By Swami Harshananda
Dayā literally means ‘compassion’.Showing dayā or compassion to all the living creatures and not harming them has been a basic moral discipline enjoined in whole religion. The word ‘dayā’ has been defined in various ways which are:
- The desire that arises in one’s heart to mitigate the sufferings of others by putting forth the necessary effort.
- The desire to do good to others even as one wishes that others should do towards oneself.
Reference of Dayā in Literatures
- The Devībhāgavatam describes Dayā as one of the eight female companions accompanying the Devī (Divine Mother).
- The word is also used as an appellation for Lakṣmī, the consort of Viṣṇu, since she is the very personification of compassion towards all the living beings who are her children.
- Vedānta Deśika (A. D. 1268-1370), the celebrated teacher of the Rāmānuja school, has composed an exquisitely moving hymn called Dayāśatakam on Lakṣmī as Dayā.
- The smṛtis (secondary scriptures), nibandhas (digests) and purāṇas (mythological works) are the main components of these dharmaśāstras.
Outcomes of The Literature On Dayā
One of the topics that has been discussed in great detail in these works is that of division of ancestral property and the rules for inheritance. On the whole, there has been a broad twofold system prevailing in the country, for nearly a thousand years. These twofold form the basis of two schools following different psychologies. They are:
- The Mitākṣarā school - The Mitāksarā or Rjumitāksarā is a magnificent commentary by Vijñaneśvara (12th cent. A. D.) on the ancient work Yājñavalkya Smṛti. This school is the authority accepted all over the country except in Bengal (including Bangladesh). According to the Mitākṣarā law, a son, as soon as he was born, becomes a coparcener (joint owner) with his father in the ancestral property inherited by him.
- The Dāyabhāga school - The Dāyabhāga is an independent work or a digest written by Jīmutavāhana (A. D. 1100). It has a standard commentary called Dāyatattva by Raghunandana (A. D. 1510-1580). However the Dāyabhāga school seems to be a binding authority in Bengal. In the Dāyabhāga system the son does not automatically acquire that right just by birth. The father, during his life-time, could alienate the property or give it to his children. He can also prepare a will according to his desire. None has the right to question it. If the person passed away without issues, his widow became the owner of that property and not his brothers or other relatives.
- Devībhāgavatam 1.15.60
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore