The Nature of Divine Compassion

When Arjuna expresses his dejection in the form of compassion for the friends, family, teachers, and other respected members of society who were going to die in the course of the battle, the divine Teacher rejected this reaction as weakness and as unbecoming one of the leading protagonists of the time. At the same time, he redefined the concept of compassion in a truer sense.

Sri Aurobindo describes this: “This compassion observes with an eye of love and wisdom and calm strength the battle and the struggle, the strength and weakness of man, his virtues and sins, his joy and suffering, his knowledge and his ignorance, his wisdom and his folly, his aspiration and his failure and it enters into it all to help and to heal. In the saint and philanthropist it may cast itself into the mould of a plenitude of love or charity; in the thinker and hero it assumes the largeness and the force of a helpful wisdom and strength. It is this compassion in the Aryan fighter, the soul of his chivalry, which will not break the bruised reed, but helps and protects the weak and the oppressed and the wounded and the fallen. But it is also the divine compassion that smites down the strong tyrant and the confident oppressor, not in wrath and with hatred,–for these are not the high divine qualities, the wrath of God against the sinner, God’s hatred of the wicked are the fables of half-enlightened creeds, as much a fable as the eternal torture of the Hells they have invented,–but, as the old Indian spirituality clearly saw, with as much love and compassion for the strong Titan erring by his strength and slain for his sins as for the sufferer and the oppressed who have to be saved from his violence and injustice.”

This is clearly not what we ordinarily consider to be the nature of compassion. It represents a spiritual rather than a religious-moral-ethical force uplifting the nature beyond the limitations of our human mind and emotions.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 7, The Creed of the Aryan Fighter, pp. 53-54,