Benevolence and Compassion

From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

Benevolence comes from the Latin word benevolentia, good feeling. Bene means well, and volens to wish.

Almsgiving, beneficence, benignity, bounty, charity, generosity, goodwill, humanity, kindness, liberality, munificence, philanthropy, sympathy, tenderness – these are synonymous with benevolence.

Benevolence is the disposition to do good and seek the well being or comfort of others. It is an act of kindness and generosity. It is the desire to alleviate suffering, or to promote happiness. It is love to mankind and kindness of heart, or being charitable.

Benevolence is a rare but all-inclusive virtue. In order to attain the perfection of benevolence the other cardinal virtues of will and of judgment are required. To feel much for others and little for ourselves, to restrain the selfish impulses and exercise the caring affections, constitutes the perfection of human nature.

No one in this world is perfectly independent. He is in need of the assistance of others. An individual is placed in society to receive and confer reciprocal help and mutual obligation. Food, clothes, health, protection from injuries, enjoyment of the comforts and pleasures of life – all these one owes to the assistance of others. The conqueror is regarded with awe; the wise man commands our respect; but it is only the benevolent man who wins our affection.

A benevolent person enjoys peace, joy and tranquility. He rejoices in the happiness and prosperity of his neighbour and all other people. The laws of social benevolence require that every man should endeavour to assist others.

He who employs his wealth, thought and speech to advance the good of others is a glorious man. He always searches out occasions for doing good to others in a variety of ways. He is a veritable God on this earth.

Work without self-interest and scrutinize your motives. They should be absolutely pure and without a care for fruits. Pour forth all your energies in the service of humanity and plunge yourself into selfless service.

Be benevolent to others and a friend to mankind. Use your intelligence, which is the most precious possession that one can acquire; do everything in this world with intelligence. Do not wait for extraordinary circumstances to do good actions but use ordinary situations.


Compassion is fellow-feeling. It opens the door to freedom, and expands the heart. It melts the hardened hearts of worldly people, and makes them as soft as butter. The heart of a saint, sage, or yogi, is filled with compassion. Compassion leads to the attainment of peace, or chitta prasad.

Compassion is sorrow coupled with a desire to help or spare, it is caused by the suffering or distress of another person. It is sympathy that prompts one to relieve the pain and suffering of others. The dew of compassion is a tear. By compassion, one makes another’s misery one’s own, and so by relieving them one relieves oneself. Pity, commiseration, fellow-feeling, sympathy, kindness, tenderness, and clemency are all synonymous with compassion.

Most people are selfish and unsympathetic and have no compassion. They may present a car worth many thousands of rupees to their daughter, but they will not spend even one rupee to relieve the suffering of poor people. They have their eyes and their ears closed and do not hear people’s cries of distress. They do not see the stream of tears flowing from their neighbours, but close their doors to them.

Your family

The whole world is your family, and all are children of God. Feel this and open your heart to compassion. Share what you have with others. Wipe the tears from the face of those who suffer. Service breaks the ego and expands the heart, therefore, engage yourself heart and soul in the service of humanity. God will bless you.

What greater undertaking lies before you than purifying your life of all enmity, impurity and passion, and filling it with love, compassion, peace and purity?

Know and understand the suffering of others, and be ever ready to help. Compassion is strength and, at the same time, it gives you and others strength and joy. It prepares the mind for the descent of the Divine Light.

Compassion is the expression of love and feeling for another. It is the feeling of oneness with others in their strife and suffering. Seeing God in all beings and creatures is the best and surest way of developing a tender and kind heart.