In classical literature of Hinduism, compassion is a virtue with many shades, each shade explained by different terms. Three most common terms are daya (दया), karuna (करुणा), and anukampa (अनुकम्पा). Other words related to compassion in Hinduism include karunya, kripa, and anukrosha. Some of these words are used interchangeably among the schools of Hinduism to explain the concept of compassion, its sources, its consequences, and its nature. The virtue of compassion to all living beings, claim Gandhi and others,is a central concept in Hindu philosophy.
Daya is defined by Padma Purana as the virtuous desire to mitigate the sorrow and difficulties of others by putting forth whatever effort necessary. Matsya Purana describes daya as the value that treats all living beings (including human beings) as one’s own self, wanting the welfare and good of the other living being.Such compassion, claims Matsya Purana, is one of necessary paths to being happy. Ekadashi Tattvam explains daya is treating a stranger, a relative, a friend and a foe as one’s own self; it argues that compassion is that state when one sees all living beings as part of one’s own self, and when everyone’s suffering is seen as one’s own suffering. Compassion to all living beings, including to those who are strangers and those who are foes, is seen as a noble virtue. Karuna, another word for compassion in Hindu philosophy, means placing one’s mind in other’s favor, thereby seeking to understand the other from their perspective. Anukampa, yet another word for compassion, refers to one’s state after one has observed and understood the pain and suffering in others. In Mahabharata, Indra praises Yudhishthira for his anukrosha — compassion, sympathy — for all creatures. Tulsidas contrasts daya (compassion) with abhiman (arrogance, contempt of others), claiming compassion is a source of dharmic life, while arrogance a source of sin. Daya (compassion) is not kripa (pity) in Hinduism, or feeling sorry for the sufferer, because that is marred with condescension; compassion is feeling one with the sufferer. Compassion is the basis for ahimsa, a core virtue in Hindu philosophy.
Compassion in Hinduism is discussed as an absolute and relative concept. There are two forms of compassion: one for those who suffer even though they have done nothing wrong and one for those who suffer because they did something wrong. Absolute compassion applies to both, while relative compassion addresses the difference between the former and the latter. An example of the latter include those who plead guilty or are convicted of a crime such as murder; in these cases, the virtue of compassion must be balanced with the virtue of justice.
The classical literature of Hinduism exists in many Indian languages. For example, Tirukkuṛaḷ, written between 200 BC and AD 400, and sometimes called the Tamil Veda, is a cherished classic on Hinduism written in a South Indian language. It dedicates Chapter 25 of Book 1 to compassion, further dedicating separate chapters each for the resulting values of compassion, chiefly, vegetarianism or veganism , doing no harm , non-killing , possession of kindness , dreading evil deeds , benignity , the right scepter, and absence of terrorism , to name a few.