What is Compassion? – Osho

Compassion is the ultimate flowering of consciousness. It is passion released of all darkness, it is passion freed from all bondage, it is passion purified of all poison. Passion becomes compassion.

Passion is the seed; compassion is the flowering of it.

But compassion is not kindness, kindness is not compassion. Kindness is an ego-attitude, it strengthens your ego. When you are kind to somebody, you feel the upper hand. When you are kind to somebody there is a deep insult – you are humiliating the other, you are feeling happy in his humiliation. That’s why kindness can never be forgiven. Whomsoever you have been kind to will remain somehow somewhere angry with you, is bound to take revenge. Because kindness is only on the surface as compassion, but deep in the depth it has nothing to do with compassion. It has other ulterior motives.

Compassion is unmotivated, it has no motive at all. It is simply because you have, you give – not that the other needs. The other is not a consideration at all in compassion. Because you have, you go on overflowing. Compassion is very spontaneous, natural, like breathing. Kindness is a cultivated attitude. Kindness is a kind of cunningness; it is calculation, it is arithmetic.

You have heard one of the most important sayings – it happens in almost all the scriptures of the world in one form or another: Do unto others as you would like to be done with you. This is a calculated attitude, this is not compassion. This has nothing to do with religion – it is a very lower kind of morality, a very worldly morality: Do unto others as you would like to be done with you. It is very business-like; it is not religious at all. You are doing only because you would like exactly the same in return. It is selfish, it is self-centered, it is egoistic. You are not serving the other, you are not loving the other – in a roundabout way you are serving yourself. You are using the other.

It is very enlightened egoism, but it is egoism – very intelligent, but it is egoism. Compassion is a very uncalculated flowering, flowing. You simply go on giving because there is no other way to be.

So remember, the first thing: it is not kindness, in one sense – in the sense you use the word ‘kindness’ it is not kindness. In another sense, compassion is the real kindness. You are not being kind to somebody, you are not bigger than the other, you are simply releasing the energy that you are receiving from the whole. It comes from the whole, it goes to the whole – you don’t stand as an obstacle, that’s all.

When Alexander was coming to India he went to see one great mystic, Diogenes. And Diogenes was lying on a Riverbed, taking a sunbath. Alexander had always cherished the desire to see this man Diogenes, because he had heard that this man has nothing, yet there is no other man who is more rich than this man. He has something within him, he has a luminous being. He is a beggar, but he is really an emperor. So Alexander had become intrigued. While coming to India he heard that Diogenes was just nearby, so he went to see him.

Early morning, the sun is rising; Diogenes is Lying naked on the sand. Alexander says, “I am happy to see you. Whatsoever I have heard seems to be true. I have never seen a happier man. Can I do something for you, sir?” And Diogenes said, “You just stand to the side – you are preventing the sun. And remember! never prevent the sun. You are dangerous, you can prevent the sun reaching many people. Just stand to the side.”

Compassion is not something that you give to others, it is simply not preventing the sun. See the point of it: It is simply not preventing God. It is becoming a vehicle of the divine, it is simply allowing the divine to flow through you. You become a hollow bamboo and God goes on flowing through you.

You know? Only the hollow bamboo can become a flute – because only a hollow bamboo is capable of allowing a song to flow through it.

Compassion is not from you, compassion is from God; kindness is from you – the first thing to be understood. Kindness is something that you do, compassion is something that God does. You simply don’t prevent, you don’t come in the way, you don’t stand in the way. You allow the sun to fall, to penetrate, to go wherever it wants.

Kindness strengthens the ego – and compassion is possible only when the ego has disappeared utterly. So don’t be misguided by your dictionaries, because in the dictionaries you will find compassion is synonymous with kindness. It is not so in the real dictionary of existence. And Zen has only one dictionary, the dictionary of the universe.

Mohammedans have the holy Koran as their scripture and Hindus have the Veda as their scripture, and Sikhs have Gurugranth, and Christians have the Bible as their scripture, and Jews have the Talmud. If you ask me, “What is the scripture of Zen?” they don’t have any scripture, their scripture is the universe. And that is the beauty of Zen.

In every stone is the sermon, and in every sound of a bird God is reciting. In every movement around you it is God dancing.

Compassion is when you allow this eternal song to flow through you, to pulsate through you – when you cooperate with this divinity, when you move hand in hand with God. It has nothing to do with you; you have to disappear for it to be. For compassion to be, you have to disappear utterly – it flows only into your absence.

Kindness cultivated makes you very egoistic. You can go and see: people who are kind are very very egoistic, more egoistic than the people who are cruel. This is strange. The cruel person feels a little guilty too, but the so-called kind person feels perfectly okay – always holier-than-thou, always better than others. He is very very self-conscious in what he is doing; his each act brings more energy and more power to his ego. He is becoming greater and greater every day. The whole trip is of the ego.

This is the first thing; compassion is not the so-called kindness. It has the essential part of kindness in it – the essential part of being soft, of being sympathetic, of being empathetic, of not being hard, of being creative, of being helpful. But nothing is done as an act on your part; everything flows through you. It is from God, and you are happy and thankful that God has chosen you as a vehicle. You become transparent and it passes through you. You become a transparent glass so the sun passes through you – you don’t hinder. It is pure kindness with no ego in it.

The second thing: compassion is not your so-called love either. It has the essential quality of love, but it is not your love. Your love is just lust parading as love. Your love has nothing to do with love – it is a kind of exploitation of the other, in a beautiful name, with a great slogan.

You go on saying “I love you” – but have you ever loved anybody? You have simply used others; you have not loved. Then how can using the other become love? In fact, to use the other is the greatest destructive act possible in the world – because to use the other as a means is criminal. Immanuel Kant, describing his concept of morality, says: “To use the other as a means is immoral – the basic immoral act.” Never use the other as a means, because everybody is an end unto himself.

Respect the other as an end unto himself. When you respect the other as an end unto himself, you love. when you start using – the husband using the wife, the wife using the husband-there are motives. And you can see it all around.

People are not destroyed by hate, people are destroyed by their so-called love. And because they call it love, they can’t look into it. Because they call it love they think it has to be good and all right.

It is not. Humanity is suffering from this disease of so-called love. if you look deep down into it, you will find just naked lust. Lust is not love. Lust wants to get, love wants to give. the whole emphasis of lust is: Get as much as you can, and give as little as you can. Give less, get more. If you have to give, give it only as a bait.

Lust is absolutely a bargain. Yes, you have to give something, because you want to get – but get more and give less. That is what the business mind is. If you can get without giving, good. If you cannot get without giving, then give a little bit, pretend that you are giving very much, and snatch the whole from the other.

Exploitation is what lust is. Love is not exploitation. So compassion is not love in the ordinary sense, and yet it is love in its real sense. Compassion only gives, it knows no idea of getting back. Not that it does not get back, no – never think that for a single moment. When you give without any idea of getting, you get a thousand fold. But that is another thing; that has nothing to do with you. And when you want to get too much, in fact you are only deceived; you don’t get anything. Finally, you are only disillusioned.

Each love affair ends in disillusionment. Have you not observed it, that each love affair finally leaves you in a ditch of sadness, depression, of being cheated? Compassion knows no disillusionment, because compassion does not start with an illusion. Compassion never asks for any return, there is no need. First, because it is not my energy that I am giving, it is god’s energy.

Who am I to ask anything for it?’ Even to ask for a thank-you is meaningless. That’s what happened when a man came to Jesus and Jesus touched him and he was cured. And the man thanked Jesus – naturally, he was in tremendous gratitude. He had been suffering from that disease for years and there was no cure and the physicians had told him that “Now nothing can be done, you have to accept it.” And he is cured.

And Jesus says, “No sir, don’t be thankful towards me, be thankful towards God. It is something that has happened between you and God! I am nobody in it. It is your faith that has healed you, and it is God’s energy that has become available because of your faith. I am, at the most, a bridge – a bridge through which God’s energy and your faith have joined hands. You need not be worried about me; you need not be thankful to me. Thank God. Thank your own faith. Something has transpired between you and God. I come nowhere.”

This is what compassion is. Compassion goes on giving, but knows no feeling of giving, knows no feeling that ‘I am the giver’. And then existence goes on responding in thousands of ways. You give a little love and from everywhere love starts flowing. The man of compassion is not trying to snatch away, he is not greedy. He does not wait for the return, he goes on giving. He goes on getting – but that is not in his mind.

So, the second thing: compassion is not the so-called love, and yet it is the real love.

The third thing: compassion is intelligence but not intellect. When intelligence is freed of all forms, of all logical forms, when intelligence is freed from all argumentation, when intelligence is freed from the so-called rationality – because rationality is a confinement – when intelligence is freedom, it is compassion. A man of compassion is tremendously intelligent, but he is not an intellectual. He can see through and through, he has absolute vision, he has real eyes to see, nothing is hidden to him – but it is not guesswork. It is not through logic, it is not through inference, it is through clear eyesight.

Remember it: the man of compassion is not unintelligent, but he is non-intellectual. He is tremendous intelligence, he is the very embodiment of intelligence. He is pure radiance. He knows – but he does not think. What is the point of thinking when you know? You think only as a substitute. Because you don’t know, hence you think. Because you can’t know, hence you think. Thinking is a substitute process – it is a poor  substitute, remember. When you can know, when you can see, who bothers to think?

The man of compassion knows; the intellectual thinks. The intellectual is a thinker and the man of compassion is a non-thinker, non-intellectual. Intelligence he has, tremendous intelligence he has, but his intelligence does not function through the pattern of intellect. The intelligence functions intuitively.

And the fourth thing: compassion is not feeling – because feeling has many things in it which are not in compassion at all. Feeling has sentimentality, emotionality – those things don’t exist in compassion. The man of compassion feels, but without any emotion. He feels, but there is no sentimentality. He will do whatsoever is needed, yet he remains untouched by it. This has to be understood very deeply. And once you understand compassion, you have understood what a Buddha is.

Somebody is suffering: the man of feeling will start crying. Crying is not going to help. Somebody’s house is on fire: the man of feeling will shout and cry and beat his chest. That is not going to help. The man of compassion will start moving – he will not cry, that is pointless. Tears don’t help. Tears cannot put the fire off, tears cannot become the medicine for the suffering, tears cannot help a drowning man.

A man is drowning and you are standing on the bank and crying and weeping – and crying and weeping really hard. You are a man of feeling, certainly, but not a man of compassion. The man of compassion acts. The man of compassion immediately jumps into action. His action is immediate; he does not waver for a single moment. His action is instant – the moment something arises in his vision he immediately translates it into action. Not that he exactly translates – it is translated. His understanding and his action are two aspects of the same phenomenon, they are not two separate things. One side of it is called understanding; the other side of it is called the act.

That’s why I say a religious man is by his very nature involved, committed – committed to life, committed to God. He will not cry and weep. The man of feeling sometimes appears as if he is th man of compassion. Don’t be misguided – the man of feeling is of no use. In fact he will create more mess. He will not be of any help, he will create more confusion. He will delay things rather than being a help.

The man of compassion is sharp. Without tears, without emotions, he simply moves into action. He is not cold, but neither is he hot. He is simply warm. And cool. That is the paradox of the man of compassion. He is warm, because he is loving, and yet he keeps his cool. His cool is never lost; whatsoever happens he remains cool, and out of his coolness he acts. And because he remains cool, he helps.

These four things to be understood, then you have a vision from four dimensions of what compassion is. How does this compassion arise? – Because it cannot be cultivated. If you cultivate, it becomes kindness. How has this compassion to be brought into life? You cannot go into the scriptures, you cannot read and be helped by what Buddha and Christ say – because that will bring intellect in, it will not bring intelligence.

You cannot go on loving more and more, the way you have been loving up to now. If you move in the same direction you will not attain to compassion. Your love is not in the right direction. If you go on loving in the same way – if you listen to a Buddha talking about love, or a Christ talking about love, and you think, ‘Good. So I have to love more, the way I have been loving up to now’ – then your quantity will be more but your quality will remain the same. You will go in the same direction.

Your direction is basically wrong. You have not loved. Once this thing sinks deep into your heart, that ‘I have not loved yet’…. Yes, it is very terrible to feel that ‘I have not loved yet’ – it is very, very hard. We can believe others have not loved – that’s what we already believe . Nobody has loved you – that’s okay, people are hard. But to see that you have not loved shatters your ego. That’s why people don’t want to see that simple fact that ‘I have not loved yet.’ And because they don’t want to see, they don’t see. And because they don’t see, they are never going to be transformed. They will go on moving in the same rut; they will go on repeating the same mechanical thing again and again. And again and again they will be disillusioned.

So how to bring compassion in? If it was just your love you could have run in the same direction – to run faster, with more speed and more quantity, would be the right thing to do. But you are not in the right direction. So if you go faster, you will be going faster away from it, not towards it. Speed is not going to help, because in the first place you are moving in the wrong direction – it is the direction of lust and desire.

Then how to bring compassion in? And I say it is not feeling either. Otherwise you can cry your heart out, you can beat yourself, you can cry a thousand and one tears for a thousand and one sufferings all around, you can become very emotional. You can feel for everybody in Vietnam, in Korea, in Pakistan, or anywhere; you can feel for all the poor people.

Leo Tolstoy remembers his mother in his memoirs. He says she was a very kind woman, very, very kind – ‘kind’ in the sense I am using it, not in the sense of compassion. She was very kind – so kind that she used to cry in the theater the whole time. They were very rich people, they belonged to royalty. A servant used to be around Leo Tolstoy’s mother with many handkerchiefs when she would go to the theater, because she would need them again and again. Crying the whole time. And Tolstoy says: But I was surprised to see that in Russia, even in winter when the cold would be so much, below zero, and snow would be falling, she would go to the theater – she was a great lover of theater – and the driver of her coach would go on sitting outside the coach in the falling snow.

And almost always it used to happen, the man would die. Because nobody knew when the countess would come out – any moment she would get so much disturbed by the theater that she would run towards home to fall into her bed and cry. So the coachman, the driver, had to be there on the coach and it would happen that he would get so cold that he would die. And when she would come out the driver would be thrown away, replaced by another man, and she would go on. And she would never think about this man, who had simply died there for no reason. And she would go on crying tears for something she had seen in the theater.

Sentimental people, emotional people. It costs nothing to cry, it costs nothing to feel. It costs much to be compassionate; it costs your whole life to be compassionate. A man of compassion is a very realistic man. The man of feeling simply lives in dreams, vague emotions, fantasies.

So it cannot be brought through feeling, either. Then how to bring it? What is the Zen way to bring it? To bring it, the only way is meditation. It is attained through meditation.


Excerpt from Zen: The Path of Paradox, V.2, Discourse #3

Copyright© OSHO International Foundation

The continuation of this discourse is What is this You in Yourself?

An MP3 audio file of this discourse can be downloaded from Osho.com, or you can read the entire book online at the Osho Library.

Many of Osho’s books are available in the U.S. online from Amazon.com and Viha Osho Book Distributors. In India they are available from Amazon.in and Oshoworld.com.

5 thoughts on “What is Compassion? – Osho”

  1. Wanting to be kinder, wanting to be more loving is simply not enough. I am so familiar with trying!
    Meditation seems to be the answer to everything! Thank you Osho for pointing the finger.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seems here that Osho is not saying that “wanting to be kinder is not enough. But that it is the wrong direction.

      He says in this post “Kindness is an ego-attitude, it strengthens your ego. When you are kind to somebody, you feel the upper hand. When you are kind to somebody there is a deep insult – you are humiliating the other, you are feeling happy in his humiliation. That’s why kindness can never be forgiven…
      “Kindness is a cultivated attitude. Kindness is a kind of cunningness; it is calculation, it is arithmetic.”

      This seems to be a much stronger statement than “trying to be kind is not enough.” Revolutionary to what is commonly believed.

      Liked by 1 person

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