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Jewel Ornament of Liberation Chapter 7 - Benevolence and Compassion - Unchecked

DISCLAIMER - This transcript has not been checked by Sangharakshita, and may contain mistakes and mishearings. Checked and reprinted copies of all seminars will be available as part of the Complete Works Project.

by Sangharakshita

The Jewel Ornament of Liberation:

Chapter 7: Benevolence and Compassion
Those present: Srimala, Ulla, Carolla, Anjali, Anne Murphy, Sridevi, Anne MacMillan,
Dhammadinna, Anne Norman, Susanah Laurola, Christabel
Sangharakshita: all right we are going to try to do Ch. 7 of The Jewel Ornament on
Benevolence and Compassion. Page 91. We will be able, I hope, to do the whole of the
chapter. We are going to go into it pretty thoroughly. The material is very condensed anyway
and it will need quite a bit of expansion and going into. But if we can do this chapter really
well, then that will be quite an achievement. If by any chance we do finish it with some time
to spare then we can go on and do a bit of the next chapter. But I think this will probably
occupy us this week. I take it everybody is familiar with the work as a whole. You've dipped
into it before, you know who it is by, and all that sort of thing, so we need not go into all that.
We will just go straight into the chapter itself.
"The developement of Benevolence and Compassion as a remed against attachment to
self-complacency will be discussed in this chapter. Self-complacency is to be understood in
the sense of desiring to attain Nirvana for ourselves and not working for the benefit of others,
because we have no affection for sentient beings. Those who do so are the followers of the
Hinayana form of Buddhism. Therefore it is said:
For our own interest,
The interests of others, though they be many, have to be sacrificed,
When in this way we are concerned with our own interests They naturally grow supreme.
There's quite alot to be discussed here. First of all, one or two quite elementary
points. Do you know what the terms are- I mean the terms in Sanskrit- for Benevolence and
A. Macmillan: Metta
Metta, or in sanskrit, Maitri and Compassion, what does that represent ?
Karuna. So how good do you think these translations are? Bene volence: what does
that really suggest ? Do you know what the lit- eral meaning of it is ?
: Bene is good and volare is that volition ?
Well, it's good will. But actually benevolence souds rather different from good will.
You know you have the word as an adject ive, benevolent in connection with, benevolent old
gentleman or a
BC/1-2 Voice: It sounds a bit condescending.
Voice: Yes abit weak.
S: Though it shouldn't be if it is good will. But it does have that weak connatation in fact.
Do we have to try and bear in mind that behind this rather weak English word benevolence is
the Sans- krit and Pali,Maitri and Metta. So we should try not to associate the connotations
of benevolence with maitri. We should really try to think of Maitri , try to think of Metta, not
as benevolence in the English sense. So roughly then what is maitri ? Whatis metta What sort
of connatations does that term have ? What does it convey in a very general sort of way ?
Anne Macmillan: Warmth, Active.
S: Warmth, Active, well positivity. A sort of outward going posit- ivity. It's quite a powerful
word. It's not an emotional word as we usually understand the word emotional. There is
nothing sort of turbulent about it. It's very strong, very powerful. It's very smooth, it's gentle,
it's completely positive.
Anne Macmillan: It's clear.
S: It's clear, yes. So this is maitri. And then compassion. What are the sort of connotations
of the English word ? Well, Latin word really.
Sentimental, abit condescending.
S: Could be sentimental. How do we usually use this word ? Do we use it much in English ?
Concerned with death we usually do.
S: Compassion.
_______: Well it's usually pitiful rather than compassion.
But we've got the "Party of Compassion", haven't we ? I mean I'
the Labour Party speaks of itself as the Party of Compassion. It's
got a sort of p litical ring. (Laughter) Oh yes, you hear it on the radio, in election broadcasts ;
and the Conservative Party, the Tory party that is, is the party that doesn't have compassion.
(Lau ghter) So compassion here has got a definately sort of socio-poli- tical slant. But in
ordinary parlance we don't really use the word much, do we ?
Anne Macmillan: I feel it's got rather unfortunate Catholic conno- tations for we.
Ah, in what way ? BC/1-3 Anne Macmillan: Well I remember ther6's a sort of lady of
compassi ion (Laughter). It still has that... when I first got in volved in Buddhism and heard
the term compassion used I did feel abit....
S: Because compassion there is rendered the Latin "Miseri cordia" So compassion here
suggests a rather sort of artificial sorrowing over some ghastly torment or other. But anyway,
behind the Englis word compassion fortunately there is the Sanskrit and Pali word, Karuna0 So what do you think is meant by Karuna ? What's the sort of feeling you ~et from Karuna, as
distinct from compassion.?
_______: It has wisdom with it.
S: Well, that is Maha-Karuna, strictly speaking.
_______: Understanding ?
S: No, I would not say that that is the sort of connotation.
Anne macmillan: It seems clearer somehow again to me. There is a clarity involved which
isn't there in the English.
S: Clearer yes. I mean some of the commentators connect if with a verb menning to shake,
and to move "Compati". You move with, You are moved by somebody's suffering. You
move with them,as it were.
Anne Macmillan: Empathy;
S: Empathy, but you notice, even empathy, empassion, it suggests passivity, as if something
is done to you because the passion in compassion means to bear something, to suffer
something. So in th way with ~mpathy you've subject to something. But Karuna doesn't have
that sort of connotation at all. You see there is no connot- ation of passivity in it. It's as
though karuna takes the initiat- ive. It doesn't wait even to feel somebody else's suffering and
then res~ond: it ~cts even before it feels in a sense, pardoxically speaking. So this is just to
emphasise the point that we mustn't be misled by the ~nglish terms benevolence and
compassion, but try to feek behind them all the time the presence of the Indian terms Maitri
and Karuna. Incidentally, if one wants to be sort of techn ically correct the maitri and the
karuna, which have a sort of met aphysical dimension as when they are practcied by
developed Bodhi- sattva, should strictly speaking Le called Maha Maitri, and Maha- karuna.
Maha maitri is maitri as it were suffused with some exper ience of sunyata some insight and
Karuna likewise, compassion to use that tirm, suffused with some degree of in ight, some
degree of Wisdom. But maitri and karuna as purely meditative samatha type BC/1-4 experiences, dissociated fom wisdom, these , of course, are mundan~ 9onditioned and these
are just maitri and karuna. But a~sociated with Insight and Wisdom, prajna, they become the
Maha maitri and maha karuna. If you say, for instance the Buddha is full of mait~ strictly
speaking that is incorrect because in the Buddha's case is maha maitri on the account of the
transcendental realisation. But we are comming onto that abit later on, the distinction between
the different kinds of maitri and karuna. So, "The development of Benevolence and
compassion," Maitri and Karuna, "as a remedy again attachment to self-complacency will be
discussed in this chapter"
Isn't this, in a sense, a rather suprising statement ? Doesn t it seem to go against what one is
5ometimes told in other connections about metta and karuna ? Isn't it a contradiction ?
Doesn't it always mean taling into account other people ?
S: I wasn't thinking of that. The contradiction, in a way, is connected in the word "remedy".
"The development of BEnevolence an~ compassion as a remedy against attachment to
self-complacency11 Is that what one is always told ? When you teach people the metta
Bhavana what do you tell them ? Metta Bhavana helps you get rid of
What do you usually say ?
S:Hate. I mean isn't metta usually considered the antidote to hate But here it says "remedy
ag~nst attachment to self-complacency. so why the difference ?
Anne Macmillin: I suppose it's the specific context in this chapter
S: It's the specific context. Also, of course, you could say that it's because in the end what is
going to be discussed ther is the Mahamaitri and Mahakaruna of the Bodhisattva. But why do
you thinK in more general terms, that the development of Benevolence and com- passion are
considered a remedy agoinst attachment oto self-compla- cency. Well, first of all, what is this
self-complacency There is a note here, isn't the~? See Ch. 4, page 41; "Self-complacenc~ is
a term for the Hinayana's egoistic Nirvana" That is what the note says. Of course, an a way,
you cannot take that too literall~ because there cannot r~iy be egoistic Nirvana. That is pretty
obvious. But I think we know what self-complacency in a very gene~i sort of way means.
What do you think it means
______ Delusion
S: Delusion. But more specifically ?
______ It's when you're satisfied with where you are. BC/1-5 In a negative kind of way.
~: Yes, you're sort of self preoccupied. Self-concerned. You att- ...

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