Definition - What does Karuna mean?

Karuna typically translates as “compassion” in English and is a concept used in the spiritual paths of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The word comes from the Sanskrit kara, meaning “to do” or “to make,” indicating an action-based form of compassion, rather than the pity or sadness associated with the English word. Karuna is the doing of something to alleviate suffering.

Karuna is a key element of the yogic path, opening the door to the enlightenment and oneness with the universe.

Yogapedia explains Karuna

Karuna is one of the nine basic emotions (rasas) in Hinduism. In this belief system, the individual must rid him/herself of self-centered forms of pity to attain the highest level of compassion that karuna represents.

In Theravada Buddhism, karuna is one of the four divine abodes in which one can live happily and attain re-birth. In Mahayana Buddhism, karuna is one of the two qualities, along with prajna (enlightened wisdom), to be cultivated on the path to becoming an enlightened, compassionate spirit.

In Jainism, karuna is one of the reflections of universal friendship and one of the bhavanas (contemplations).

Karuna is selfless compassion that expects nothing in return, not even gratitude. To the Buddha, karuna represented the “quivering of the heart” experienced when the individual is able to see suffering and must act.

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