Osho on Sympathy and Empathy : Sympathy has been looked upon as a very valuable attribute. It means you become unhappy and show your sorrow on seeing some one else unhappy. It also means ‘to experience’, that is to experience along with another. But the person who experiences unhappiness when the other is unhappy does never experience happiness when the other is happy. You show your feelings of sorrow and unhappiness if anybody’s house catches fire, but you do not show happiness if some one else builds a big building. It is very important to understand this matter. What does this mean?
This means sympathy is a kind of deception. That sympathy is genuine when you experience unhappiness in the miseries of others and experience joy and happiness in the happiness of others. But we are able to experience or show unhappiness in another’s unhappiness, though many a time we are unable to experience happiness in another’s happiness. That is why, it will not be correct to say we are able to show sorrow when another is unhappy’. If we are able to be happy in the happiness of others, then and then only, would it be proper to show our sorrow in their unhappiness. On the contrary, we derive some pleasure in the unhappiness of others. We take some pleasure in another’s difficulties. We become fully delighted in others’ miseries. So when you go to show your sorrow in others’ miseries, try to examine within you whether you derive some pleasure or not at that time.
In such a situation. one interesting thing is that you feel you are the person showing sympathy and the other is in a position to receive it. When that another person comes into the position of receiving sympathy he becomes a beggar and you become the donor effortlessly. When That person comes into the state of receiving your sympathy, you come into a patronising position and he becomes an humble or low person. And if you check up within your heart, you will find the presence of a kind of pleasure in showing your sorrow for his condition. You are sure to get it. And if you don’t get it, you will be the person who can be completely happy in another’s happiness. We become jealous of another’s happiness, we are resentful. So, the other aspect of this matter tells us that we are unable to be unhappy in another’s unhappiness, but we have been naming it ‘sympathy’. I have been talking of this Kind of feeling which is generally known as sympathy. So I thought it proper to select another word empathy.
‘Sympathy’ is a false thing, it is deception And if we understand fully that if the sympathy of someone is genuine, that is, he experiences unhappiness in another’s unhappiness and experiences happiness in another’s happiness, even then it remains as violence, it cannot be nonviolence because as long as there is another, it cannot fulfil the conditions of nonviolence. Nonviolence is an experience of non-duality. It is the experience that apart from the other there is also I. It will certainly be violence if your experience of feeling unhappy on seeing another unhappy is false. And even if the feeling be true, I remain I and the other remains the other. The bridge between the two is not broken and there is no possibility of nonviolence. To know the other as the other is also violence. Why? Because I am living in ignorance as long as I consider the other as the other. In fact the other is not the other.
Empathy does not mean knowing that the other is becoming unhappy but it means I myself have become miserable. It is not knowing that the other has become happy, but it means I myself have become happy. It is not like this, that the moon is shining in the sky; but it is I too have been shining. It is not that the sun is rising but that I have risen. It is not that flowers have blossomed but it is I who have blossomed. Empathy means nonduality. Empathy means oneness. Nonviolence is oneness.
So, there are three states: one is false sympathy, which is violence, pure and simple; two, genuine sympathy which is a very subtle form of violence, and three, empathy which is nonviolence. It may be violence or a subtle form of violence; it may be genuine sympathy or false sympathy — all these are happenings at the mental level. Empathy is a spiritual happening.
lt is never possible for us to be one on the mental level with someone else. My mind has a separate entity, your mind has a separate entity. My body has a distinct entity, your body has a distinct entity. It is not possible to have unity or oneness on a physical and mental level. Unity or oneness is possible only on the spiritual level, because we are already on the spiritual level. Just as the water in a pitcher sunk in water is the same as the water outside the pitcher, there is only an earthen wall of the pitcher between them. If that wall is broken, the two waters would become one.
There is a wall of mind and body which prevents us from meeting the other, which stops us from becoming one with another. We all are like earthen pitchers in the ocean of consciousness. Pitcher will be distinct and separate but that which is in it is not separate. One who experiences nonviolence, knows the Self, knows also that even though pitchers may be separate, the thing within them is one and the same. That experiencing of ‘one’ is nonviolence. Therefore, it cannot be sympathy because the other is necessary in sympathy. The other is not eliminated from it.
Sympathy is that which is beyond the mind. It is not in the mind or below it, but it is above and beyond the mind. And this happening which takes place beyond the mind is spiritual. Me alone can call it spiritual who knows what is in an atom is also there in the Universe. He alone can call it spiritual who knows that a drop of water and an ocean are one. One who has known one drop perfectly well has got nothing more to know about the ocean. When a drop is known the whole ocean is known. He has known the ocean within all who has known the drop within himself. Then he does not die because there is nothing left. Then that ego, that ‘I’ has disappeared because no ‘thou’ is seen there. As long as there is ‘thou’, there is ‘I’. The pair of ‘thou and I’ is always together. Martin Boehme’s book I AND THOU IS a very valuable book. According to Martin Boehme’s idea, all the relationships of life are the relationships of ‘I and thou’. But there is yet another world which is beyond ‘I and thou’. There is another world of real life which is not of relationships but is of life-energy, of God, where there are no I and thou.
Empathy is the highest peak of spirituality, and sympathy is our temporary worldly practice. This sympathy is generally 99 per cent false. We do not simply deceive others but deceive ourselves also. And even if it is one per cent genuine, ‘I’ and ‘thou’ still remain Pitchers do remain there. And perhaps we peep from one pitcher into another also. And even then we do not have any idea that there is that ‘One’ between the two pitchers, that ‘one is flowing between the two’.
I call that element empathy where there remains ‘One’ only, where there is not other. You may call it nonduality, or Brahma, or God, you can call it what you like. You can call it existence also. Life attains its highest peaks, its peak experiences where there is ‘One’ only. When ‘thou and I’ have fallen off, one realises that relationship of ‘thou and I’ is surely violence.
Life is a continuous flow, it is an unbroken stream, it is one, but we are unable to experience that oneness, because we have bu;lt ramparts around us, we have built our own walls, we have surrounded us from all sides, we have created boundaries, in fact they are not there. They are made by us and they are temporary. These boundaries exist nowhere. If we ask a man of spiritual eminence he would say the same thing. The spiritual person would say so because he has experienced the expansion of the soul, and the scientist would say so because he tried to Find out all boundaries, but could not see them anywhere.
If you ask a scientist ‘where does your body end?’ he would reply ‘it is difficult to answer the question. Does it end at bones? No, it does not end in bones, because there is flesh on the bones. Does it end in flesh? It does not end there because there is the covering of skin on it. Does it end at the layer of the skin? It does not end there because the layer of atmosphere is necessary outside it. If that is not there, there would be no bones, and no flesh. Does it end at the atmosphere layer? No, the atmosphere layer ends at two hundred miles above the earth. And if this atmosphere layer does not get the sun s rays, it would be no more there. The sun is one hundred million miles away from the earth. So does my body end at the skin? One hundred million miles away? Even our sun would be cold if it does not continuously get rays of light from great sunS. Then the question is, where does my body end?
The scientist says, we have investigated all the so-called boundaries, but we did not find them. The spiritualist says, when we looked within, we saw the limitless. The scientist talks in negative language; he says, there are no boundaries. The spiritualist talks in positive language; he says it is limitless. Both the statements mean the same thing. Today, religion and science stand very near each other. All their pronouncements stand very near one another. The scientist cannot say where our body ends. This body ends there where the Universe might be over.
I call this experience Empathy, when the stars are not far off, but when they begin moving within me, when I am not far off from them and I begin to dance on their rays. And when the waves of the ocean are not far from me, they become my waves; and when I am not far from them, I become a part of them. And when the flowers of trees become my flowers, the dried leaves fallen on the ground become my leaves, then I am not aloof from all these things. There is no greater delusion than the feeling of aloofness. To have the feeling of separateness is the greatest illusion, but we go on entertaining it.
To entertain such a feeling is useful, as there would be difficulty if it is not entertained. I cannot call it my wealth which is yours. Taking away your clothes, I cannot convert them into my clothes. Following worldly behaviour, your shop is not my shop, your building is not my building, though you would say ‘everything is yours’ when I am a guest in your house, but the statement is not to be taken seriously. So our purpose is served. But life is beyond such temporary arrangements. Such arrangements make certain indications and the worldly intercourse goes on. But one who considers such arrangements, such worldly intercourse as life, remains outside the great mysteries of life. Doors of the great palace of life do not open for him, there is no music of life-flute for him, the voice of God is not heard by him. In his pursuit of utility, he misses the life which is nondual, boundless and endless. One has to seek that nonduality beyond utility. It is to be investigated beyond my suggestions. It is to be sought after till it is achieved. Its achievement is called empathy by me. It is the nonviolence, it is the love, it is the nonduality, it is the liberation.
Source: Osho Book “The Perennial Path: The Art of Living”