This week with the family group, we covered the paramī of Karunā, or Compassion. One of the benefits of using the paramī’s as a basis for our first meetings is that we get to cover such an important topic directly.
We started with a guided meditation. We rang the bell and gave everyone a minute to settle. Then we brought up the image of our beloved cat mascot, Luna. Luna is very interested in going outside when she is inside and going inside when she is outside. Sometimes it’s possible to lose track of where she is. So we started by imaging Luna the cat going outside. But nobody noticed. Now everyone has gone to bed, and she is stuck outside.
We imagine her feeling lonely and scared, and imagine what that feels like. We imagine her trying to find a warm spot to curl up in, and trying not to get lost in the night. Because we care about Luna, we have feelings of wanting her to be okay, to be safe, and to feel loved and cared for. These feelings are the basis of compassion. As the feeling of compassion starts to fill our hearts, we can think of someone else or ourselves who, in the past week, has had some kind of difficulty. We now see how the compassion can be felt for that person and situation as well, and that the emotion and a lot of the thoughts are the same.
After the guided meditation we talked about the experience, and how Compassion feels for each person. There is no right answer, but there are a lot of similarities for different people. Compassion often has us wanting to comfort or protect someone, or at the very least stay with them and show our support.
STORY: Siddhartha and the Swan
This short story comes from the Buddha’s final life, when he was the young prince Siddhartha. He was part of a warrior family and was trained to use the bow and arrow. His cousin, Devadatta, was also trained to use the bow and arrow, and always walked around shooting at things. He was very proud of his skill.
One day Siddhartha and Devadatta were walking in the gardens when Devadatta saw a swan. He pulled out his bow and quickly fired an arrow which struck the swan in the wing. The swan was surprised and in pain. He couldn’t fly away with it’s injured wing, so it panicked and flapped around on the ground.
When Siddhartha saw the swan in pain he felt a great rush of compassion. He knew if Devadatta caught the swan he would probably mistreat it or even kill it. So as Devadatta rushed to go catch the swan, Siddhartha raced ahead and got there first. He grabbed the swan and protected it, removing the arrow and calming it down.
Devadatta got very upset. He demanded that Siddharta give him the swan. After all, this was the rule of hunters, that whoever shot a wild animal was the owner. But Siddhartha recognized the swan was a living being, not a trophy, and refused. The matter became a big argument in the kingdom! Siddhartha’s father, the king, called everyone together to discuss the matter so that it wouldn’t create trouble between the kingdom’s families.
Both Siddhartha and Devadatta presented their arguments. Nobody was sure who was right. But at that time a wise holy man came to visit, and he was asked to give advice. The holy man listened to both stories, then turned to the king.
“Oh king, what is the most prized possession of all living beings?”
The king thought about it. “Well, isn’t their life the most prized possession?”
“Exactly, Great King! Life is every being’s most prized possession, we all value our lives most. If this swan could choose, it would choose the one who would protect it’s life, because that’s what matters. Thus, the true owner is Siddhartha, who would protect this swan’s life.”
As so it was decided that Siddharta would look after the swan until its wing was healed. When it was, everybody watched as Siddhartha released it and it happily flew away.
We got to have a little fun with our new projector. We played a YouTube video of a man who decided to buy a grocery store lobster and instead of eating it, keep it as a pet. This is a practice in many Buddhist countries – people wanting to do a good deed will purchase an animal destined for slaughter and instead set it free or take care of it with compassion.
This video is very sweet and G-rated.