Christmas & Compassion

Christmas. A time of supposed peace and goodwill towards all. How will you spend Christmas? What do you do? What do you eat? Is it hot or cold where you live? Do you have presents? Will you be with family and friends or will you be alone? 

For most of us, Christmas is a holiday, a time to relax, spend time with our families and friends, enjoy a break, whether it be in the sun or snow. But for some unfortunate people Christmas is a time they dread. They have no family. They may have no money, no food, no shelter. Many elderly people are lonely. Others live in war-zones. Some have never known a life without violence. 

Christmas is also a time when animal abandonment and abuse increases. Some animals live a fear-filled life on the streets, hungry and cold.

I think our sense of compassion is severely underdeveloped. We do not truly care for anyone else but ourselves. We have lost the capacity to feel compassion for others. I do not consider myself a religious person - in fact I feel that many of the greatest atrocities in this world have been committed in the name of religion, but I find I am turning more and more to the teachings of the great Buddhist wise men as their words touch something deep inside me. They make sense. I think we would do well to heed what they tell us...

"Sometimes we think that to develop an open heart, to be truly loving and compassionate, means that we need to be passive, to allow others to abuse us, to smile and let anyone do what they want with us. Yet this is not what is meant by compassion. Quite the contrary. Compassion is not at all weak. It is the strength that arises out of seeing the true nature of suffering in the world. Compassion allows us to bear witness to that suffering, whether it is in ourselves or others, without fear; it allows us to name injustice without hesitation, and to act strongly, with all the skill at our disposal. To develop this mind state of to learn to live, as the Buddha put it, with sympathy for all living beings, without exception.

- from the teachings of H.H. the Dalai Lama