Compassion (Karuna)

The questions discussed in the groups on the subject of compassion were; what forms of suffering are there; how we could alleviate this suffering and how does compassion for this suffering help us in our path to moksha. Some of the key words we found were:

  • physical pain,
  • mental and emotional suffering,
  • karmic suffering of the soul, how a souls pastkarma has caused it to be trapped in vicious circle of life and death and how these karmas can cause suffering in the souls bodily life.

The true sense of karuna is feeling a deep sense of pain in seeing other souls suffer and having a desire to remove that suffering.

We debated a scenario where if we were to see one person physically harming another, what would we do. Again, there were many views based on the particular situation that is occurring and an appreciation of anekantavada when interpreting the situation. The important thing noted is that regardless of the situation we can always have compassion for the physical pain of one party and the karmic suffering of the one doing harm. If we act in any way born out of true maitri and karuna (without attachment to any party, the result or in the reasoning) then we ourselves won’t suffer.

In our lives today, it would be extremely difficult to accomplish this complete selflessness. The importance is in observing and understanding the things we choose to do, how they are affecting us and where we could have had feelings of karuna and maitri.

Some of the things we could do to alleviate suffering are:

  • giving alms to the needy, and especially those on a spiritual path
  • philanthropy, in aiding things like hospitals and schools
  • showing sympathy or mercy and
  • removing ones fear

But, perhaps the biggest form of suffering mentioned was the eternal suffering we go through in this cycle of life and death. Helping another soul escape this cycle would be the biggest act of compassion. We can do this by guiding one to a more spiritual path.

This is what Mahavir Bhagwan displayed with Chandrakaushik; he was full of compassion and helped Chandrakaushik break out of his worldly cycle of life and death.

There is a famous Japanese maxim, ‘See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.’ We discussed which of these we would rather have happen. By speaking or doing no evil ourselves, we are only helping our own soul’s journey. Wanting this necessarily means that we have an attachment towards our own samvara (the process of stopping the inflow of karma) and spiritual progress, and as mentioned previously, where there is attachment there is ashrav (the inflow of karma). Karuna is about wanting to remove the suffering of others. The strength of this, and gain to be had, is that in looking at other people we are forgetting about our own karmic suffering. So we concluded that true karuna is that want to see no evil, so there will be no suffering.

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