Sant Tukaram , a 17th century spiritual poet of the Varkari tradition in Maharashtra, declared
“दया तिचे नाव भूतांचे पालन, आणिक निर्दालन कण्टकांचे|”
Compassion (दया) means protecting all creatures, sustaining them (भूतांचे पालन).
Compassion is not just sympathising with someone who is suffering. It is rather doing something positive to assist them, to alleviate their suffering.
But Compassion has another aspect, too. That is destroying the evil in society. ‘निर्दालन कण्टकांचे’ literally means splitting the thorns.
Those thorns which inflict pain on the innocent.
Protecting those who cannot protect themselves, has been of great importance in our culture from ancient times.
In an earlier post, “What is Faster Than the Wind?” I had mentioned the questions posed to Yudhishthira by the Yaksha.
One of the questions that he asked was, “What constitutes mercy?”
And Yudhishthira answered, “Mercy consists in wishing happiness to all.”
The Yaksha later asked, “What is the highest duty in the world?”
The answer was, “The highest of duties is to refrain from doing injury.”
Looking around in Indian society today, one cannot help but wonder if we have been hit by collective amnesia. There can be no other explanation for the situation we see around us.
The principle that we should protect those who cannot protect themselves, has been totally forgotten. Anyone that is physically , monetarily, or socially weak in our society, is sure to be exploited.
And at the forefront of those who exploit them, are those in authority, in the government or police force.
The horrible Rohtak Shelter case is a sad example of how those in authority exploit the weak. So much for ‘भूतांचे पालन’ (protecting all creatures).
And what about ‘निर्दालन कण्टकांचे’ (destroying the evil in society)?
That is also nowhere to be found.
For our Justice System is almost non-existent. Either the guilty are not identified, or they are not arrested, or they are allowed to go free on bail.
The trial goes on for years and years, perhaps in the hope that everyone will forget about the crime that was committed. The victims/ their families often do not have the means to carry on with court cases for extended periods of time. The guilty grow old and even if convicted, get a lenient sentence owing to their age.
Wrongdoers in our society are often those with political clout and they successfully resist any attempt to bring them to justice.
So again one wonders, what can be done in such a situation where we cannot rely on those in power?
Of course, we can act with compassion towards others, in our personal lives. But that would have only a very limited effect.
What is needed is a more comprehensive solution.
Perhaps if the wrong-doers were socially ostracised, would that would have a deterrent effect?
Any other ideas?