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  • For years I've been feeling frustrated,

  • because as a religious historian,

  • I've become acutely aware

  • of the centrality of compassion

  • in all the major world faiths.

  • Every single one of them

  • has evolved their own version

  • of what's been called the Golden Rule.

  • Sometimes it comes in a positive version --

  • "Always treat all others as you'd like to be treated yourself."

  • And equally important

  • is the negative version --

  • "Don't do to others what you would not like them to do to you."

  • Look into your own heart,

  • discover what it is that gives you pain

  • and then refuse, under any circumstance whatsoever,

  • to inflict that pain on anybody else.

  • And people have emphasized the importance of compassion,

  • not just because it sounds good,

  • but because it works.

  • People have found that when they have

  • implemented the Golden Rule

  • as Confucius said, "all day and every day,"

  • not just a question of doing your good deed for the day

  • and then returning to a life of greed

  • and egotism,

  • but to do it all day and every day,

  • you dethrone yourself from the center of your world,

  • put another there, and you transcend yourself.

  • And it brings you into the presence

  • of what's been called God, Nirvana, Rama, Tao.

  • Something that goes beyond

  • what we know in our ego-bound existence.

  • But you know you'd never know it a lot of the time,

  • that this was so central to the religious life.

  • Because with a few wonderful exceptions,

  • very often when religious people come together,

  • religious leaders come together, they're arguing about abstruse doctrines

  • or uttering a council of hatred

  • or inveighing against homosexuality or something of that sort.

  • Often people don't really want to be compassionate.

  • I sometimes see

  • when I'm speaking to a congregation of religious people

  • a sort of mutinous expression crossing their faces

  • because people often want to be right instead.

  • And that of course defeats the object of the exercise.

  • Now why was I so grateful to TED?

  • Because they took me very gently

  • from my book-lined study

  • and brought me into the 21st century,

  • enabling me to speak to a much, much wider audience

  • than I could have ever conceived.

  • Because I feel an urgency about this.

  • If we don't manage to implement

  • the Golden Rule globally,

  • so that we treat all peoples, wherever and whoever they may be,

  • as though they were as important as ourselves,

  • I doubt that we'll have

  • a viable world to hand on to the next generation.

  • The task of our time,

  • one of the great tasks of our time,

  • is to build a global society, as I said,

  • where people can live together in peace.

  • And the religions that should be making a major contribution

  • are instead seen as part of the problem.

  • And of course it's not just religious people who believe in the Golden Rule.

  • This is the source of all morality,

  • this imaginative act of empathy,

  • putting yourself in the place of another.

  • And so we have a choice, it seems to me.

  • We can either go on bringing out or emphasizing

  • the dogmatic and intolerant aspects of our faith,

  • or we can go back to

  • the rabbis. Rabbi Hillel, the older contemporary of Jesus,

  • who, when asked by a pagan

  • to sum up the whole of Jewish teaching while he stood on one leg,

  • said, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.

  • That is the Torah and everything else is only commentary."

  • And the rabbis and the early fathers of the church who said that

  • any interpretation of scripture

  • that bred hatred and disdain was illegitimate.

  • And we need to revive that spirit.

  • And it's not just going to happen

  • because a spirit of love wafts us down.

  • We have to make this happen,

  • and we can do it

  • with the modern communications

  • that TED has introduced.

  • Already I've been tremendously heartened

  • at the response of all our partners.

  • In Singapore, we have a group

  • going to use the Charter to heal divisions

  • recently that have sprung up in Singaporean society,

  • and some members of the parliament want

  • to implement it politically.

  • In Malaysia, there is going to be an art exhibition

  • in which leading artists are going to be

  • taking people, young people,

  • and showing them that compassion also lies

  • at the root of all art.

  • Throughout Europe, the Muslim communities

  • are holding events and discussions,

  • are discussing the centrality of compassion

  • in Islam and in all faiths.

  • But it can't stop there. It can't stop with the launch.

  • Religious teaching, this is where we've gone so wrong,

  • concentrating solely on believing abstruse doctrines.

  • Religious teaching must always lead to action.

  • And I intend to work on this till my dying day.

  • And I want to continue with our partners

  • to do two things --

  • educate and stimulate compassionate thinking.

  • Education because we've so

  • dropped out of compassion.

  • People often think it simply means

  • feeling sorry for somebody.

  • But of course you don't understand compassion

  • if you're just going to think about it.

  • You also have to do it.

  • I want them to get the media involved

  • because the media are crucial

  • in helping to dissolve some of the stereotypical views

  • we have of other people,

  • which are dividing us from one another.

  • The same applies to educators.

  • I'd like youth to get a sense of

  • the dynamism, the dynamic and challenge

  • of a compassionate lifestyle.

  • And also see that it demands acute intelligence,

  • not just a gooey feeling.

  • I'd like to call upon scholars to explore

  • the compassionate theme

  • in their own and in other people's traditions.

  • And perhaps above all,

  • to encourage a sensitivity about

  • uncompassionate speaking,

  • so that because people have this Charter,

  • whatever their beliefs or lack of them,

  • they feel empowered

  • to challenge uncompassionate speech,

  • disdainful remarks

  • from their religious leaders, their political leaders,

  • from the captains of industry.

  • Because we can change the world,

  • we have the ability.

  • I would never have thought of putting the Charter online.

  • I was still stuck in the old world

  • of a whole bunch of boffins sitting together in a room

  • and issuing yet another arcane statement.

  • And TED introduced me to a whole new way

  • of thinking and presenting ideas.

  • Because that is what is so wonderful about TED.

  • In this room, all this expertise,

  • if we joined it all together,

  • we could change the world.

  • And of course the problems sometimes seem insuperable.

  • But I'd just like to quote, finish at the end

  • with a reference to a British author, an Oxford author

  • whom I don't quote very often,

  • C.S. Lewis.

  • But he wrote one thing that stuck in my mind

  • ever since I read it when I was a schoolgirl.

  • It's in his book "The Four Loves."

  • He said that he distinguished between erotic love,

  • when two people gaze, spellbound, into each other's eyes.

  • And then he compared that to friendship,

  • when two people stand side by side, as it were, shoulder to shoulder,

  • with their eyes fixed on a common goal.

  • We don't have to fall in love with each other,

  • but we can become friends.

  • And I am convinced.

  • I felt it very strongly

  • during our little deliberations at Vevey,

  • that when people of all different persuasions

  • come together, working side by side

  • for a common goal,

  • differences melt away.

  • And we learn amity.