Cultivate Compassion!

From Pratiksha Apurv's desk Media Watch

It energises you and makes you fearless, writes Pratiksha Apurv on Speaking Tree, New Delhi, India, on August 26, 2016.

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The real meaning of the word ‘compassion’ goes back hundreds of centuries when Sanjaya described Arjuna’s state of mind in Kurukshetra to the Kaurava king, Dhritarashtra, before the battle of Mahabharata. Arjuna was distressed and surrendered at the feet of Krishna seeking compassion. The literal meaning of the word ‘compassion’ is showing kindness, being caring and willing to help others. Krishna understood Arjuna’s pain and his teachings thereafter were an act of compassion, to bring Arjuna out of his grief-stricken state. Thus, compassion is described as a rare gift when a soul not only feels the misery and pain of others but also gets into action to ensure that their pain is reduced. One does not need words to understand the pain of others. A compassionate person can feel it silently and even if no one is crying loudly, he can hear the silent cry of pain and anguish.

Kabir says, “Jahan daya tahan dharm hai, jahan lobh tahan paap, jahan krodh tahan kaal hai, jahan kshama wahan aap — where there is compassion there is spirituality, where there is greed there is sin, where there is anger there is death, and where there is forgiveness, there is God.”

Compassion moves the heart with the pain of others and the resultant state makes one fearless and energetic. Ancient scriptures have described compassion as a form of prayer and meditation. In Buddhism, karuna or compassion has been described as a seed, born out of deep meditation and its flourishing is important to attain Bodhisattva. The Mahayana school of Buddhism focuses on feeling and compassion.

The splendour of compassion
The Splendour of Compassion,  Acrylic & Oil on Canvas, 2016, 52×46

I have tried to depict compassion through the painting of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, with several heads and eyes so as to be ever vigilant about those who are suffering and require immediate attention. Mahayana Sutra says that a seeker must recite the mantra and fill his heart with kindness and compassion for all living beings. He must take a vow, thereafter, that he will make sure to look after those who are suffering or are in need, without seeking anything in return. Describing the Buddha’s great compassion with a thousand hands and a thousand eyes, the sutra goes on to say that compassion is the root of the Buddha and his three treasures — Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Buddhist scriptures say that pure compassion is always unconditional and one cannot have compassion only for friends or relatives. It should not discriminate and differentiate even between humans and animals. And, the purest form of compassion arises when one has the same compassion for oneself also.

There is a story in Vajra Prajna Paramita Sutra about Shakyamuni Buddha. As he was about to go out, a little bird flew into his hut followed by a dreaded eagle. The little bird cried and asked the Buddha to save her from the eagle who wanted to eat her. “But how,” asked the Buddha. Before the bird could speak, the eagle said to the Buddha that if he saved her, he in turn would starve to death, “Saving one life and killing the other one is not compassion.” Hearing the bird’s plea and the eagle’s argument, the Buddha became very thoughtful. He brought out a knife and cut off his own flesh and gave it to the eagle to eat. The eagle was greedy and returned for more. The Buddha gave another piece of flesh from his body. But the eagle returned again. This time, the Buddha offered his entire body to the eagle saying: “You can eat whatever you want.”

Compassion acts as a great integrator of energy and this is what makes you fearless. Chapter 15 in the Lotus Sutra expounds that compassion means never to get angry at anyone and look upon all living beings as your own sons and daughters. It further states that the journey to the state of Bodhisattva requires the boat made of compassion. Osho adds that compassion is the purest form of love; it is the greatest miracle that all life forms await, in times of great pain and suffering. He points out that it is the lack of love for one another which has created so much pain and suffering for mankind. Consequently, there is now a great need for compassion to heal people of their wounds and wipe their tears.

It is for this reason that luminous masters like Krishna, Jesus, the Buddha, Mahavira, Nanak and Lao Tzu have appeared on earth from time to time — to heal and nurture humanity. Osho states that compassion is therapeutic, because all that is ill in man is because of lack of love. He has not been able to love, or he has not been able to receive love. Compassion is a state where one simply gives with no expectations. In love, we are thankful because we have received something from others. But in compassion, we are thankful to others, because they were there to receive something from us. This is the great play of life where one gives and the other receives, wherein one is thankful while the other is grateful! Compassion is a form of prayerfulness. It can also express itself as meditation. It is the highest form of energy expressing itself.

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