brain that turn on when people receive rewards or experience pleasure. This is a rather remarkable finding: helping others brings the same pleasure we get from the gratification of personal desire.
The brain, then does, seems wired up to respond to others’ suffering – indeed, it makes us feel good when we can alleviate that suffering. But do other parts of the body also suggest a biological basis for compassion?
“It seems so. Take the loose association of glands, organs, and cardiovascular and respiratory systems known as the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS plays a primary role in regulating our blood flow and breathing patterns for different kinds of actions. For example, when we feel threatened, our heart and breathing rates usually increase, preparing us either to confront or flee from the threat—the so-called ‘fight or flight’ response. What is the ANS profile of compassion? As it turns out, when young children and adults feel compassion for others, this emotion is reflected in very real physiological changes: Their heart rate goes down from baseline levels, which prepares them not to fight or flee, but to approach and sooth.”
Dr. Isa further goes on to say, “Then there’s oxytocin, a hormone that floats through the bloodstream. Research performed on the small, stocky rodents known as prairie voles indicates that oxytocin promotes long-term bonds and commitments, as well as the kind of nurturing behavior—like care for offspring—that lies at the heart of compassion. It may account for that overwhelming feeling of warmth and connection we feel toward our offspring or loved ones. Indeed, breastfeeding and massages elevate oxytocin levels in the blood (as does eating chocolate). In some recent studies I’ve conducted, we have found that when people perform behaviors associated with compassionate love—warm smiles, friendly hand gestures, affirmative forward leans—their bodies produce more oxytocin. This suggests compassion may be self-perpetuating: Being compassionate causes a chemical reaction in the body that motivates us to be even more compassionate.”
Signs of compassion
According to evolutionary theory, if compassion is truly vital to human survival, it would manifest itself through nonverbal signals. Such signals would serve many adaptive functions. Most importantly, a distinct signal of compassion would soothe others in distress, allow people to identify the good-natured individuals with whom they’d want long-term relationships, and help forge bonds between strangers and friends.
Research by Nancy Eisenberg, perhaps the world’s expert on the development of compassion in children, has found that there is a particular facial expression of compassion, characterized by oblique eyebrows and a concerned gaze. When someone shows this expression, they are then more likely to help others. My work has examined another nonverbal cue: touch.
Previous research has already documented the important functions of touch. Primates such as great apes spend hours a day grooming each other, even when there are no lice in their physical environment. They use grooming to resolve conflicts, to reward each other’s generosity, and to form alliances. Human skin has special receptors that transform patterns of tactile stimulation—a mother’s caress or a friend’s pat on the back—into indelible sensations as lasting as childhood smells. Certain touches can trigger the release of oxytocin, bringing feelings of warmth and pleasure. The handling of neglected rat pups can reverse the effects of their previous social isolation, going as far as enhancing their immune systems.
In her experiment, she put two strangers in a room where they were separated by a barrier. They could not see one another, but they could reach each other through a hole. One person touched the other on the forearm several times, each time trying to convey one of 12 emotions, including love, gratitude, and compassion. After each touch, the person touched had to describe the emotion they thought the person touching them was communicating.
Remarkably, people in these experiments reliably identified compassion, as well as love and the other ten emotions, from the touches to their forearm. This strongly suggests that compassion is an evolved part of human nature—something we’re universally capable of expressing and understanding.
Feeling compassion is one thing; acting on it is another. We still must confront a vital question: Does compassion promote altruistic behavior? In an important line of research, Daniel Batson has made the persuasive case that it does. According to Batson, when we encounter people in need or distress, we often imagine what their experience is like. This is a great developmental milestone—to take the perspective of another. It is not only one of the most human of capacities; it is one of the most important aspects of our ability to make moral judgments and fulfill the social contract. When we take the others perspective, we feel an empathic state of concern and are motivated to address that person’s needs and enhance that person’s welfare, sometimes even at our own expense.
In a compelling series of studies, Batson exposed participants to another suffering. He then had some participants imagine that person’s pain, but he allowed those participants to act in a self-serving fashion—for example, by leaving the experiment. So basically even in a self-serving act of leaving you show compassion. Because humans don’t naturally want to see others suffer and if we can’t stop it we run from it so we can’t see it.
Within this series, one study had participants watch another person receive shocks when he failed a memory task. Then they were asked to take shocks on behalf of the participant, who, they were told, had experienced a shock trauma as a child. Those participants reported that they felt compassion for the other individual and volunteered to take several shocks for that person, even when they were free to leave the experiment.
In another experiment, Batson and colleagues examined whether people feeling compassion would help someone in distress, even when their acts were completely anonymous. In this study female participants exchanged written notes with another person, who quickly expressed feeling lonely and an interest in spending time with the participant. Those participants feeling compassion volunteered to spend significant time with the other person, even when no one else would know about their act of kindness.
Taken together, our strands of evidence suggest the following. Compassion is deeply rooted in human nature; it has a biological basis in the brain and body. Humans can communicate compassion through facial gesture and touch, and these displays of compassion can serve vital social functions, strongly suggesting an evolutionary basis of compassion. And when experienced, compassion overwhelms selfish concerns and motivates altruistic behavior.
A more compassionate world
Human communities are only as healthy as our conceptions of human nature. It has long been assumed that selfishness, greed, and competitiveness lie at the core of human behavior, the products of our evolution. It takes little imagination to see how these assumptions have guided most realms of human affairs, from policy making to media portrayals of social life.
But clearly, recent scientific findings forcefully challenge this view of human nature. We see that compassion is deeply rooted in our brains, our bodies, and in the most basic ways we communicate. What’s more, a sense of compassion fosters compassionate behavior and helps shape the lessons we teach our children.
Of course, simply realizing this is not enough; we must also make room for our compassionate impulses to flourish. In Greater Good magazine, we feature articles that can help us do just that. Our contributors provide ample evidence to show what we can gain from more compassionate marriages, schools, hospitals, workplaces, and other institutions. They do more than make us reconsider our assumptions about human nature. They offer a blueprint for a more compassionate world.
Now This part I have done for Isa and Dru so pay attention!
Next up I am going to be informing on what His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama said in Milan, Italy, on December 9th 2007
I would like to say something concerning religious harmony. Sometimes, conflicts involve religious faiths. For instance, previously in Northern Ireland, although the conflict was basically a political issue, it quickly became a religious issue. This was very unfortunate. Today, followers of Shea and Sunni are also sometimes fighting each other. This too is very unfortunate. In Sri Lanka as well, although the conflict there is also political, yet in some cases one gets the impression that the conflict is between Hindus and Buddhists. This is really terrible. In ancient times, followers of different religions were mostly isolated from each other. But now they are in much closer contact and so we need to make special efforts to promote religious harmony.
On the first anniversary of September 11, a memorial prayer ceremony was held at the Washington National Cathedral. I was at that meeting and I mentioned in my talk that nowadays, unfortunately, some people create the impression that because of a few mischievous Muslims, all Muslims are militant and violent. They then speak of a clash of civilizations between the West and Islam. This is unrealistic.
It is absolutely wrong to characterize a whole religion as bad because of a few mischievous people. This is true regarding Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism all alike. For example, some followers of the protector Shugden killed three people near my residence. One of them was a good teacher who was critical of Shugden and he received sixteen knife wounds. The other two were his students. Those killers were really mischievous. But because of that, to say that all of Tibetan Buddhism is militant – no one would believe this. At Buddha’s time as well, there were also some mischievous people there – nothing special.
Since September 11, although I’m a Buddhist, an outsider to Islam, nevertheless I have been voluntarily making efforts as a defender of Great Islam. Many of my Muslim brothers – very few sisters – explain to me that if anyone creates bloodshed, this is not Islam. The reason is that a true Muslim, a true follower of Islam, should have love toward entire creation the same as he or she has love toward Allah. All creatures are created by Allah. If one respects and loves Allah, one must love all His creatures.
In Lisbon recently, I attended an interfaith meeting in a mosque. That was the first time that an interfaith meeting was held in a mosque. After the meeting, we all went into the main hall and did silent meditation. It was really wonderful. Therefore, always make effort for interfaith harmony.
Some say God, some say no God – that is not important. What is important is the law of causality. This is the same in all religions – don’t practice killing, stealing, sexual abuse, lying. The different religions may use different methods, but they all have the same purpose. Compassion. Look at the results, not at the causes. When you go to a restaurant, just enjoy all the different foods, rather than argue that this food’s ingredients come from this or that. It’s better to just eat and enjoy.
So, those different religions – rather than argue that your philosophy is bad or good, see that they all teach compassion as their purpose and goal, and that they all are good. Using different methods is realistic for different people. We must adopt a realistic approach and view.
Inner peace is related with compassion. All major religions have the same message – love, compassion, forgiveness. We need a secular way to promote compassion. For those people who have religion and who are sincere and serious in it, one’s own religion has great potential to further increase our compassion. As for nonbelievers – those who have no particular religious interest or some who even hate religion – sometimes they also have no interest in compassion, since they think that compassion is a religious matter. This is fully wrong. If you want to look at religion as something negative, that is your right. But there is no point in having a negative attitude toward compassion.
Firstly, we come from our mothers. Other people and animals too come from mothers and survive by their mothers’ care. There is a certain biological factor that brings us together. That is a biological factor. My own mother, for instance, was very kind. So today, the first seed of my compassion came from my mother, not from Buddhism. After studying Buddhism, it merely increased. If I didn’t have that kind of kind mother or if my parents had abused me, then today maybe it would be difficult for me to practice compassion. Therefore, the seed of compassion is a biological factor. We need it for survival.
Affection is an essential factor for proper upbringing. Scientists have experimented with baby monkeys. Those with a mother were always playful and only on a few occasions would they fight. Those separated from their mothers were often tense, unhappy and had a lot of fighting. Therefore, growth is connected with others’ affection. According to medical scientists, they found that the more we practice compassion, the less stress and anxiety and the more peace of mind we have. We have better blood circulation and it lowers our blood pressure. In some cases, the immune system gets stronger. But constant anger and hatred eats our immune system. Therefore, compassion and forgiveness are very helpful for health and long life.
We need a secular way to promote secular ethics. Secular does not mean to be against religion or to have disrespect for religion. When I say “secular,” it is like in the Indian constitution. Gandhi emphasized secular religion: he did prayers from all religions. “Secular” means no preference of one religion over another, but to have respect for all religions, including for nonbelievers. Therefore, we need secular ethics through secular ways, on the basis of education about common experience and scientific evidence.
Question: We have so much materialism in the world today. What about materialistic people? How do we deal with this?
His Holiness: Material things only provide physical comfort, not mental comfort. A materialistic person’s brain and our brain are the same. Therefore, we both experience mental pain, loneliness, fear, doubt, jealousy. They disturb anyone’s mind. To remove these with money – that’s impossible. Some people with disturbed minds, with too much stress, take some medicines. They temporarily reduce stress, but bring many side effects. You can’t possibly buy peace of mind. No one sells it, but everyone wants peace of mind. So many people take tranquilizers, but the real medicine for a stressed mind is compassion. Therefore, materialistic people need compassion.
Peace of mind is the best medicine for good health. It brings more balance to the physical elements. The same is true with getting enough sleep. If we sleep with peace of mind, then there are no disturbances and we do not need to take sleeping pills. So many people take care about having a beautiful face. But if you are angry, no matter how much color you put on your face, it won’t help. You are still ugly. But if you have no anger, but smile, then your face becomes attractive, more smart-looking.
If we make a strong effort in compassion, then when anger comes, it is just for a short while. It is like having a strong immune system. When a virus comes, there is not much trouble. Therefore, we need a holistic view and compassion. Then, through familiarization and analysis of the interconnectedness of everyone, we will get more strength.
We all have the same potential for goodness. So look at yourself. See all the positive potentials. Negative ones are also there, but the potential for good things is there too. The basic human nature is more positive than negative. Our life starts with compassion. Therefore, the seed of compassion is stronger than the seed of anger. Therefore, look at yourself more positively. This will bring a more tranquil mood. Then when problems come, it will be easier.
So, if you are interested in what I say, then experiment by yourself. If you have no interest, then leave it. I leave tomorrow, but your problems will stay with you.
Okay that being said, I want to say thank you to so many of you that did my social experiment. I had a great time reading all of your wonderful stories about your lives. I feel a much closer connection to each of you now.
Now I have two questions, after hearing all of this about the basic human nature to be compassionate. Why do all of the religions teach it? Shouldn’t this give us our common thread to achieve world peace?