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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Vaishnava Compassion


Srila Thakur Bhaktivinode’s Sri Caitanya-Siksamrta

When a person takes shelter of bhakti, mercy towards all living entities is a natural quality. Compassion does not have a separate existence from bhakti. The quality which when offered to the Lord is called bhakti or prema, becomes friendship, compassion and indifference when directed towards other living beings. It is a feeling which is inherent in the eternal nature of the soul. In the spiritual realm this quality manifests only as friendship, but in the material world it manifests as friendship towards devotees, mercy towards the innocent, and indifference towards the offenders. These are but different aspects of the same compassion.

In the conditioned state this compassion is extremely stunted. It starts with one’s own body, then widens to include one’s household, then one’s varna, then one’s countrymen. Expanding, it includes the human beings of the whole world. Compassion becomes complete when it is directed towards all living entities.

Patriotism is but an aspect of this sentiment in relation to one's country. Philanthropy is compassion directed towards all humanity. The vaisnava should not be limited by these sentiments. He has compassion for all living entities, not wanting to cause harm to any of them.

* Bhaktivinode Thakur’s footnote:
tasmat sarvesu bhutesu dayam kuruta sauhrdam
bhavam asuram unmucya yaya tusyaty adhoksajah

"Therefore, my dear young friends born of demons, please act in such a way that the Supreme Lord, who is beyond the conception of material knowledge, will be satisfied. Give up your demoniac nature and act without enmity or duality. Show mercy to all living entities by enlightening them in devotional service, thus becoming their well-wishers." (Bhag. 7.6.24)

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