By Devakinanda Pasupuleti, MD
Ashtottaram 34) OṀ KĀRUṆYABHŨMYAI NAMAH:
Ashtottaram 34: OṀ (AUM) –KAA-RUṆ-YA-BHOO-MYAI— NA-MA-HA
ॐ कारुण्यभूम्यै नमः
(Kāruṇyam: Compassion, empathy, understanding, kindness)
Words like dayā, dākshiṇyam, karuṇa are in our culture eternally. Showing dayā or compassion to all living creatures and not harming them has been a basic moral discipline enjoined on all in Hinduism.
These words have been defined in various ways: 1) Desire that arises in one’s heart to mitigate the sufferings of others by putting forth the necessary effort, and 2) Desire to do well to others even as one wishes others should do towards one-self. The Devībhāgavatam describes kāruṇyam (dayā) as one of the eight female companions accompanying the Devi (Divine mother). The word is also used as an appellation for goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Vishṇu since she is the very personification of it towards all living beings who are her children.
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Our society shows immeasurable respect irrespective of socio-economic status to those who show kāruṇyam to all living beings including animals. Our culture venerates people with divine qualities like dayā, kāruṇyam in their speech and actions. This is deep-rooted in our society. The way we show respect to sādhus, swamīs and sanyāsīs reveal this fact. These swamīs are invited by Indians abroad and treated like demi-gods.
In our purāṇās and epics, these qualities are portrayed and highlighted in characters like Shri Ramachandra Murty. There is a legend that Lord Shri Rama gently stroked the back of a squirrel when it showed its devotion to Him by dipping its back in the sand and shaking it in the ocean when monkeys were helping Shri Rama to build a bridge to cross the ocean. Even today, we see these three lines on the backs of squirrels. In these dark and selfish times also, we see some Indians in India and abroad live their lives with these qualities in their talk and actions towards every living being. Those might be in a small number, but still, there are a few left.
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In Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Shri Krishna taught that dayā (kāruṇyam) is one of the divine qualities one should practice. Possessing these divine qualities is considered a wealth by some Hindus. They not only enjoy peace but also spread it to others.
Our motherland and our ancient sages, seers taught and practiced dayā and kāruṇyam towards other living beings and hence our land are ‘Kāruṇya Bhūmi’.