Part II :
practice of love and compassion
Even simpler than the compassion extended to
Mahaduggata is the story of a hungry man, helped with a basic necessity
through a simple act of kindness.
One day the Buddha and disciples were the guests of a
village called Alavi. There he was going to deliver a discourse. A
Brahmin in that village had decided to go hear the Buddha, but in the
day of the talk, he discovered one of his oxen was missing. Torn between
his desire to hear the Buddha and his concern for his bullock, he set
out early to look for the missing beast, intending to join the meeting
later. It was after midday before he found the animal and took him back
to the village. The Brahmin was very hungry and tired from his search in
the hot sun, but he didn’t want to miss the Buddha’s teaching, so he
hurried to the place where the Buddha was without stopping to rest or
The Buddha and his disciples had mean while been
entertained to a meal by the people of Alavi, and the Buddha was about
to express his gratitude by giving a sermon. At that very moment, the
Brahmin farmer arrived. Seeing this poor man standing in front of him,
looking so tired and weak, the Buddha asked one of his supporters to
find the man a place to eat and give him some food. The Blessed One said
he would wait for the man to finish eating before beginning the sermon.
When the man had satisfied his hunger, the Buddha began his
Some of the townspeople even monks thought it was
strange and not quite right that the Buddha should concern himself about
the food of a person who was only a householder, and not even a follower
of the Buddha. Upon hearing these complaints, the Blessed One explained,
"If I had I had preached to this man while he was suffering pangs of
hunger, he would not have been able to follow me. There is no affliction
like the affliction of hunger." (23)
The Buddha was able to use his wisdom to help people
see through thoughtless actions which led to more and more suffering.
Such is the story of Rajjumala, who was a slave in the
village of Gaya. Her mistress did not like Rajjumala, so she always
mistreated her. She sometimes even pulled her by her hair. One day,
Rajjumala tried to escape this by having her head shaved. But the cruel
mistress tied a rope around Rajjumala’s head and pulled her around.
Rajjumala couldn’t stand her life anymore, and decided
to kill herself . But on her way to the village, she found the Buddha
waiting for her. He spoke to her of the dhamma. She became a follower of
the Compassionate One and a sotapanna.
She returned to her mistress and told her what had
happened. When the mistress heard, she visited the Buddha and became his
The Buddha told them that in a previous birth,
Rajjumala had been the mistress, and the mistress had been the slave. In
that lifetime, Rajjumala had mistreated her slave, who had vowed to get
revenge for the cruelty she suffered. Now, finally, the Buddha’s
compassion saved them from continuing this round of suffering. (24)
The Buddha’s love and compassion were universal,
extended to all being, not just one group, one nation, or even one
species. The sanctity of life is expressed in the first of five training
paths taken by Buddhists and restated at all religious gatherings, "I
undertake the discipline of abstaining from killing." The following four
stories illustrate the Buddha’s compassion towards non-human life.
In those days it was common in India for people to kill
animals as a sacrifice or offering to their gods. This was supposed to
make the gods happy. Then the gods would give the people what they
prayed for, such as wealth, or rain for their crops.
Wherever he went, Buddha told people that it was wrong
to sacrifice animals like this. Some people who heard him became angry
with Buddha and said, "Our holy books say that it is correct to kill
animals and offer them to our gods. How dare you teach differently?"
Buddha replied, "It is not right to make another
unhappy so that you can be happy. Everyone wants to remain alive just as
you do. Therefore, if you sacrifice an animal, you are just being
selfish. As I have taught, a selfish person finds nothing but
unhappiness in life. "Any god who demands the blood of an animal before
he will help you is not a kind god. He is not worthy of being worshipped
by anyone. But if you act with love and kindness towards everyone -
animals and people alike - then the gods themselves should worship you!"
Many of the people who heard these words of wisdom saw
that they were true. Immediately they gave up their customs of
sacrificing animals. In this way a great deal of unhappiness was brought
to an end. (25)
At one time a great sacrifice was arranged to be held
for the Kosalan king, Pasenadi. Five hundred bulls, five hundred
bullocks, and as many heifers, goats, and rams, were led to the pillar
to be sacrificed. And those who were slaves and menials and craftsmen,
pushed about by blows and by fear, made the preparations with tearful
Now a number of almsmen rose early and dressed. Taking
a bowl and a robe, they sought the presence of the Exalted One and told
him of the preparations for the sacrifice.
Then the Exalted One, understanding the matter, uttered
The sacrifices called the Horse, the Man,
The Peg-thrown Site,
The Drink of Victory, The Bolts Withdrawn,
and all the mighty
These are not rites that
bring a rich result.
Where divers goats and
Sheep and kine are slain,
Never to such a rite as
That repair the noble seers w
Who walk the perfect way.
But rites where is no bustle
nor no fuss,
are offerings meet,
where never goats and
sheep and kine are slain.
To such a sacrifice as
this repair the noble seers
who walk the perfect way.
These are the rites entailing
These to the celebrant are blest,
Th’obligation runneth o’er;
the gods are pleased. (26)
Once, the Buddha was out on an alms round at
Savatthi, when he came across a number of youths beating a snake with
sticks. When questioned, the youths answered that they were beating the
snake because they were afraid that the snake might bite them. The
Buddha admonished them, "If you don’t want to be harmed, you should also
not harm others: if you harm others, you will not find happiness even in
your future existence."
Realising the evils of hatred and reflecting mindfully
on the admonition of the Enlightened One all the youths became
4.The release of a
One day the Buddha was walking through a wood, when he
happened to come upon a deer struggling animal and let it run away. Then
he sat under a nearby tree to rest. By and by the hunter cam along, and
saw at a glance that a deer had been caught in the snare, but that
somebody had released it.
When he looked to see who might have done it, his eye
fell on the ascetic dress in yellow, sitting under the tree. The hunter
deduced the ascetic was responsible. "There are getting to be too many
of these holy men," he said to himself in great anger. "They are always
sneaking about spoiling honest men’s business with their pious ways." In
his rage, he lifted his bow, fitted an arrow to the bowstring, and
taking aim at the Buddha, sitting perfectly quietly, let fly. "I am now
going to make one less of them, anyway," said the hunter. But his hand
trembled so much as he took aim at the strangely serene ascetic, that
his arrow missed. Never in his life had he missed anything so close,
and, full of anger now at himself, fired another arrow at the Buddha,
again missing. After another fruitless attempt, he felt something like
fear, dropped his bow and arrows, and went up to the Buddha, humbly
asking him who he was.
The Buddha told him, and then mildly and gently began
to talk about the evil of taking life which is so easy to take, but so
hard to give back again. The hunter listened to the Buddha’s words, and
became so impressed by them, as well as by the look and manner of the
man who uttered them, that he then and there promised never again to
kill a living thing. (28)