Jacqueline J: How do you teach compassion to children? Can it be taught?
Lama Surya Das: Yes, compassion can certainly be taught. How to teach it to children is a subset of that issue. Besides the fact that many would say that children are naturally empathic, which is the essence of compassion— feeling with others— some would go even further and postulate that children are psychic, or intuitive at least (and thus closely attuned to and connected with others near to them) until we drum it out of them through socialization and the like, with all the emphasis on conforming, left-brained analytical training such as putting the square peg in the square hole and all the rest. But let’s not over-idealize the state of childhood as some kind of primal Eden, for it’s not. Jesus said that we must become again like children, not become children again; in other words, child-like is a virtue in adults, while being childish is not.
Absolutely the best way that I know or have ever seen— Now Hear This, parents, teachers, religious instructors!— is modeling it by genuinely being more compassionate, empathic, altruistic and kind oneself. This is where the learning, mental training, heart opening, spiritual study and attitude transformation must take place. Then compassion is naturally transmitted to others who are in your charge, including children, who are impressionable and, like sensitive little antennae, learn to do what you do far more often than what you say. Compassion means feeling what others feel and being moved to help. Altruism, generosity, selfless service and compassionate action naturally and spontaneously arises from that innate goodness of a heart as wide as the world. “
Submitted by Jacqueline J. via Facebook on September 21, 2010