Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part V, by Ven, Mahasi Sayadaw

(70) Person towards whom Karuna should be developed first

Bhikkhu – A Bhikkhu, karunasahagatena cetasa with the mind which volitionally occurs with a, compassionate feeling, ekam disam – towards only one region, nay, towards all beings living in one region, pharitva -radiates his karuna. Kathanca Viharati – How he remains developing, seyyathapi nama – is in this manner, for example, duggatam -‘ where distressing, situation is faced, durupetam – and where worse condition prevails, ekam puggalam – relating to a certain person, disva – if seen (in such a state), karuna yeyya yatha – would have his sympathy or compassion. Eva meva – In the same way, sabbe satta – towards all beings, karunaya – with compassion, pharati – he spreads out his compassion. It has been mentioned as such in Abhidhamma Vibhanga Pali. According to this Pali, explanation has been given in the Commentary that karuna should be developed and radiated first and foremost towards a very pitiable person who is in great distress.

Karuna should be developed initially towards individuals who are in extreme distress, such as, a person who is in great trouble, or a destitute with no friends and relatives to be relied upon, or a disease-stricken person who is groaning with pain for not receiving the aid of a medical doctor and for lack of medicine, or a detestable person afflicted with leprosy so loathsome that nobody would like to touch him. Feeling of compassion will easily arise if such a person in distress is seen. For that reason, instruction is given to start developing karuna, beginning from a poor pitiable person.

If such a person who deserves compassion is not found or seen, karuna should be developed towards a happy-go-lucky person who is committing evil deeds by comparing him with a man awaiting orders to be hanged, or rather, an imminent death after receiving capital punishment. The manner of comparison made therein is as follows:

In ancient times, the man on whom death sentence was passed, was tied up with ropes and exhibited to the people while in custody by letting him go on foot under escort along the road in the city to the place where execution was to be done. At every junction of the road, the poor criminal was made to stop for awhile and cruelly whipped more than a hundred times. The man in custody with death hanging over his head was generally offered with good and delicious food, etc., by some kind-hearted people who pitied the fate of that condemned man. ‘faking this opportunity which came in his way for a moment, the guilty man enjoyed the food, etc. The majority of the spectators, however, did not think of him As being happy. They had compassion on him knowing fully well that every step he took brought him- closer to death. In much the same way, a person who is developing karuna, though he may see a happy spectacle can develop karuna towards another people who is full of vice. It has been stated that he should develop imagining that the scoundrel may be happy now but that misery will befall him in the near future as he is going to descend to the Nether Worlds for his demerits, after demise.

At the present time, it is not uncommon to find people who are deserving of compassion, such as a person who is in distress for being cruelly ill-treated by the other, or a person who is afflicted with serious disease, or a person who is leading a miserable life for being in financial straits. In fact, such cases are generally found rampant. It is. therefore required to develop karuna towards such pitiable persons.

There is only one mode of developing karuna, unlike developing metta which involves many kinds. It is stated as: ‘”dukkha muccantu”, i.e. ‘May escape from misery’. This is the way how to develop karuna to all beings – sabbe satta. However, if karuna is developed towards a certain person, the name should be said and karuna radiated as: “May (so and so) be free or liberated from misery.”

This misery which should be liberated is one which is occurring in the corporeality of a particular individual right at the moment. It is to develop continuously and earnestly from the bottom of his heart that such and such a person be free or liberated from misery or suffering,

The manner of developing just described can be adopted in the case of developing karuna towards a person who may be suffering misery caused by illness, or by severe weather condition, or by maltreatment, or by discontentment. Even if no misery is prevailing at the, present moment, that person will have the inevitable suffering of his life existence (vatta). Development of karuna can be resorted to wishing him to be liberated from such suffering or misery.

While feeling of karuna – compassion – is occurring, visualising the person in distress, an “enemy” from near and afar (remote), may appear. If he still has his grievance against another person, unpleasant thoughts or feeling of animosity may occur. This is the “enemy” who is said to be near. Thought may arise to make a reprisal against a person who has ill-treated you. For example, if a dog is found bullying and biting the other dog, one may feel like beating the dog that bullies through compassion towards the other dog which is subjected to attack.

Another instance may be cited thus: If a snake snatches and snaps a frog with its teeth, the frog utters a pitiable sound in fright and pain. The man who sees this unpleasant sight and hears the sound has his sympathy for the frog, wishing the poor creature to escape from being bitten and swallowed. This feeling is “karuna” Thereafter, a thought may arise wishing to hit the snake in favour of the pitiable frog. This is “anger” called vihimsa which, occurs after karuna, wishing to hurt the snake. It is the remote “enemy”. It will therefore be necessary to remove or get rid of the two enemies – near and remote, and only to develop purely compassion.

Next, it is also essential for one who is developing karuna to render assistance to the person in distress both physically and verbally to the best of his ability. This is for the sake of the person in distress to get relief. If physical assistance is offered it amounts to karuna-kayakamma. If help is given verbally, it is karuna-vacikamma. If both physical and verbal assistance cannot be rendered, karuna will have to be developed merely by way of radiating Compassion – karuna An instance may be cited. No matter how one may have his great compassion on cattle, goats, pigs, fowls and ducks which are about to be slaughtered at the slaughterhouse or elsewhere, one cannot lend his assistance to save the poor creatures; one who has witnessed this plight, can offer have compassion, and nothing else could be done. It is purely manokamma. If feeling of karuna as: “May. . . be free from suffering” is radiated, it brings merit. If he has his Special Perfection (paramitas), he can even achieve karuna-jhana while developing karuna.

To develop karuna is not as easy as developing metta. It is because metta can be developed with one’s innermost

feeling of loving-kindness and imparted to any other person as “May he be happy”. As regards karuna, it will be plausible to radiate one’s feeling of compassion only to a person who deserves compassion. It is not easy to develop mindfulness on karuna towards a person who is in a happy mood. Nor is it easy to inculcate the spirit of compassion in favour of a person in a practical way effectively. In any case, we shall now develop karuna towards all beings as laid down in the Pali Texts. Among these beings there are many who are in distress and really pitiable.