Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Purification through Compassion

"According to the sutras, numerous eons ago, when the Buddha was an ordinary being, he took rebirth in a hell realm. He suffered gravely there as a result of his past negative karma.
He and a companion were forced to pull a wheel of fire on which a wrathful hell-guard was sitting, holding a burning club with which to beat them. His companion was so weak that he couldn’t pull the wheel anymore. The hell-guard stabbed his companion with a burning trident. His companion kept crying loudly and bleeding profusely. At that moment, with strong love and compassion, the Buddha developed enlightened aspiration, a vow to take responsibility for helping his companion and all the suffering beings from the depth of his heart, and he became a bodhisattva for the first time.
The bodhisattva begged the hell-guard, “Please have a little mercy on my suffering companion.” At that, in a rage the hellguard hit him with a burning trident. Because of the power of his strong compassion, the bodhisattva died and was liberated from the hell-realm. His evil deeds of many eons were purified instantly by the power of such enlightened aspiration. Thereafter, he started his journey toward the fully enlightened state of buddhahood." ............ Incarnation: The History and Mysticism of the Tulku Tradition of Tibet by Tulku Thondup

We are not here to debate on the eschatological issues or the concept of karma but this episode represents a beautiful way of illustrating the power of compassion.

 When I read this passage from the book, the immediate thought that struck me was the closeness of the event to the one in the life of Moses. To jog our memories, I tell the story here.

When Joshua, the Jewish stonecutter  sculpting a figure on Pharaohs temple, for which heavy stones were being hauled up, sees an old woman, who is applying lubricant on the leading edge of the stone, getting her tunic caught beneath the stone. rushes down and stops the hundreds of workers and cuts the woman free. The infuriated task master arrests Joshua and orders him to be chained in his garden for lashing punishment. Moses, who is also a lobourer at the work site, witnesses this and steals into the task master's garden and lies in wait and when the punishment is started grabs the whip end and strangles the task master. Joshua immediately calls him 'the deliverer' of the nation of Israel. This is the life changing moment in the liberation of the Jewish people from Egypt. This is a story again to illustrate how the inglorious past of a worldly prince, Moses, is transformed through an act of compassion into the liberating role and leader of a nation.

Compassion and empathy comes from the higher reaches of consciousness where a non-differentiated view of all that exists around us is seen as part of our self. This perception can only result from an egoless mind. In both episodes we see that the suffering of the fellow being is totally internalized and is felt as if it is one own suffering and pain.

Perhaps in Jainism, we have the total concept of compassion through its philosophy of "Ahimsa" or nonviolence. Bhagwan Mahavir said, "If you kill someone, it is yourself you kill. If you overpower someone, it is yourself you overpower. If you torment someone, it is yourself you torment. If you harm someone, it is yourself you harm."
The very core teaching of Jainism is non-violence. Positively stated, Jainism is a religion of compassion, universal love and friendliness. It aims at the welfare of all living beings, and not of man alone. It maintains that living beings are infinite, all so called empty spaces in the universe are filled with life energy.

Today, we know through science that there is no empty space. The whole universe is seething with vibrating energy.

Understanding this interconnectedness leads to universal compassion.

Love to you all


  1. Compassion is the most ideal gift any one possess and at the same time give to others happily. In this context I wd like to share a story I read in today's TOI
    Then others will also learn to be joyful.”
    Here’s another story: One day a man from a nearby village called out at the monastery gates, and handed the old monk who opened it a magnificent bunch of grapes, saying, ‘‘Dear Father, i have brought as a gift the finest grapes my vineyard has produced.’’
    The monk smiled, ‘‘Thank you, i will take them to the Abbot immediately; he’ll be delighted with this offering.’’ But the villager said, ‘‘No, no. I brought them for you.’’
    The old monk didn’t think he deserved such a fine gift. ‘‘Oh yes!’’ insisted the man. ‘‘For whenever i come by, you open the gates and welcome me. When i needed help because the crop was destroyed, you shared your meal with me every day. I hope this bunch of grapes will remind you of the sun’s love, the rain’s beauty and the miracle of God, for it is He who made them grow so fine.’’
    The monk held the bunch of grapes. It looked full and luscious. He decided to present it to the Abbot, who had always encouraged him with words of wisdom.
    The Abbot was very pleased with the grapes, but as he accepted them, he thought of one of the brothers who had been very unwell. ‘‘I’ll give him these grapes; they may bring some joy to his life.’’
    But the grapes didn’t stay in the sick monk’s room for long. He reflected, ‘‘Brother Cook has been feeding me such nourishing meals to help me recover. I’m sure he will enjoy these.’’ As the cook brought him his meal, he presented him with the grapes. ‘‘They’re for you,’’ said the sick monk. ‘‘You work so hard; take a moment to sit and enjoy these.’’
    Brother Cook was amazed at the beauty of the grapes, then he thought of the newest entrant to the monastery. He decided to gift them to the youngster as he felt he might be a bit lonely without his family, and also so that he might understand that the work of God is in the smallest details of creation.
    When the novice received them, his heart was filled with the Glory of the Lord, for he had never seen such beautiful grapes. Just then, he recalled the first time he came to the monastery, and of the simple old monk who had opened the gates and warmly welcomed him; it was that gesture which allowed him to feel at home in this community of people who knew how to value the wonders of life.
    And so, he walked to the monk at the gates. ‘‘Eat and enjoy them,’’ he said. ‘‘For you spend most of your time alone here, and these grapes will make you very happy


  2. Fantastic thought provoking and make you to be one like in the ancient tale of wisdom.SUE