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Love in Buddhism

Walpola Piyananda Thera

Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara, 1990

...... ... .  . .  .  .


Part II :

Illustrations and practice of love and compassion


Poor Farmer

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 eat.

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 discourse.

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 follower, too.

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.


1.Sacrifice I

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)


2.Sacrifice II

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 faces weeping.

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 these verses:

The sacrifices called the Horse, the Man,

The Peg-thrown Site,

The Drink of Victory, The Bolts Withdrawn,

and all the mighty fuss:

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,

bequests perpetual,

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

great results.

These to the celebrant are blest,

not cursed.

Th’obligation runneth o’er;

the gods are pleased. (26)


3.The Snake-beating

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 sotapannas. (27)

4.The release of a deer

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)



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Update: 01-04-2001


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