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Yama 7 - Daya, Compassion

Yama number 7 - daya, compassion. Compassion is conquering cruelty. It is the outgrowth of love. Bodhinatha explains he difference beween ahimsa and daya. Part of compassion is the desire to help someone. The Tirukural uses the word "arul" for compassion. Arul also means grace. Compassion is hardest for people we do not like. Properly caring for animals when young helps children cultivate compassion, preparing them to care for people when they are older.

Unedited Transcript:

Good Morning, everyone. I would like to welcome our guests. It is a pleasure to have you with us this morning.

Continuing on a series of the Yamas and Niyamas, Hinduism's Code of Conduct, the twenty principles - ten restraints and ten observances. Today's talk is on restraint, Yama #7 - Compassion, Daya, conquering callous, cruel and insensitive feelings toward all beings.

Gurudeva begins his 'Living with Siva' lesson on compassion with a most inspired Upadesha on this topic.

"Sometimes it is kind to be cruel, and at other times it is cruel to be kind. This statement has come forward from religion to religion, generation to generation. Compassion tempers all decisions, gives clemency, absolution, forgiveness as a boon even for the most heinous misdeeds. This is a quality built on steadfastness. Daya comes from deep sadhana, prolonged santosha, contentment, scriptural study and listening to the wise. It is the outgrowth of the unfolded soul, the maturing of higher consciousness. A compassionate person transcends even forgiveness by caring for the suffering of the person he has forgiven. The compassionate person is like a God. He is the boon-giver. Boons, which are gifts from the Gods, come unexpectedly, unasked for. And so it is with the grace of a compassionate person."

The Tirukural devotes Chapter 25 to 'Compassion' and in its verse 244, stresses its centrality of pursuing dharma.

"Practicing charity without compassion is as inconceivable as realizing God without clarity of mind."

The Kural chapter says that , "Compassion is a man's greatest wealth, protects one from misfortune and misery and leads to liberation."

Daya, compassion, is focusing on overcoming the instinctive tendencies to be totally self-centered and unaware of the feelings of others. We walk past beggars in India and have no clue as to their misery. We visit a home for the elderly and have no sense of the loneliness the residents there experience. This is definitely asking more of us than making sure our actions towards others are not harmful in deeds, words or thoughts. It is focusing on our inner feelings toward others, something we may have not thought much about.

Compassion is defined as conquering callous, cruel and insensitive feelings toward all beings. A compassionate person would tell a plant verbally if he was going to pick from it, intuiting that the plant has feelings of its own. A compassionate person would seek to keep pests away rather than killing them. A callous person would tear the plant up by it roots. A cruel person would, as a child, pull one wing off a fly and, unless corrected, mature this cruelty on through life until he maimed a fellow human being. Compassion is just the opposite to all this.

One cannot command compassion. Before compassion comes love. Compassion is the outgrowth of love. Love is the outgrowth of understanding and understanding is the outgrowth of reason. One must have sufficient memory to remember the various points of reason and enough willpower to follow them through to be able to psychically look into the core of existence to gain the reverence for all life, all living organisms, animate or inanimate. Compassion is a very advanced spiritual quality. When you see it exhibited in someone, you know he is very advanced spiritually, probably an old soul. It really cannot be taught. Daya goes with ananda. Compassion and bliss are a one big package.

"What is the difference between ahimsa and daya, non-violence and compassion?", one might ask. There is a distinct difference. Not harming others by thought, word or deed is a cardinal law of Hinduism and cannot be avoided, discarded, ignored or replaced by the more subtle concept of compassion. Ahimsa, among the yamas and niyamas, could be considered the only explicit commandment Hinduism gives us. Compassion comes from the heart, comes spontaneously. It is the total flow of spiritual, material, intellectual giving, coming unbidden to the receiver.

The first stage in the development of compassion is understanding and having sympathy for the suffering and misfortune of another. This eventually leads to the second stage in the development of compassion, feeling a strong desire to help someone. The person experiencing compassion is often turned around emotionally and mentally as he is giving the clemency this boon of absolution, despite his own instinctive or intellectual inclinations. This is a spiritual outpouring through a person. Rishi Tirumular used the word arul for this yama. Arul means grace. Tirukural also uses arul for compassion.

How do compassion and tolerance relate? To be tolerant with people we need to be able to accept them as they are. Not as we want them to be, but simply as they are. If our feelings toward them are compassionate, we better understand and sympathize with the difficulties they face and are therefore readily able to accept them as they are.

So far we have mentioned the first two stages in the maturing of compassion. The first, becoming aware of another's sorrow or misfortune. The second stage, a sense of wanting to help. This naturally leads to the third stage in the development of compassion, which is to respond to the situation with a kindly act. We meet some beggars in India and give them money to help their plight. We visit elderly relatives in the hospital and give them some of our time by talking with them at length. An uncle's wife is in the hospital and we arrange to cook and bring some meals to help alleviate his burden. This is indeed a mature state of compassion, as our sympathy and understanding of the other's misfortune has lead us to improve the situation with a kindly action.

Tirukural praises those who give in this way in many of its verses. Here is Verse 214.

"He who understands the duty of giving, truly lives. All others shall be counted among the dead."

There is a special category of people with whom compassion can be quite challenging. It is those who have wronged us, those who are on our list of enemies. At best we simply ignore them, at worst we would be really happy if a serious misfortune befell them. If misfortune does happen to them, at best we are unconcerned and at worst we are quite happy. In either case, this is not fulfilling the ideal of compassion. We need to resolve these kinds of interpersonal entanglements for maximum spiritual progress. If they apologize and show true remorse we need to forgive them and remove them from our list of enemies. Wish them well in life and feel compassion for them, as we do for others.

One simple way to increase our compassion for people is to take care of animals. This is particularly helpful in teaching compassion to children. We learn to understand the needs of the animal and how to take care of it without unnecessarily disturbing or hurting it. Learning to be kind to pets as a child helps us to be kind to people as an adult.

With a developed sense of compassion, the presence of abuse and other cruelties in the family are unacceptable to us. This is because we deeply feel the suffering that the other family member is enduring and realize that it can and should be avoided. Opposing such family abuse is an excellent way to cultivate compassion.

In conclusion, practice compassion by conquering callous, cruel and insensitive feelings toward all beings. See God everywhere. Be kind to people, animals, plants and the Earth itself. Forgive those who apologize and show true remorse. Foster sympathy for others' needs and suffering. Honor and assist those who are weak and impoverished, aged or in pain. Oppose family abuse and other cruelties.

Aum Namah Sivaya.