Friday, October 10, 2008

The Hindu - To Feel or Not (Compassion)

Interesting post from The Hindu on compassion. Ahimsa -- a word in the article - is a sanskrit term for the avoidance of violence:
Ahimsa (Devanagari: अहिंसा; IAST ahiṃsā) is a Sanskrit term meaning non-violence (literally: the avoidance of violence - himsa). It is an important tenet of the religions that originated in ancient India (Hinduism, Buddhism and especially Jainism). Ahimsa is a rule of conduct that bars the killing or injuring of living beings. It is closely connected with the notion that all kinds of violence entail negative karmic consequences. The extent to which the principle of non-violence can or should be applied to different life forms is controversial between various authorities, movements and currents within the three religions and has been a matter of debate for thousands of years.
Here's the article:

To feel or not


Are we just being used when we are kind and compassionate?

Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

Turning away: We are unsure of how to respond to such appeals.

Several readers wrote in after reading “A Heart That Can Feel”. “I don’t like being unkind, yet the more compassionate I am, the more I am taken for a ride,” wrote one. “My heart always lets me down, I’m begi nning to get hard, but I don’t like being this way,” echoed another. Are we just being used when we are kind and compassionate? Does everyone think of us as prize fools?

Role model

My grandmother and my mother have been wonderful role models as I journey down the path of ahimsa .On my mother’s 70th birthday, our builder told her his daughter wanted to study medicine. Even though she had got a place in college, he could not afford the fees. My mother had exactly the amount he needed. She wrote a cheque and gave it to him.

I was not surprised but hoped that the girl would use her time in medical college well. Sadly, the man began a building project with the money. I was furious. When the girl came to my mother for the next set of fees, I almost threw her out. My mother showed great interest in her progress and did not say anything about her father. Of course she wrote out another cheque. When I threw up my hand in despair, she told me this story.

A holy man, bathing in the river, noticed a drowning scorpion. He lifted it out but before he could put it down, the scorpion stung him. The man was in great pain, yet he carefully placed it on the ground. People laughed at his stupidity. ‘What did you achieve? You spared the scorpion’s life only to get yourself bitten.” The man replied, “I did what I had to, according to my nature: rescue it from drowning and give it life. The scorpion did what it had to do according to its nature: sting me.”

I knew what my mother was trying to teach me and, since then, have used the lesson in my own life. Readers have commented on giving to beggars, servants, people who ask in emergencies, who tug at our heartstrings with sad stories. A man, dressed in rags, went from home to home asking for help. He looked frail and sick so many gave freely and generously. One day, one man saw the same man, now well dressed, sitting opposite him at a meeting. The man went to a Rabbi and poured out his anger. The Rabbi asked, “When he came to your door, how was he dressed?”

“In rags,” replied the man.

“So you did not know then that he was a rich man?

“Of course not,” he replied.

“Then don’t worry about it. Your heart did the right thing. It responded to the poor man’s pain. That is the main thing. If the man cheated you deliberately, he will have to answer for his sins.

Often we turn the other way from a beggar or an appeal for help because we don’t like to be cheated. Our hearts want to respond, but we are unsure if our help will actually reach them or if they will truly benefit. Once when we stopped at a traffic light, a young boy ran up to our car waving a packet of coloured wash cloths for the car. The person I was with shooed him away as I dug into my purse for some money. I was a little surprised by her ferociousness. The boy looked at me with soulful eyes. “Please buy a packet,” he said. “It’s for my books.”

Reach out

I know many children like him who sell flowers, car cloths, spinach and other things early in the morning before they go to school. Yes, they are a nuisance, they pester us at the wrong time, when we have no change or when we are stressed. Life is hard for them, but they go on hoping that today will be a better day… that they will sell one more packet than yesterday. Reaching out takes them a little nearer to the road of independence, economic stability and personal dignity.

Ahimsa people are not just those with hearts, but are those with hearts that ask for nothing in return.

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