Don Bosco's compassion
Good morning, everyone. This is today’s Dharma Espresso on Don Bosco’s Compassion.
Yesterday, we talked about Avalokiteshvaraya, or “Pwo Lu Jye Di Shau Bwo La Ye”. We talked about the meaning of “looking deeply” which implies deep listening, experiencing things without getting attached anywhere, looking inside or outside of our self, and looking deeply at ourselves without getting stuck. We also discussed an important phrase: “looking deeply for peace and self-mastery”. Looking deeply here also denotes expressing your care and concern to others. Why is it so? It’s because if you ponder or reflect upon yourself without bringing forth an act of compassion, then your contemplation is following the path of transcending worldliness, the path of self cultivation. If you see the suffering of living beings, what would you do to alleviate their suffering? That is how the mind of a Bodhisattva would work. What would I do if I see living beings suffering?
Let me tell you the story of Saint Don Bosco. If you used to be a Boy Scout, you must have heard his name. Don Bosco was a Catholic priest. He was also called John Bosco, but I learned the name Don Bosco in my childhood in Vietnam. I knew a Boy Scout troop named after him. I did not know who he was back then, but now I used Google search and learned who he was.
I tell you his story because it deeply affected me while I studied Buddhism. Do you know why?
St. Don Bosco was an Italian, born in Turin, an Italian town famous for the shroud that covered the face of Jesus Christ– the Shroud of Turin. Turin was very well-known in the old days, and was the birthplace of many outstanding people.
St. Don Bosco was a renowned person, known as “the Father and Teacher of Youth”. What touched me the most was that he developed a teaching method for the youth. He was born in 1815 and died in 1888, at the age of 72. In his lifetime, which was also the era of the industrial revolution, a lot of children were exploited in workshops. They were not protected by any labor law at the time. Therefore, a lot of them were enduring hardships, and a lot of them were orphans as well. Not only were they ill-treated, but they also had nobody to turn to. A big highlight in the life of St. Don Bosco was that he established a place for these youngsters to live in his home. At first, he raised 5 or 10 children. In 1852, he raised 36 children. We can’t bring up that many children nowadays. He cared for those 36 children with no money. In 1861, 9 years later, he brought up 800 orphans. He used the teaching method called the Salesian Preventive System, to educate the young on how to develop their personal character.
There are three pillars for the development of personal character:
The first is reasoning. We need to be reasonable to understand what we do. This is what I call Perfect Harmony - being skillful while working. Know the proper process for doing things and doing them with reason.
The second is religion, i.e. faith. We need to have faith. You see that nowadays, our youths lose faith, no one believing in anyone else. We need to have faith, either in God, in the Buddha, in the Bodhisattvas, or in Kwan Yin Bodhisattva.
The third is loving-kindness, an important trait in Buddhism. What St. Don Bosco taught was to always be sweet, gentle, and kind.
Reason, religion, and loving-kindness are the three cornerstones. When I read about St. Don Bosco a long time ago, I was shaken. Now, when I recite “Pwo Lu Jye Di Shau Bwo La Ye”, I remember him. Do you know what I think? I think this is the development of compassion, of looking deeply to empathize with suffering. Not many people can be like St. Don Bosco, transforming his compassion, his deep looking into the sacrifice for the sake of helping the young.
We’ll end today’s talk with one more philosophy from St. Don Bosco: “All children need love, and they need to know that they are loved. It is not good if they don’t know that we love them.” It means there should be a mutual understanding between the two parties, and the child needs to feel loved. That kind of love is not spoiling, which would ruin the child. That kind of love touches the child’s heart, transforming him from being a juvenile delinquent to a decent person. Expressing that love to our juniors is an art. You might think “I need to go find some orphans”. No. You can express that love to your juniors, 5 or 10 years younger, regardless of how many years they are younger than you. The greatest thing in the universe is how you show them your love and care that can touch their hearts. We can connect with another person’s heart by making them feel the warmth of our love. That is why it is the greatest thing in life.
St. Don Bosco devoted his whole life to educate the young to be able to feel love, thus changing their lives with love. What a great person he was! So, when we recite “Pwo Lu Jye Di Shau Bwo La Ye”, don’t forget that reciting the mantra is not enough. Put that love into action by showing our caring, by doing things for people who are younger, or who have less experience than we do. Do it in such a way that they can feel our care and our love. That is why we not only recite the Great Compassion Mantra, but we also need to be able to see through all things in order to understand and to feel the suffering of living beings. Then we can work on alleviating their suffering by touching their hearts with our love.
Thank you for listening to my Dharma Espresso this morning. I wish you a day of joy and serenity.
Dharma Master Heng Chang
(Translated and transcribed by Compassionate Service Society)