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Abstract Thinking: [16.02] Bhavana Of Compassion - Foundation of Morality

Published: 16.02.2007
Updated: 06.08.2008

Only yesterday, someone asked: What is the basis of morality? The basis of morality is - compassion. Man has two instincts - the instinct of cruelty and the instinct of compassion. Compassion is allied with sensitivity. The more sensitive a person is, the more does compassion awaken in him. The more insensitive a person is, the crueller he grows.

A question was put up before me: "Do you want to make policemen timid and cowardly through the practice of meditation?" I was greatly surprised. I should like to ask, whether heroism and cruelty are one and the same thing? Certainly not. There is a great deal of difference between them. Courage is one thing and cruelty quite another. There is greater difference between cruelty and courage than between day and night. Valour is heroism. The question of decreasing valour does not arise. Heroism can be increased. It can be developed and its development is most desirable. Cruelty is inhuman, monstrous. It is necessary to reduce it.

A wicked person uses learning for disputation, wealth for self-gratification and power for oppressing others. But a noble person uses them differently. For him, learning is not for disputation, but for knowledge: Wealth is not for indulging in pride and ostentation, but for charity: And power is not for oppressing others but for their protection. A noble person is not cruel. In him flows the inexhaustible stream of compassion.

Cruelty Is a Problem: Compassion Is Its Resolution
Cruelty Creates Problems: Compassion Resolves Them

The greatest cause of cruelty is - greed, excessive desire for the acquisition of wealth or the spirit of accumulation. The question is whether cruelty can be ended. Is it possible to renounce cruelty? Is there a remedy for it? We are all acquainted with the problem. We must also know how to end it. The problem cannot be ended until we find out a way of resolving it. If the problem exists, there certainly exists a method of dispelling it, too. The right remedy is that which touches the root. There can be many contributory causes, but attending to these alone does not resolve the fundamental problem. The problem ends only when one has found the right way of resolving it.

Perturbed by thirst, Shivaji's preceptor, Ram Das pulled out a piece of sugarcane from a field to slake his thirst. As he did so, the farmer caught hold of him and gave him a beating. On seeing his preceptor being thrashed, Shivaji naturally got angry. But Ram Das remonstrated with him, saying, "You don't understand! There is nothing mysterious about it. See, this farmer is poor. Had he not been poor, he would never have behaved as he did. It is all because of poverty. In order to end his criminal disposition, it will be necessary to end his poverty. Give him five acres of land and he will never act like that any more."

This is the real solution to the problem - the right way of resolving it. We do not try to find out the real cause, and without discovering the real cause, the problem cannot be resolved. The root cause of the problem of cruelty is our inhuman approach, whether it manifests itself in the form of greed or accumulative mentality. The only way of resolving it is the development of a humane outlook. In the ancient language it has been called, "Treating others as one treats oneself" means that we must place others on an equal footing with ourselves. We must serve them as we serve ourselves. This is what we call nowadays 'a human outlook'. The objective is to awaken in each individual the consciousness that "All human beings are like me. We are all one. I am a man; so is the other person. I should look at a human being in a human way."

The development of a human outlook is very necessary. Unless such an outlook is developed, it will not be possible to end cruelty in social life. Man's conduct would not change. One man metes out a very cruel treatment to another. The mill-owner behaves cruelly towards his labourers the rich businessman towards his subordinates. One finds ruthlessness reigning everywhere. The reason for it is the feeling of being great or small, the high and the low. The division between the high and the low is an accepted fact. The big man ill-treats the small man with impunity. Man is also unkind to animals. A man beats the cow, which gives him milk. The cow runs forward to save itself from blows and the man follows after belabouring it with a cudgel. How can you get milk from a cow, which you so cruelly treat? Its milk will dry up. Even milk cannot be got without loving treatment. Those who have grasped the fact that a cow yields more milk if treated kindly, have created excellent conditions of living for their cattle. They have made for them comfortable sheds, fitted with electric fans. Even air- conditioned rooms throb with radio music. The cows living in such an atmosphere yield more milk. And the cows, which are cruelly treated, which are beaten, abused and insulted-gradually their milk dries up.

Every living being wants loving treatment. The scientists experimenting with the animal kingdom have proved that the plants, which are watered lovingly, grow more. The plants watered indifferently wither away. Water is the same; so is the irrigator. No chemical change is involved. But because of a change in the emotional atmosphere, the plants on one side bloom, and those on the other side wither away. Those plants, which were watered in a state of anger or frenzy, withered away, while those, irrigated with affection, developed fast.

We want to take work from a living being, yet we continue to behave cruelly. Such conduct is perverse, unnatural. It is the law of life that through loving treatment, more work can be got out of others, more success achieved and greater cooperation won. But this humane outlook has not yet developed as much as it ought to have done. We are all responsible for it. We cannot put the blame for it on any one person. If a mill-owner treats his labourers ruthlessly, the labourers, too, treat others in the same manner. If a high official treats his junior officers unkindly, the latter too mete out a similar treatment to their own subordinates. It is rarely seen that a man who has a little power, does not use it cruelly. All are guilty. No one is free from blame. As long as one is out of power, and position, one behaves perfectly, politely. But the moment a man achieves a position of power; his whole conduct undergoes a change. Gone is all humility; instead ruthlessness prevails, the feeling of self-importance comes to the fore and he considers others as his rivals and foes.

There was a ruler. The case of a wandering minstrel came up before him. He pronounced the judgment, but the bard felt justice had not been done to him. Being a poet, he immediately recited a verse extempore:

0 Ruler Sangram! Don't be so blind!

All have two eyes; you need four!

"0 Ruler Sangram Singh! Let not power blind you! Listen to me! All other people can do with two eyes. But you are occupying the seat of a judge, you need four eyes-two for seeing what is outside, the apparent, and two for probing the truth that lies beyond!"

When a man rises to power, he grows blind. Rather than doing justice, he perpetrates more injustice. Only when there is no abuse of power, wealth and energy, we might say that a humane outlook has developed, that the light of compassion, the flame of compassion has been ignited. Only then is it possible to remove injustice, and to treat a man justly as a man. It is certain that one person has more money, another has less; one has more power, another less. It all depends upon one's intelligence and energy. It is not that all men are alike in this respect. There are different levels of intelligence and energy to be found among men but, after all, a man is a man. If only this fact is realized, a man's sensitivity grows, and it is possible to resolve all problems.

The principle of social health is - compassion. Let compassion develop in life, let sensitivity grow and let man be merciful towards the whole world of living being, only then shall cruelty come to an end.

  • Abstract Thinking
    by Acharya Mahaprajna, © 1988
  • Edited by  Muni Dulheraj
  • Translated by Muni Mahendra Kumar
  • Published by Jain Vishva Barati
  • Edition 1999 compiled by Samani Stith Pragya

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anger
  2. Consciousness
  3. Cooperation
  4. Das
  5. Greed
  6. Meditation
  7. Pride
  8. Ram
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