How Well Do We Understand Compassion?
(Minghui.org) The word “compassion” or “mercy” is often used when talking about cultivators. We often hear people say “the most merciful Guanyin,” “the boundless compassion of the Buddha,” and so on. Compassion is a character trait, a selfless state of mind developed bit by bit as we go about our daily lives. It is not something one can obtain hastily in a short period of time.
Kindness is a form of compassion, such as feeling pity for those who are suffering, persuading evildoers to stop doing bad things, offering a helping hand to someone in need; and so on. Compassion also embodies sincerity: only by being pure of heart can one touch and influence people. A compassionate person is also broadminded and will not get angry even when being harmed. Emotionally, he is unbiased, open-minded, and able to accommodate all things. Therefore, in compassion, there is truthfulness, kindness, and tolerance. On the other hand, by cultivating truthfulness, kindness, and tolerance, one can also develop compassion.
A story about Buddha Milarepa can give us some insight.
One day during the time when Milarepa was meditating in Horse Tooth White Rock cave, a group of hunters who had had no luck hunting came to the cave with their hunting dogs. When they saw Milarepa, they cried out, “Are you a man or a ghost? Why is your skin green?”
“I'm a man,” replied Milarepa. “My skin is green because I have been eating nettles for a long time.”
“Where is your food?” they demanded. “Give it to us. We will pay you back later. If you refuse, we will kill you.” The hunters looked around the cave and threatened Milarepa.
“I have nothing but nettles,” Milarepa told them. “Even if I had some, there is no need for me to hide anything, because I believe that people only provide food for cultivators and not rob them of their food.”
“What would happen if we were to lift you up?” asked one of the hunters.
“It might bring you a blessing,” said Milarepa.
“Good, let me lift you up!” laughed one of the hunters. He lifted Milarepa off the ground and then dropped him. They did this to Milarepa again and again and caused him enormous pain. Even though they abused Milarepa like this, he felt unbearable pity for them and wept.
One of the hunters, who sat by and did not hurt Milarepa, said to the others, “Wait! This man seems to be a real cultivator. Even if he isn't, you do not prove your manhood by harassing such a bag of bones. It is not his fault that we are hungry. Stop hurting him.”
He then turned to Milarepa and said, “You are a wonderful cultivator. I admire you. Since I have not tormented you, please place me under the protection of your practice.”
The one who bullied Milarepa said, “I have lifted you up and down, so you should also protect me.” With these words, he burst out laughing and left.
Throughout the whole ordeal, Milarepa did not even think of using sorcery to punish the hunters who harmed him. Instead, he had compassion for them and pitied them. How broadminded and tolerant he was! However, the hunters who harassed him incurred retribution over another matter. The leader of the hunters was sentenced to death and the other was punished severely. The one who tried to stop them from hurting Milarepa was not harmed.
This story tells us that those who harm cultivators will ultimately incur retribution and bring harm to themselves. Only by being kind and doing good things, and not being swayed by personal feelings, can one have a good future. Compassion is not something that comes forth only when others are nice to you, but a form of immense love and an eternal state of mind.
Of course, as ordinary people, we may not understand the profound depth of compassion. I would like for us to ask ourselves, “How well do we understand kindness and compassion? How kind and compassionate have we been?”