Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part V, by Ven, Mahasi Sayadaw

(76) Karuna that had once occurred when I was a novice monk

An example may be illustrated. A group of cattle slaughterers carried away an ox to be killed. Every step taken by that ox brought him nearer to the threshold of death. It seemed that the ox knew of the coming disaster – an imminent death, and as such, it was found struggling to escape from the hands of the butchers. The cattle slaughterers were, however, seen pulling it hard and dragging the poor animal with force. The ox had no way out but to submit to this ill treatment against its own will. It was indeed a pitiable sight. As I had personally seen this heartbreaking spectacle, I felt pain in my heart with compassion, and since then, I have abstained from taking beef. This incident had happened when I was a Samanera, a novice in my monkhood before I received my higher ordination as a senior Bhikkhu. Just like that ox which was carried away by the slaughterers to the slaughter-house, human beings are being carried away by their rupas and namas without any break, even for a second, to make them suffer from old age, sickness and death. Having seen all beings drifting towards disaster great compassion had arisen in him.

What the Lord Buddha had perceived was that one is fast approaching old age, sickness and death at every moment of an arising though which occurs incessantly with great acceleration much faster than a split second, nay, a flash of lightning. This perception brought forth a feeling of boundless compassion in the Lord Buddha. Even Yogis who are now contemplating Vipassana can fully appreciate that they are gradually approaching old age, sickness and death at every moment, if they perceived the mind that constantly changes. Those Yogis who are contemplating and noting as instructed by us on reaching the stage of bhanga-nana will find it very obvious that the object of sensation that is noted and the knowing mind dissolve part by part incessantly. It is something like each bead threaded with others on the string falling down one after the other in great speed. Every time dissolution takes place, it carries one nearer to old age, sickness and death. Yogis who have achieved bhanga-nana may, guess with their insight-knowledge that it is so happening.

Ordinary persons can imagine this state of phenomena within a second, or a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a month, or a year. Roughly speaking, one will clearly perceive himself as coming a bit closer to old age, sickness and death if he could reflect upon his own self year to year. Signs of withering in age followed by sickness and death can be visualised. Generally most people die when they reach the age of seventy or eighty plus. Both the rich and the poor, as well as dictators, powerful rulers and heroes come to a road-end in the path of life, i.e. Death, between the age of 70 or 80 or a little beyond that age. Rupas and namas in one’s own body are carrying him away to old age, sickness and death. Let us recite a motto composed in this regard.

          “Oh! Men are impermanent, being driven to old age, sickness and death.”

If this motto is reflected upon, the nature of anicca becomes obvious. Marananussati i.e. mindfulness contemplation on, the nature of death will also become developed. In every existence, all beings have to go through the process of inevitable, old age, sickness and death. This is the rugged and dangerous path they are treading along. How pitiable they are. One can very well imagine this awful state. It is not surprising that Great Compassion had arisen in Buddha towards beings. Let’s develop karuna as Buddha Himself had done. Please follow the recitation.

          “Oh! All beings are subjected to old age, sickness and death to which they are being conveyed. That’s
          really Impermanent!

          “May all beings be liberated from this misery.” (Repeat)

The manner of developing karuna as stated above, is of a very high standard. It is similar to the great compassion bestowed upon mankind by the Lord Buddha. Among people in general, a great many of them are in misery for having suffered loss in their business venture or for loss or destruction of their property, or for being separated from their beloved ones. Karuna can be developed towards such people in misery. Please recite as follows:

          “May all beings who are suffering misery in one way or the other, be liberated from such misery.”