“Compassion — a radical necessity”

On 4th March 1950, Albert Einstein wrote to a gentleman (translation quoted in “Finding Peace in Life and Death: A Synopsis of Reality Versus the Human Mind” by Patrick Baxter) who had requested him to help comfort his daughter – after her sister had passed away.   In the letter, we read Einstein on the relationship between compassion and liberation.

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.

Einstein goes on: “Our task must me to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all….the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of….liberation and a foundation for inner security.” 

About two thousand years before this letter, in the Vivekachudamani (Verse 82, translated by Swami Ranganathananda in “The Message of the Vivekachudamani”), we read the sage Adi Sankara tell us that if we have “a craving for liberation”, one of the “the nectar-like virtues” we must cultivate is “compassion“.

The Buddhist Teacher, Joan Halifax takes this a bit deeper than liberation in a talk delivered at the Wisdom 2.0 Conference on 1st March 2015. She says the “images of aggression, violence, of suffering” that we “are flooded” with clearly tell us that “Compassion is a….radical necessity.”

In an essay titled “Good Leadership is an Act of Kindness” published in the 1st November 2020 issue of “Harvard Business Review: Working Knowledge”, Boris Groysberg (Professor at Harvard Business School) and Susan Seligson advise Business Leaders that we are confronted with times where “the manager’s toolkit must expand in ways we haven’t seen before.” The most important addition to the toolkit, they say, is “kindness”. They write: “Even if gestures of….compassion were not woven into business as usual before the pandemic, they are essential now and going forward.”

Peace 🙂