Compassion: How All Religions Say We Can Build A More Peaceful World

This is part of a weekly series of over 50 common themes across religions. Stay subscribed to read about next week’s theme!

There is a Buddhist parable about two monks and a scorpion. One monk notices a scorpion drowning in water and decides to save it by picking it up. The scorpion stings his hand, causing him to drop the scorpion back into the water. The monk persistently repeats this process over and over again, until the other monk asks, “Why do you keep trying to save the scorpion even though it stings you every time you pick it up?” The first monk smiles and simply says, “It is the scorpion’s nature to sting. It is my nature to save.”

This story teaches us that compassion is deeply ingrained in human nature. At the core of all religions is the belief that our true purpose as human beings on Earth is to express and offer compassion to all living beings in both thought and action.

Too often we reserve compassion for members of our own groups only. But there is a common core of humanity underlying our wonderful diversity.

My own upbringing in India’s pluralistic society illustrated the truth of this common core of humanity and enabled me to participate in so much of the religious and spiritual lives of others, treating every such interaction as an opportunity to explore and learn — from across a spectrum of religions and sub-sects. I feel a shared spirit of generosity and intention whenever interacting with those who are different from me, and each such interaction has led to something new and exciting unfolding in my life that I couldn’t have predicted! I therefore hope I can encourage others to pursue such opportunities.

Religion has been a source of tremendous spiritual resources, providing values and meaning to its faithful with an emphasis on neighborliness and compassion. The common message of religious revelations is one that celebrates our common humanity and calls for action and service that promotes love, compassion, and peace in the world.


“A heart of compassion is the seed of Humanity.”
— Mencius, Confucian philosopher


“All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness […] the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.
— The Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader


“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
— The New Testament (James 1:27), Christian text


“And one of His signs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves so that you may find comfort in them. And He has placed between you compassion and mercy. Surely in this are signs for people who reflect.”
— The Qur’an (30:21), Islamic text


“It is not only their fellow human beings that the beloved God must treat with mercy and compassion, rather must they show forth the utmost loving-kindness to every living creature.”
— ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i leader


“The Holy One then said: Because you showed such compassion in tending the flock of a mortal, as you live, you shall become shepherd of Israel, the flock that is Mine.”
— Sefer Ha-Aggadah, collection of Jewish writings


“Realize the truth of the scriptures; learn to be detached and to take joy in renunciation. Do not get angry or harm any living creature, but be compassionate and gentle; show good will to all.”
— The Bhagavad Gita (16:1–2), Hindu text


“I would have remained small
but I possess three treasures
I treasure and uphold
first is compassion
second is austerity
third is reluctance to excel […]
compassion wins every battle
and outlasts every attack
what Heaven creates
let compassion protect”
— Lao Tzu, Daoist sage

Modern Science

“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 feeling as something separated 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. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
― Albert Einstein, physicist

Check out our previous newsletters:

And visit our website to read about more common themes across religions!
Foundational Article

To learn more about other common themes across religions, visit us at



Universal Enlightenment & Flourishing

The UEF Mission is to research and disseminate ideas about enhancing human flourishing. Follow us at: and