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Empathy with the suffering of others, with a spontaneous inclination to alleviate it. This is a primary quality of spirituality in all religions, particularly in Buddhism, where it is called karuna.

In Mahayana Buddhism, it is the second of the four Sublime Attitudes (brahmavihara) which are: lovingkindness (metta in Pali, maitr… in Sanskrit), compassion (karuna), sympathetic joy (mudita), and equanimity (upekkha). This compassionate quality is the foundation of the Bodhisattva ideal, where one makes a vow that one will seek enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings.

Theosophical literature gives similar importance to this quality. In The Voice of the Silence, Helena P. BLAVATSKY wrote: “Compassion is no attribute. It is the Law of Laws — eternal harmony šlaya’s self; a shoreless universal essence, the light of everlasting Right, and fitness of all things, the law of love eternal” (1964 ed., p. 208). But she stresses that this must be translated into action: “To feel ‘compassion’ without an adequate practical result ensuing from it is not to show oneself an ‘Altruist’ but the reverse. Real self-development on the esoteric lines is action. ‘Inaction in a deed of mercy becomes an action in a deadly sin’” (p. 155).


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