Compassion or Supreme Tenderness (Uttam Mardava) means to put an end to vanity or egotism. The foundation of compassion is tenderness or humility. It is an inherent trait of the soul. Just as the construction of a building in the absence of a foundation, the existence of a tree in the absence of roots, the rainfall in the absence of clouds is impossible. Likewise birth of the virtue of compassion (Mardava Dharma) and Right Belief (Samyak Darshan) is impossible for want of humility. The attainment of salvation (Moksha) lies in humility or compassion.
In this world many kings, emperors and Chakarvartis have lost their lives simply in order to safeguard their vanity. A man should possess self-esteem, not false pride in life. False pride leads a man to downfall, while self-esteem raises him to lofty heights.
Ravan was a mighty king and a great devotee of Lord Jinendra. In order to worship God, the great Ravan used to play on the lyre (Veena) manufactured by the veins carved out of his own body. Ravan was known as an ‘Ardh-chakari on this earth. Even such a renowned Ravan kidnapped Sita out of false vanity and brought her to Lanka. Overpowered with egotism he used to say, “No man like me has ever existed on this earth, nor ever will be.” Ravan had to go to hell due to this false vanity. Then
what can be said of an ordinary living being?
To take pride in one’s fame and glory, worldly dignity is known as Dignity Pride (Puja Mada). Father’s lineage is called ancestry and Mother’s lineage is called tribe. To take pride in these comes under the category ‘Ancestral Pride’ and ‘Tribe Pride’. The bodily powers are called strength. Hence to take pride in them is ‘Strength Pride’. The monetary achievements or the possession of household riches is known as affluence and pride in it is called ‘Affluence Pride’. Fasting is called penance and pride in it is known as ‘Penance Pride’. Taking pride in healthy and beautiful body is ‘body pride’. One who is aspirant for the virtue of compassion (Mardava Dharma) will have to discard all the above mentioned eight types of vanity; only then one will be capable of attaining unblemished compassion.
Once Sukh Deva went to King Janak at Rajgrahi to receive education. On the completion of his education he expressed his desire to offer a present (Guru dakshina) to his teacher. King Janak said, “I don’t want any present. However, if you insist, offer me something seemingly without utility.” Sukh Deva set out in search of some worthless looking thing. The soil, the leaves, all things seemed to have their own utility. No material appeared to be with no utility. He began to ponder over the whole matter. He felt that pride in body alone is of no use. He said to King Janak, “I want to offer you my pride in body.” King Janak said, “Now you are blessed. People regard bodily pride the most dear to them in the world and stick to it. You found it totally worthless; he alone who gets this vision by God’s mercy is really blessed.”