Osho on empathy

Question – Beloved Master, Is Empathy the current that brings about the awareness of our each and every relatedness, and Vice Versa?

Osho – The experience of empathy is very rare. You know what sympathy means, you also know what apathy means; but empathy you do not know. Sympathy and apathy are opposed to each other. Empathy is beyond both. To help you understand it, let me tell you an incident in Ramakrishna’s life.

He was in a boat, going to the other shore of the Ganges near Calcutta. And just out of nowhere — he was surrounded by his disciples — he started screaming, “Don’t beat me!” Tears started flowing from his eyes, and one could see that his body was getting distorted as if somebody was beating him badly. The disciples could see nobody there, but he was in immense torture.

When they reached to the other shore, they found a fisherman with a big crowd surrounding him. He had been beaten by a few people. And the strangest thing was that the same bruises and scratches that had come up on his back, had come up on Ramakrishna’s back too — exactly the same.

It was a very mysterious phenomenon. They asked Ramakrishna what it was. He said, “This is empathy. You feel so one with the other that your separate identities lose their boundaries. The other’s thirst becomes your thirst, the other’s hunger becomes your hunger, the other’s joy becomes your joy. The other is no longer other: some secret passage has opened between two beings, a deep connectedness.”

Man has forgotten about empathy completely, but he knows about sympathy. Sympathy is not something great. When somebody is in misery you sympathize; but if you look inside you will find you are feeling great because you are not in misery, somebody else is. At least in this situation you are superior. You can sympathize — you can afford it.

Apathy is your everyday experience. You pass people as if they don’t exist. The servant comes in your room — you don’t wave at him, you don’t smile at him. You don’t even take any note that somebody has come in the room. You remain exactly the same as you were before — no recognition of the other’s existence. This is your everyday experience.

Sympathy once in a while — when somebody goes bankrupt, when somebody’s house is burned, the whole neighborhood is sympathetic. And these are the same people who were jealous of his beautiful house. How can it be? The same people who were jealous of his beautiful house suddenly have become so sympathetic because his house is burned. It is a mask; underneath they are feeling great joy, this was the day they were waiting for. His beautiful house was continuously a torture for their heart. Now, sympathizing with the man, they are in a higher position. They are really feeling good.

So remember perfectly well, whenever you sympathize with somebody — watch the inner workings of your mind; it is not friendly. It is not out of your goodness, out of your compassion, but just the opposite. It is your hate, your jealousy, your violence — but now there is no need to show it, the man is finished on his own. Now you can have this beautiful experience and a good night’s sleep by sympathizing with him, by being a real Catholic. Sympathy is not a great quality. It is phony.

Apathy is inhuman. And remember, when you are apathetic towards anybody, your heart is becoming harder. You are not doing any harm to the person, you are simply being self-destructive. The more apathetic you are, the more your heart will lose its great qualities. It will become just a pumping mechanism for breathing, but not a bridge for feeling.¬†Empathy has almost disappeared from human beings. It is certainly the only quality that joins you with the life current within other human beings, animals, trees — with the whole existence. It is pure religiousness. But no religion teaches empathy. All religions teach is sympathy, and sympathy is not the real thing.

But in animals and in trees, empathy is still pure, alive. There have been experiments on animals…. A child of some animal is taken deep into the ocean. The mother is on the shore, miles away; but when they start torturing the child, the mother starts feeling the same — the way Ramakrishna did. When they stop torturing the child, the mother stops being tortured. There is some connection between the mother and the child, which, even miles away, remains — some invisible connection.

The child has been in the mother’s womb for nine months. He is nothing but an extension of the mother. Whatever he has is the gift of his mother; his blood, his bones, his flesh, his very life is ninety-nine percent from the mother, only one percent from the father.

The father does not feel empathy, but the mother feels it. The experiments have been done thousands of miles away, and still it has affected the mother. The father remains unaffected. The father is really not a relative; he has performed just an arbitrary function. Any syringe could have done it — but syringes don’t feel empathy. The father is an unnatural institution.

The mother’s situation is totally different. The child is her own extension. Every small thing that has happened in the nine months when the child was in the mother’s womb has affected the child, even the dreams of the mother. If she was sad, the child was sad, because he was just part of her. If she was happy, the child was happy.

If you see this whole world so sad, so unhappy, so miserable, one of the reasons is that mothers are not aware when they are pregnant that they are carrying a tremendous responsibility: they are going to create a new being. Now it is not only a question of themselves, somebody else is growing within them; and they should be alert not to get into fights, into anger, into hatred, into jealousies. They should listen to great music, they should read great poetry. They should see nature and its beauty.

At least for nine months they should be as silent and meditative as possible. This will change two lives! The child will come in the world with a rejoicing heart; and nine months of silence and meditativeness, music and poetry, is certainly going to change the mother too. It is going to be mutual. She will be grateful to the child her whole life, the child will be grateful to her — and this link continues, there is no way to cut it.

But this is a natural phenomenon. In animals it has not been disturbed, but in man it has been utterly disturbed. Even in trees it exists. It has been found… now there are scientific experiments available: there are certain mechanisms like cardiograms which can be attached to a tree, and the cardiograms start making the graph of how the tree is feeling right now. An early morning sun, a beautiful breeze, the whole night’s rest, birds singing — it is paradise; and there is a tremendous harmony in the cardiogram, the graph is harmonious.

Then you tell the gardener to come with an axe to cut one of the branches of the tree. The gardener comes with the axe — and he is far away, but the graph starts going berserk, it loses its harmony. The branch has not been cut yet; cutting it is only in the mind of the gardener, but even with the mind of the gardener the tree has a certain relatedness. The scientist runs to the gardener and says, “There is no need to cut the tree, but still come with the axe.”

Now the mind of the gardener is changed; he is not to cut the branch, just to bring the axe. Everything on the outside is the same, but the graph immediately comes back to its harmony. And the most surprising thing is — this is quite mysterious — this sensitivity of the tree is far more than that of human beings. Even thoughts are affecting it. It is so receptive that even small waves of thoughts passing by it are caught in its net of sensitivity.

But even more surprising is, when they have attached the instruments to another tree, they were surprised to know that when the gardener was instructed to go and cut a branch of the first tree, even a second tree, which was not going to be cut, lost its harmony. That means it is not only sensitive to the gardener’s mind, it is also sensitive to the neighboring tree. Its neighboring tree is going to be cut — that hurts it. And when the gardener was stopped, the chaotic pattern of the graph disappeared from both trees. They were in tune and in harmony.

Man thinks he has evolved. In certain ways, yes, but in certain other ways he has lost much. His evolution is only of reason, intellect, but he has lost, on the way, his heart. And the heart is the most significant thing. A thousand and one rationalities cannot give you that which a single heart full of sensitivity can give you.

Empathy is relating to people through the heart. But this is possible only if the mind is silent, if there are no thoughts in the mind and it gives way, opens the door to the heart. But ordinarily you are so full of thoughts there is no way to be sensitive.

Even when you love someone, you say, “I think I have fallen in love.” That too, is a thought: you think. Your love is also dependent on your thinking. You cannot do anything directly from the heart. Your mind has been trained, educated, conditioned in every possible way and your heart has been ignored in every possible way. By and by, you have forgotten that the heart is far more valuable than the mind. Your mind has become everything.

The heart is not a Christian, is not a Hindu, is not a Mohammedan, is not a communist — but the mind is. Different ideologies make the mind different. The mind is American, the mind is Russian, the mind is Indian, the mind is Chinese. But the heart? Have you ever thought about the heart? Is the heart also American, Indian, Russian? The heart knows no boundaries, but it has been put into a state of nonfunctioning.

Your whole energy has been diverted by the educational system, by religious teaching, by political ideologies. It has been forced to go directly to the head and bypass the heart. Slowly slowly you start living without the heart. And to live without the heart is not to live at all.

The head is only a mechanism, a biocomputer. And soon there will be better computers than the greatest genius’ head. It is already not of much use. A mathematical problem that Albert Einstein could solve in three or four days’ arduous work can be solved by the computer in a single second. Soon you will see that the head is being replaced by the computer. That’s how things change in the world.

Machines replace human beings because they function better. They don’t go on strike, they don’t make unions, they don’t demand more wages. They simply go on working day in, day out; they don’t even need rest. And they produce a thousand times more than man can. Naturally, man is being replaced everywhere by machines, technology.

The day is not very far away when you will be paid if you are ready to remain unemployed. If you insist on employment you will not be paid. You can’t have both the things together, employment and pay. If you remain unemployed you can be paid.

Naturally, people cannot live only with employment, they need the necessities of life; they will choose to remain unemployed and receive the pay. But the implications are very great. When millions of people are unemployed, have nothing to do, there is bound to be more crime, more rapes, more divorces, more thefts, more murders, more suicides.¬†Man cannot just sit — unless he happens to be a sannyasin. Either people will have to learn to sit silently, doing nothing, and let the grass grow by itself, or they will be a constant nuisance to each other.

Mind is already finished. Man has to evolve a new system of education which directs his energies towards the heart. Machines cannot have hearts, the computers cannot have hearts. The computers cannot fall in love with each other, nor can they elope with somebody’s wife.

The heart knows something which the mind is not aware of. It knows the way of empathy. The heart can connect itself to the whole existence. And that will bring it great ecstasies, immense joy — as if constantly flowers go on showering on you from nowhere.

Your question is significant, but I don’t think you understand what you have asked; empathy is not your experience. Once in a while lovers, great lovers, have felt it. Once in a while great disciples and masters have felt it.

Gautam Buddha had a disciple, Ananda, who remained with him till his very last breath — almost forty-two years without a single break, day in, day out, twenty-four hours a day. His relationship with Gautam Buddha was not of the mind. The relationship between the master and the disciple has not to be of the mind. If it is of the mind, then it is the relationship between teacher and student. If it is of the heart, then it is the relationship of master and disciple.

Slowly slowly their hearts came closer, became almost one. It is said that before Buddha asked for water, Ananda was ready. Before Buddha said that he was feeling cold, Ananda was already bringing the blanket. A very underground way had opened — no need to say anything.

Many times Buddha would say, “Ananda, why have you brought this water? I had not asked you.”
Ananda said, “It does not matter whether you ask or not, I felt the thirst, that my master is thirsty; I felt my master is cold. I don’t know how, because it is not a question of my mind. Just the feeling — and so strong a feeling that I cannot go against it. If you are not thirsty, don’t drink.”

Buddha laughed and he said, “No. I was just inquiring how you managed to know it. I was feeling thirsty, I was just going to say. I was feeling cold, and I was just going to say — but you don’t allow me even to say a thing!” Even in the night — if Gautam Buddha was not able to sleep because there were mosquitoes, Ananda could not sleep either. The moment Buddha awoke in the morning — exactly, simultaneously, immediately, Ananda awoke.

With lovers it has happened that before your beloved says something you know it. It is already heard by you, although it has not been said. So only in very rare cases is empathy still alive. But it has been a great loss to humanity. It is because of the loss of empathy that we have become unspiritual beings. It has to be regained.

Getting it back will give you a totally new, luminous existence. And then you will not feel as an island apart from everybody else, but just part of an infinite continent. And just to feel it is so relaxing, to feel that you are one with the trees, and one with the rivers, and one with the stars. Then for the first time you will know what beauty is, what bliss is, what life is. All that you have to do is to behead yourself.

Meditation is nothing but a subtle way of beheading! Your head remains in its place, but loses all its content, becomes hollow. When the head is empty, the heart is full. When the head is full, the heart is empty, because you have only that much energy. You can’t have both. Up to now, humanity has chosen the head. And you can see the consequence: the whole earth has become a madhouse.

My sannyasins have to change the whole direction of their life force towards the heart. And then you will see a new intensity, a new totality — something that was so close and yet of which you were unaware. Empathy is an experience of the heart. Yes, it is the life current, it is life itself.

Source – Osho Book “From Bondage to Freedom”

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