According to this article, it has been found that meditation may increase empathy. I think it is not surprising for the research to confirm that meditation can help increase empathy since we tend to be more in tune with our inner self and more conscious of our oneness and connectedness with the universe whenever we take time to be still and meditate. We become more aware of the suffering in this world and seek to find out the root causes of suffering, and when we gain insight into the nature of suffering, we not only help ourselves see through the illusion, we also want to help others alleviate their suffering through sharing our perspectives.
I remember reading about Buddha’s childhood – when he was growing up as a boy, one day he was at a field, and he saw a bird eating a worm. For some reasons, he was intrigued by this and felt compassion for the worm being eaten by the bird. He decided to sit under a tree and meditated on what he has seen. Many years later, after having seen other signs of suffering in villages, such as sickness and death of people, he left his princely life in search for the truth and learnt wisdom from several teachers, and finally sat under a tree and continued to meditate on the nature of suffering. He came to see things as they really are, and accept the four noble truths of birth, sickness, old age and death, and he realised attachment to the material world that causes greed, envy, etc is the cause of suffering (i think christian mystics would call this ego or false identity of Adam), and he then set on a mission to share with compassion how others too can come to terms with and alleviate suffering in their lives through practising mindfulness and meditation.
Similarly, whenever we meditate, we also become more mindful about how and why we humanity go through suffering, and we reflect on how we can help one another, whether near or far, through thoughts and actions of love, peace and goodwill.
I was also reflecting that we are products of being conditioned by our upbringing and culture of the family and society around us, and we all can work towards overcoming the victimisation that we have had experienced in the past. Jesus himself is a victim of circumstances as he was growing up being misunderstood by his family and society – his blood brothers didn’t understand him and his neighbours and relatives gossiped about him as they thought he was a bastard child since he was not conceived through his natural father Joseph. Jesus had to work his way through the sting of being rejected by people and later being accused by religious people of blasphemy and heresy and mingling with “sinners”. I believe what sustained him was his awareness of the Father’s presence with him who is his constant love and support, hence he spent time often in prayer.
In the same way, through prayer and meditation, we can continue to work our way through our victimisation, and being still and aware of our true identity that we are unconditionally and infinitely loved and valuable, and understand that people hurt us because they were hurt and knew not what they were doing, and we can love them accordingly, whether from afar or near, in thoughts and/or actions.