Besides being the author of the book Buddha from the Penguin Lives series, scholar of religions Karen Armstrong has another project that is close to the hearts of Buddhists: the Charter for Compassion. Compassion, Armstrong argues, underlies all the major faiths—much as we Buddhists might like to take credit for it for ourselves!

This month, Tricycle is partnering with the Compassionate Action Network to support Karen Armstrong’s Charter for Compassion and Compassionate Cities Project—which we’re discussing on the site. Join us today at any member level and you’ll have the opportunity to sign the Charter, make a $5 donation to the Compassionate Action Network, and to download a free chapter Karen Armstrong’s new book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.

Here is an excerpt, in which she describes what we may think of as the birth of compassion:

As human beings became more secure, achieved greater control over their environment, and began to build towns and cities, some had the leisure to explore the interior life and find ways of controlling their destructive impulses. From about 900 to 200 BCE, during what the German philosopher Karl Jaspers called the “Axial Age,” there occurred a religious revolution that proved pivotal to the spiritual development of humanity. In four distinct regions, sages, prophets, and mystics began to develop traditions that have continued to nourish men and women: Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism on the Indian subcontinent; Confucianism and Daoism in China; monotheism in the Middle East; and philosophical rationalism in Greece. This was the period of the Upanishads, the Buddha, Confucius, Laozi, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Ezra, Socrates, and Aeschylus. We have never surpassed the insights of the Axial Age. In times of spiritual and social crisis, people have repeatedly turned back to it for guidance. They may have interpreted the Axial discoveries differently, but they never succeeded in going beyond them. Rabbinic Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, for example, were all latter-day flowerings of this original vision, which they translated marvelously into an idiom that spoke directly to the troubled circumstances of a later period. Compassion would be a key element in each of these movements.

Join us today to read more and support the compassionate work of Karen Armstrong.