Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part V, by Ven, Mahasi Sayadaw

(74) Constant worry is pitiable

           “Uyyutto lokasannivasoti passantanam buddhanam
           bhagavantanam sattesu mahakaruna okkamati.”

All beings have to be always exerting themselves and constantly worrying. Seeing living beings in such a miserable state fiercely struggling for their own survival, Buddha’s hearts go out to them with Great Compassion.

What is to be realised is that mankind are constantly striving and worrying for their own livelihood or subsistence. Ordinary worldlings may not think it as being pitiable. They may consider this state of condition as being normal. They generally imagine that as a man, one will have to strive or sweat for his own living and that it is quite natural. Some may argue that there is no need to grumble. However, from the point of view of the Buddha, the Enlightened One, these beings are perceived as toiling, struggling and constantly worrying for one’s own burden of khandha, and are therefore in misery, nay, they are found to be in great distress. In any kind of existence wherever they are born, they have to be worrying without any interval in their lifetime carrying this heavy load of khandha. In the life existence of a human being, as a small child, one has to depend upon the parents and others. He cannot stand on his own. From the age of about four, five or six years and onwards, he has to attend school for his education. Since about the age of eighteen or twenty or so, he has to perform various kinds of work and bear the workload under the given circumstances for his own subsistence or to satisfy his needs. If fortune fails to smile on him, he will face a lot of trouble to make ends meet with his income. Impairment of his health will bring misery and suffering. Sometimes, he may come across pitfalls in the path of his life and meet with dangers, and if so happen, misery will befall him. Throughout his life existence, he is living in anxiety and is struggling continuously. While thus indulging himself enmeshed in trouble and misery, time comes when he grows old, suffers sickness and eventually meets his death. Some even die while labouring and working with all their might. It implies the growth, change and decay of the physical man in the course of his human existence, in which he suffers constant misery.

In the life existence as animals, from the time of birth, the majority have to find food for their survival. Among animals living in places where food and water are scarce, they have to undergo great hardships in finding food and shelter. Animals in the forests have no protection at all. They have to be worrying for their preservation and for the upkeep of their khandhas intact, with constant fear of danger and death. Some of the animals have to search for food only at night – being afraid of going out in the daytime. In hell and in the world of Petas, apaya beings are in constant misery and suffering. They cannot, of course, be seen by human naked eyes. Even among ‘nats’ (Devas), there are demons, goblins or spirits called ‘Yakkha’ who are in a state of misery nearly as bad as Petas, Vinipatika, i.e. those beings of lowly existence have a very hard life under worse conditions to the point of near starvation. They too are in great misery. Those Devas in the higher abodes – up in the heaven, are, of course, in a state of happiness. However, when their life span expires, those whose kusala-kamma are lacking in strength, become miserable.

As such, all beings are living in misery and are striving with endless worry to keep their existing khandha (body) in good trim to gain happiness, and at the same time, to get a new set of khandhas with happiness in the future existences to come. Though people are said to be living under favourable circumstances and are in a state of happiness, they have to be always worrying in order to maintain themselves in good shape at present and also to achieve future benefits in their next existences. They want to enjoy life with happiness in future existences as well and, hence, in the present lifetime, they are trying to accumulate merits. Of course, to achieve happiness in future existences one has to struggle with constant worry and anxiety according to one’s own conviction in the religious doctrine which he has accepted as true. Whether it is proper or not, one is trying hard for the welfare of his future, relying on his own faith and conviction. Those who do not believe in the doctrine of existences to come, i.e. the religious view of complete annihilation in this very life existence, are nonetheless striving with all heart and soul to be able to enjoy a most happy and pleasurable life in this present existence.

Great was Buddha’s Compassion for all beings, having himself seen and found them always suffering with worry in their persistent effort hoping to gain happiness in every life existence, while at the same time they are burdened with their khandhas. Buddha realised that there was no other Saviour except Him to lead them to Nibbana – at which stage all khandhas would cease to exist. Realising as such, with his deep Compassion and goodwill, the Buddha had travelled far and wide during his lifetime and had imparted his noble teachings. He tackled all questions put to him by humans and Devas on points relating to Dhamma. He had hardly any rest throughout day and night except a brief respite of three or four hours. He had to deliver his preachings daily for about 20 hours to Devas, humans and Brahmas. This lends evidence to the fact that his own Great Compassion had prevented his happiness, as stated earlier. So great was his unbounded compassion that the benevolent Buddha had gone to the extent of imparting his Dhamma to Subhadda, a wandering ascetic (paribbajako), while lying on his death-bed a few hours before his Parinibbana. To that extent, he has bestowed his unstinted love with self-sacrificing pity on all beings seeing their miserable plight.

The gist of the foregoing account is to make it clear that Buddha had his Great Compassion on all beings who are struggling with worry in every life existence. This will perhaps enable you to grasp the fact that one can develop his karuna towards pitiable beings who are going through a lot of difficulties and misery throughout their life span. This will also place you in a nobler state of mind which would invoke a feeling of reverence to the Most Exalted One who had painstakingly preached, proclaiming his message for forty odd years with unfailing patience, sympathy and goodwill for the welfare of all mankind.

Hence, with a view to developing karuna in the light of what has been now stated, please follow the recitation.

          “May all beings who have always been striving with worry to gain happiness, be liberated from misery.” (Repeat three times)

Full liberation from this misery will be rewarded only when Nibbana is reached whereby all rupa-nama-khandhas will cease to occur again. This means to say that “May all beings be emancipated after attainment of Nibbana.”

Let us repeat developing karuna:

“May all beings who have always been striving with worry to gain happiness, be liberated from misery.”