“ Compassion … Karuna ”

Piyadassi Maha Thera .. ( 1914 - 1998) is best known as a great preacher of the Dhamma. He was born on 8th July 1914 at Kotahena in Colombo, Sri Lanka. At the age of twenty 'he entered the Buddhist Order and mastered the religion and philosophy of Buddhism under the erudite scholar monk Venerable Pelene Siri Vajiragnana Nayaka Thera, founder of the Vajirarama Bambalapitiya. Venerable Mahathera Piyadassi was one of the world's most eminent Buddhist monks having travelled widely carrying the message of the Buddha-Dhamma, both to the East and to West, he was able to write in a style that has universal appeal. A few excerpts from the book " The Spectrum of Buddhism " by Piyadassi.

" Karuna " is defined as " the quality which  makes the heart of the good man tremble and quiver at the distress of others " .. " the quality that rouses tender feelings in the good man at the sight of others suffering. "

Cruelty or violence is the direct enemy of Karuna while .. homely grief is the indirect or masked enemy. Though the latter may appear in the guise of a friend, it is not true Karuna, but false sympathy; such sympathy is deceitful and one must try to distinguish true from false compassion.

The compassionate man who refrains from harming and oppressing others and endeavours to relieve them of their distress gives the gift of security to one and all, making no distinction whatsoever.

" Karuna " is loving-compassion. It is that sublime quality which makes the hearts of the noble quiver at the suffering of the world.

" Karuna " has the characteristic of a mother whose thoughts, words and deeds tend to relieve the distress of her babe. It has property of not being able to tolerate the sufferings of others, and the manifestation of perfect non-violence. Its consummation is the eradication of all cruelty. Its proximate cause is the sight of the forlorn state of those in distress.

By precept and example the Buddha was the Great Compassionate One (Mahakarunika). He radiated his great compassion towards all beings, and never encouraged wrangling, animosity and violence.

Addressing the disciples he once said : " I quarrel not with the world, it is the world that quarrels with me. An exponent of the Dhamma does not quarrel with anyone in the world. "The entire dispensation of the Buddha is permeated with this sublime quality of karuna.

Goodness and violence cannot co-exist ; goodness constructs while violence destroys. Compassion cannot be cultivated by one who is obsessed with thoughts of selfishness. It is the self-sacrificing man who fills his heart with pure thoughts of pity and wishes to help and serve others. The selfish cannot be of real service to others for their selfish motives prevent them from doing good. No sooner do they become selfish and self-possessed than they fail to soften their hearts.

If you remove compassion from the teachings of the Buddha, you remove the heart of Buddhism; for all virtues, all goodness and righteousness have compassion as their basis. as their matrix ( kaurna nidhanam hi silam ).

All the virtues (paramitas) that a Bodhisatta, one bent on Enlightenment .. cultivates are initiated by compassion.

Compassion is guided by wisdom .. and wisdom in guided by compassion. They go hand in hand, they are the Backbone of Buddhism, the guiding principles.

(Source : Spiritual India - Mar - Apr, 2014)

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