Why Compassion?

“I feel that spiritual progress does demand at some stage that we should cease to kill our fellow creatures for the satisfaction of our bodily wants.”

Mahatma Gandhi

In response to the last post, I was asked the following…

“A fundamental, but perhaps not so obvious question: HOW does it benefit us personally, and as a species to have compassion for all living things?”

As I’ve written extensively about elsewhere…here’s my take on it:

Everything we do and every thought we think expresses some form of energy, which, on some level, affects the Whole. Our most brilliant sages, shamans, spiritual leaders, philosophers and metaphysicians have all expressed this Truth in one way or another throughout our recorded history. Even in Christianity, when the Master said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me,” He was speaking of an interconnectedness between all people; when you do something to another, it’s just like doing it to yourself.  This is a call to bring everything we do under closer scrutiny so we can live our lives in a way that expresses love and respect for all people and – as a modern day interpretation that’s reflective of these more evolved times – all living creatures.

Likewise, some of the key, governing principles of many other spiritual paths have to do with cause and effect, karma, and reverence for all forms of life through the demonstration of non-violence and compassion, because every action you take creates a re-action.  So, if your food choices support or propagate the killing of an animal – one, I remind you, who clearly does not want to die – then you are ultimately contributing to the cultivation of a social environment that is emotionally and spiritually toxic.  This is cause.  The effect of this, as many of our wisest spiritual leaders have intimated, is more of the same, projected exponentially in our collective experience to include more fear, separation, angst and even war.

Wisdom Through the Ages

Here are a few of my favorite classic quotes on the subject:

“For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other.”

Pythagoras

“As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.”

Leo Tolstoy

“While we ourselves are the living graves of murdered beasts, how can we expect any ideal conditions on this earth?”

George Bernard Shaw

“Until he extends his circle of compassion to all living things man will not himself find peace.”

Albert Schweitzer

“…the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.”

Leonardo DaVinci

“As long as people will shed the blood of innocent creatures there can be no peace, no liberty, no harmony between people. Slaughter and justice cannot dwell together.”

Isaac Bashevis Singer

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”

Thomas Edison

If this connection still feels like a stretch, then just think about the total expenditure of psychological, physical and suppressed emotional energy that it takes to confine and slaughter 75 million birds, mammals and fish per day in the US alone.  This is a virtually incomputable amount of violence.  Are we simply to believe that this kind of energy just evaporates into the ether, with no consequence to us on any level?  Again, many of our wisest spiritual leaders and progressive thinkers suggest otherwise.  And, perhaps more importantly, the fruits of our actions as observed by the overall condition of our society at large suggest otherwise, as well.

On the other hand, if your food choices purposely do not support or propagate the killing of an animal, then every meal becomes a statement of compassion and non-violence.  So now, this is cause, and the effect is likewise more of the same, projected exponentially in our collective experience to include more peace, love and reverence for the Whole.

Compassion as a Daily Practice

Compassion, along with other evolved virtues like forgiveness and gratitude, is a practice.  It’s like a muscle that we have to exercise.  And as we “exercise” it, it gets bigger and stronger.  Therefore, when we express compassion to ANY living being – human, animal or insect – we are strengthening our overall ability to express compassion in general.  This is good!  And this is of benefit to the species because, to me, compassion is the recognition of a deeper connectedness between us all…it’s an unconditional expression of love to another.  Without it, we don’t stand a chance on the long-term.

BR

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About Bobby Rock

Bobby Rock is a world renown drummer, the author of seven books, and a recognized health and fitness specialist with certifications in exercise, nutrition and meditation. He has recorded and toured with a variety of artists, released three CDs as a solo performer and is recognized as a top drumming educator. (He is currently touring with rock icon, Lita Ford.) Through speaking, writing and activism, Bobby remains committed to a number of animal and environmental causes. Bobby lives in Los Angeles.
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7 Responses to Why Compassion?

  1. trinity elsie says:

    bobby,
    u know what? we agree w u! if there were more compassion we would not have all this bullshit!! what we like about u is that you live what u preach. u r a kind soul w a big heart. keep on doing what u r doing. no need to please anyone else. thanks
    ur buds and fans
    trinity and elsie

  2. Despina says:

    The fact that someone has to ask about why they should have compassion proves that they don’t have any. All life is precious and we should respect all forms of it. Thank you for all you keep giving us Bobby!

    Despina :o)

  3. CJ says:

    I was not aware that posing and opening up a philosophical discussion on the subject of compassion (of which that question was designed to do), would deem ME personally liable to not “have any”.

    Although I do not take that comment as a personal attack, as the author obviously does not know me, I do think it wise, (if we are to intelligently understand this subject or anything for that matter), to refrain from such judgments on the thoughts, comments and questions of one another until one has a complete and educated understanding as to WHY such a question might be asked.

    Maybe the more intelligent response to such a question (in regards to the author who made that comment) could be, “why the hell would someone ask that?” In which the response would follow:

    A.) To open up a “potential” intelligent discussion on the matter.
    B.) To personally further MY understanding on the subject and hopefully gain further insight. AND……..
    C.) Finally, we hear so many people preaching about having compassion, but how many of us actually ask “why” we should do such a thing? How does having compassion towards ALL life benefit us? Sounds so simple, yet the question of “why” really perpetuates a deeper understanding and provides a clear meaning to that particular action, thereby providing us with further REASON to believe in its TRUTH.

    In conclusion, I am led to believe that perhaps the author of that comment didn’t learn anything from reading Bobby’s intelligent, articulate, and heartfelt response (of which I am personally grateful beyond measure)…….. or perhaps he/she knew everything already. Which, in that case, maybe should consider starting their OWN blog.

    With Much Love and Compassion….CJ

  4. CJ says:

    NOW ONWARD To continue this……..Yet another question on compassion:

    As I was driving in my car today, I suddenly realized the implications that it had on all living things. I.E. Wave after wave of pollution and emissions being sent out to the world, from my car harming surrounding life. So in order to really stay true to the compassion of all living things and wholeheartedly complete this philosophy, must we be so extreme as to not get in our cars and drive? Is that very action not promoting an industry of which can also be considered unethical to many (the automobile industry), and furthermore causing “karmic” damage to our species as well? Where must we draw the line? Or perhaps there is no line?

    I’m open for any and all constructive input on this. Thanks again Bobby. This blog is the most incredible contribution on all the core subjects that really matter to the “bigger picture”. Thanks again. CJ

  5. Lisamarie says:

    CJ I understand and respect your point about driving here.
    However I still DO find it rather sad and pathetic that someone would have to ask, “What’s in it for ME, ME, ME”? when it comes to compassion for other living beings, like we must be “rewarded” with something in order to make any valuable efforts toward feeling for other living creatures worth trying.
    Yes, emissions from our cars wreak alot of havoc on our air and our environment, thereby causing harm to us. For those who live in a city where there are alternative methods of transport, like rail or bus systems that is one thing they could do to reduce their carbon footprint, but for some peope it’s just not practical, so although we can’t alleviate ALL forms of suffering and damage to the environment to the FULLEST extend that we might like, that’s still no reason/excuse to not do as much as we CAN, and to minimize the damage done to other creatures as well as to our planet as much as humanely possible through the choices we make.
    We may not have control over EVERY form of suffering, as there are SO many forms of it going on spontaneously every second of every day, so we can’t possibly stop all of it at once. But like I said, we can take small steps toward making the world a more peaceful, compassionate, caring place by taking advantage of the things we DO have control over, like our food choices, fashion choices, the kind of social events we choose to-or not to-support that effect the lives of animals, etc.
    Every little bit helps. And it DOES matter.
    Hope that makes sense. 🙂

  6. CJ says:

    The Laws of Universal Karma……and Compassion.

    Bobby can you help shed some light on this concept?

    A.)How is it possible to have true compassion for all living things, when our very nature of living is constantly destroying that which is around us, if even on a microscopic level? Does this philosophy apply only to certain forms of life?

    B.) Are we to believe that if the laws of Universal Karma are carried out, then we are all bound to “karmic debt” on some level, due to the laws of cause and effect?

    Maybe “true” compassion towards all life is only a goal we can strive for, but never fully attainable?

    Trying really hard to grasp this.

    Thank you Bobby for allowing us to explore this and for helping us to understand.

    CJ

    To Lisamarie,

    Thank you. If we can’t stop the cycle of suffering, we can at least contribute to the slowing of it. YES……

  7. Bobby Rock says:

    Good stuff, gang. Thank you all for your contributions and insights. I only wish I was better equipped to answer some of these questions definitively. Instead, I’ll give them my best shot.

    First, though, for the record – and for all who may be a little perplexed by CJ’s original question – I happen to know him personally and can vouch for the fact that he is a decent, compassionate person. (Of course, he would still be welcome here if he wasn’t!) So I took his question to be more rhetorical and thought-provoking in nature, as opposed to a “why should we bother?” kind of thing. Of course, I also realize that these things can be hard to interpret through the written word.

    Anyway, on to a little stream of consciousness….

    CJ’s latest:

    Question A.) “How is it possible to have true compassion for all living things, when our very nature of living is constantly destroying that which is around us, if even on a microscopic level? Does this philosophy apply only to certain forms of life?”

    Quantum physics tells us that, on a subatomic level, everything – and I do mean everything – is energy. The main distinction between anything in our physical universe (besides our ability to perceive something or someone as a three-dimensional “thing” through physical size and shape), is its rate of vibration and its level of sentience.

    Rate of vibration relates mainly to the density of something so, for example, a stone would be vibrating at a different rate of speed than a glass of water. Sentience is a being’s ability to, on some level, be conscious and emotionally responsive. So when you hear about a vegan not wanting to harm any “sentient being,” they are referring to pretty much any living being – mammal, bird, fish, reptile, insect, etc. – who possesses sentient qualities…most notably, the outward, obvious instinct to live.

    Now, given that many “living things” show evidence of a wanting-to-survive consciousness – from plants to cancer cells – one way we can draw a line in the sand is through the distinction that a sentient being has some kind of central nervous system…which means he or she can feel pain and/or sense danger…which means he or she can execute a fight or flight response to this danger…which means that, on some level, they consciously DO NOT want to be harmed in any way. An ant is sentient. An apple is not.

    So, we do our best not to harm any sentient being, while simultaneously trying to survive and thrive in the world ourselves. And I’ll tell ya, this is an ongoing challenge that only we, as individuals, can decide how to navigate. I’ve had and observed many, many of these kind of debates through the years. Example: “When we drive down the street, we’re careful not to run over any cats or squirrels, but what about any insects that we might inadvertently be driving over? We don’t (or can’t) look out for them. Why should their lives be any less important?” And on and on these kinds of debates go.

    Truthfully, I don’t know if there is a definitive right or wrong to any of this…only our sense of what our grandest expression of the Divine might be in any given moment. And that can only be decided by the individual.

    I know we’re really exploring the absolute microscopic minutia of this stuff now, but I think this level of contemplation is healthy, because it defines exactly where one truly stands on these issues. Bottom line is, be aware, practice mindfulness and stay informed, then follow your gut and do what you feel is right.

    Question B.) “Are we to believe that if the laws of Universal Karma are carried out, then we are all bound to “karmic debt” on some level, due to the laws of cause and effect?”

    Personally, I’ve never viewed “karmic debt” as some kind of inevitable punishment one must endure for some previous action. I think karma is simply the Universe mirroring back to you the fundamental energies that you’re outwardly projecting through your thoughts, feeling and actions. So, in very broad strokes here, if your projection is one of separation, division, isolation, destruction, etc., then you might be creating “bad karma,” because we generally perceive those things as undesirable in our experience here. (The Universe, I’m convinced, doesn’t make such judgments. It merely reflects back to us exactly what we project to it with complete impartiality.)

    On the other hand, if your projection is one that recognizes and supports the One Truth – that everything and everyone is connected – then you will likely experience “good karma.” The tricky part is that things seldom manifest instantaneously over here. So it’s very hard to decipher how these various projections – both “good” and “bad” – are actually stacking up in your “karmic bank account.” Therefore, since we are creating some form of cause in every moment, the cumulative effect, which is continually reflected back to us, is an ever-adjusting thing.

    Obviously, this is quite an oversimplification of how we experience our reality here, and there are many other factors that play into our experiences, as well (particularly on the macro level where collective energies are generated by others). So…once again, all we can really do, from one moment to the next, is try to express, project, or just simply “be,” whatever we feel is the highest expression of our highest Self. Of course, our ideal about this will certainly evolve, or even devolve, at times. But if we do our best with this one moment at a time, we have our best shot at lots of “good karma” experiences.

    And ya know what else? Just the fact that we’re even having this discussion right now and thinking about these things so deeply, indicates to me that we’re heading down the right path…

    Again, thank you all for being here with me.

    BR

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