Dhamma Video Conference Talk with Ajahn Anan – January 8th, 2021
One can listen to this talk here.
L uang Por Anan:
Welcome to all the monks and novices, and blessings to all the laity. This Friday we will study the Dharma on the subject of metta, loving kindness, and karuna, compassion, continuing from the last session, when I talked mainly about metta. So this time I will talk about compassion. What is compassion like?
The virtue of great compassion of the Lord Buddha is vast, boundless, and incomparable. Wise people have given a simile, that if we praise the great virtues of the Lord Buddha, it’s like a little bird that chirps into the infinite universe. This is because the virtue of great compassion of the Lord Buddha is incomparable.
Let’s talk about compassion in terms of the compassion that we cultivate as a meditation, or the compassion in the 4 Brahmaviharas, the sublime abidings. When we want to practice or meditate by developing compassion, then this is the mind that thinks to help free others from suffering. We have to remove all the worries from our hearts and then we contemplate the dangers of harming each other. Harming the lives of other animals or humans, harming through actions of body, speech and mind. We have to be able to see the real dangers in it. And we look to see that causing harm to others is something that harms our own minds to be always troubled. Having thoughts of harm and ill-will will lead our own minds to also be troubled along with it. It will create bad karma for us, as well. Let us see the value, see the benefits of our mind having karuna. When we see the dangers and see the benefits, we see the advantages clearly, and then we determine to practice it. We develop the meditation on the sublime abiding of compassion. We can see clearly that compassion is vastly different from harming, just like the sky and the earth.
Some people in this world have a habit of torturing and exploiting the lives of animals with their own hands by throwing stones, by beating with sticks, harming with weapons, or by other means. This is harming the lives of animals by seeing the animal’s life as being our food. This is a lot of bad karma. Some of them may be cruel, even taking turtles. Taking it to boil so that it can be consumed. This is a very serious karma. But when one doesn’t see the results of the kamma, one has not received the results of those actions, then one will do this kamma and will torture and harm animals like this until one’s mind is dark and blinded, with no siladhamma, morality.
Sometimes there is micchaditthi, wrong view, and the dark and blinded mind does not believe in the consequences of karma at all. But when the karma gives results, then it will inevitably have serious consequences. There is severe suffering to the point of death, or many lose their lives. For those who harm the lives of animals, harm the lives of other people, this makes one’s own life shorter, or one loses parts of one’s body. One experiences torture, loses one’s wealth, loses one’s place of residence, causing loss of any benefits gained. One is disgraced in status, is timid in meetings, and ultimately, one’s faults are revealed. This is the carelessness of that person. And it naturally proceeds so that it is not possible to gain the wealth that may have been able to come, or one loses the wealth that one already has.
Therefore, when contemplating the dangers of harming the lives of living beings, we see that such behavior is absent of compassion. This behavior comes from innate traits that have been continuing on for many lives and existences.
When developing compassion, one should not develop compassion towards 5 categories of people. The first are people we love, the friends who are dear. The people who we are neutral towards, people who one hates, people who are enemies. This is because the person we love retains the position of a loved one. A very dear friend also retains the position as a beloved one. The neutral person remains in the position of one who is neutral, and the hated one retains the position of being hated. People who are enemies are in that same relationship as before. They are not able to be developed in the meditation. Why is this? Because for those who we love, that love has not left our hearts.
The other 4 types are the same, and especially if the person has died already, or it is a person of the opposite sex, these would be an obstacle to the development of compassion. So who should we develop compassion to first? It must be ourselves. It is us, who love ourselves.
Therefore, a person who develops compassion will spread the mind of compassion to all directions. How? They will cultivate a mind of compassion to all living beings and see the value in this. They see those in suffering, in troubles and in misery. We spread our minds in order to wish that they may be free from suffering. We see those who are in suffering and distress, who are repeatedly subject to severe, bad, and painful kamma. We do this often and then we will empathise with people in distress, and who are suffering from an evil, bad mind. Whether it is an orphan lacking food, a beggar, a homeless person, or it is someone who is experiencing pain and suffering, has old age, has disease and sickness, has parasites crawling on the body, or has hands and feet cut off and they are crying out. Our minds then will easily be able to have compassion arise.
Like the example I have spoken about before, of the woman who came to make merit by offering a coffin to the monastery. Then she saw a skinny and starving dog, and compassion and pity arose for the dog, so she hurriedly went to buy food for that dog to eat until it was full. She had happiness. Her mind had compassion. She looked after 50 dogs at home and had a good relationship with dogs. She could talk to the leader of the pack of dogs. If one of those dogs died, then she would go look after an additional dog. And she would entrust it to the head of the pack of dogs. She would speak for a long time, until the head of the dogs understood, and it would not harm the new dogs that came in. This is the compassion of a person who has pity on animals
When we see people in suffering and difficulties, then we have compassion arise. We think of helping them to be free from suffering. We think in our hearts: “The suffering that this living being is experiencing, may they be free from that suffering. May all living beings be free from suffering.” Especially in this period where we can see that sickness has arisen from the pandemic, there are many people in difficulties. There are people who are in pain, suffering, and misery. May they be free from suffering and troubles, from sickness and this harmful disease. There is severe suffering. All the businesses are faced with problems—may they be free from that suffering.
Health workers, doctors, and nurses have suffering and difficulties in their work. May they be free from that suffering. May they not get sick or be in pain. Practicing meditation like this, this is repeated constantly until it causes compassion to arise in our hearts. This will be samadhi concentration. It is a little samadhi that is going to proceed to the level of peace. There is inner joy and contentment. Or it may be a samadhi that is stable and still, which is called one-pointed samadhi. It is ekaggata arammana, one-pointedness of mind. This is the result of having developed a kammathana, the meditation object of compassion.
Some people develop this easily, but for others it is difficult. For those that have compassion arise easily in their hearts, this is because that person has already developed merit and parami, spiritual accumulations, in the past. They have created the causes and conditions in previous lives. It is deeply ingrained in their hearts. They see that others have suffering, troubles and difficulties. When they bring up these thoughts, then compassion arises very easily. They see a person who is suffering due to sickness, who has no one to look after then, no one to nurse them, and who lacks basic necessities. Then compassion arises easily in the mind. This shows that they have accumulated a lot of merit and parami in the past, which leads them to easily have a lot of compassion and pity for others. The mind has contentment, joy, happiness, and calm when helping those in suffering.
May you put effort in practicing to develop this. Then our minds will be able to be joyful.
This compassion does not arise solely in human beings. Even animals like dogs can have compassion. How can they have compassion? There is one good example of this I want to share with you from the Philippines. There was a newborn baby which miraculously survived. It was thrown away, but there was one dog that found this baby and howled out to get the attention of someone who was riding by on a motorcycle. The dog barked relentlessly, until the passerby followed the dog. This news was reported by the Cebu Daily News in the Philippines, that a newborn baby, whose umbilical cord and placenta was still attached was found wrapped in a towel, on a grassy vacant lot near the town’s dumpsite in Barangay Magcagong, Cibonga Town, in the Southern Philippines, on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2020.
The little baby was found and its life saved because of the dog that discovered it and barked non-stop until Mr. Junelle Fuentes Revilla stopped while on his way by, and this dog led him to the location. He was able to help the baby and send it to a nearby hospital. Investigators are still trying to find the mother of the baby and other individuals who may be involved in leaving the baby there. Police are asking residents in Sibonga, located 50 kilometers southeast of Cebu City, to help them identify the mother of the abandoned baby.
The infant is now under the custody of Sibonga’s social workers.
At first they thought the dog was a stray dog. But later they found that the dog had an owner. The dog was named “Blackie,” and lived about 500 meters from this dumpster. This act of heroism led to Blackie and it’s owner Kuya Lyndon to receive an award from an animal rescue organization. The gifts they received were rice, groceries, and other supplies. This made the owner, Kuya Lyndon, so glad that he was teary-eyed. He looks after 10 dogs, and although he is not very rich, he is able to raise the dogs to be well-fed and without difficulty.
So we can see that this is compassion, even though it is a dog finding this baby. It was lucky that the dog was not hungry and was not living off the food in the garbage. The dog had an owner feeding it. If the little baby encountered a hungry dog, a serious disaster could have happened. It may have become food for a hungry dog.
We can see that even an animal can have metta and karuna. It had compassion to help the baby who was in suffering, in trouble, and was unable to get itself out of danger. The baby was able to survive by its merit, parami and goodness. The baby likely had merit and parami from the past.
May we practice developing the meditation on compassion to be a foundation of the heart. Whether it is the meditation object of metta or karuna, these are meditation objects that will stabilize our minds to be well collected. If one has samadhi, then the samadhi will be firm, and the samadhi that has not arisen will arise easily. These are skilful methods that will lead to the arising of mindfulness and wisdom, that will make the mind bright and become more and more pure. May you all grow in Dhamma. May you grow in blessings.