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Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life Paperback – December 27, 2011
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Top Customer Reviews
To her credit, the author does not use this book to debate dogmas or make theological truth claims (see her Case for God for that), nor does she deny scientific facts or try to justify atrocities committed in the name of God. The only premise she requires the reader to accept is that religion at its best can inspire people to goodness and to greatness. To that end, she prescribes a two-step process disguised as a dozen: first, learn the Golden Rule; second, live it, "a struggle that will last until our dying day."
Fundamentalists of all faiths will reject this book, offended that it paints their absolute truths as merely useful myths. The anti-religious are also certain to attack it for elevating pleasant falsehoods above that which can be proven scientifically. To everyone living their lives between these two extremes I am happy to recommend this book.
As part of her project, Armstrong also wrote this book "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" in which she explains the nature and importance of compassion and offers a 12-step plan for increasing the degree of compassion one achieves in one's own life. Armstrong begins with the Golden Rule in both its negative formulation: "Do not treat others as you would not like them to treat you"; and in its positive formulation: "Always treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself." As did the Jewish sage Hillel in a story Armstrong quotes when asked to explain succinctly the teachings of the Bible, Armstrong believes that "the rest is commentary" to be studied learned, and practiced.
Armstrong's short book shows a great deal of erudition as well as wisdom. She has studied and learned a great deal from many religious traditions, including Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. She presents complex material in an effective manner. But the scope of the learning in this book is much broader.Read more ›
Armstrong starts with an overview of compassion as discussed in various religious writings from around the world and then shows twelve ways to incorporate the practice of compassion into life. She likens her book to the twelve steps of recovery, in that one should be familiar with all of the steps and then go back to step one as a starting place. Each step builds on the one previously as Armstrong demonstrates that even thinking differently about those we love is a beginning. She builds through thinking, speaking and acting differently toward those to whom we feel indifference or even active dislike.
At no point does Armstrong equate compassion to pity, because the two are not the same. Instead, she shows how compassion can be considered as simple kindness in thought, word and act. Nor does Armstrong suggest that this will automatically make you like someone whose actions disgust or disturb you, but instead she points out that it is possible to see where your "enemy" (for lack of a better term) has come from to reach the point where they are.
I enjoyed the book and have found myself re-examining some of my own viewpoints as a result of the reading. Highly recommended for those with a somewhat philosophical bent.
(Review based on uncorrected advance proof.)
Let me say first off that I treasure books and try to keep them in pristine condition, barely opening the covers so I don't break the spine or hold it in any way that taxes the binding. I always clean my hands before touching a book. But while reading Armstrong's words, I found so many sentences profound, thoughts that shimmered with clarity that I found myself doing the unthinkable - taking a highlighter and highlighting noteworthy passages! Worse yet, I uncapped a pen and scribbled notes within the margins, thoughts that I want to remember for the next reading of the book for surely I will read this book many times over again.
Armstrong points out that in today's world, peace is paramount. Never has our ability to wreck destruction upon each other been greater and yet religion, the thing that should compel us towards peace is actually a separating agent. Hostilities arise in the name of religion. Take a look at the present conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. History is blood-speckled with crusades and the like but Armstrong argues they really aren't about religion. The people in power merely invoke religion as the palatable face of the war, but the real reason is always something secular such as economics, border disputes or control of resources.
Armstrong asserts that if you are truly a student of religion, you see that while they differ in many ways they have a core that is universal.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book, have you ever wondered about the start of religions? The similarities? The basic human trait to appeal to our need for a higher purpose ? Read morePublished 3 days ago by The Nibbler
I wish everyone everywhere would read this book and apply at least some of it to life. It would be a better world.Published 5 days ago by Amazon Customer
Very useful insight on the importance of being Compassionate and how it is translated into several cultures and creeds.Published 1 month ago by Eng Ricardo N. Prata
I had to read this book for my intro to ethics class, and I didn't find it to be very informative. However, it was an easy read. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Hunter Korsmo
If you are seeking to understand and widen your vision, Karen Armstrong is holding the door for you.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer