Chapter 10: A Single Man’s Compassion
Just for example, think of yourself swimming in the river, trying to go up-current, fighting - you are active; then, a dead body floating down the river - not fighting at all, just floating down the river, but dead, a corpse - that is passive. First, life was fighting. Death is passive. And the man I call “one who is floating with the river” is neither alive in the sense of fight and is not dead like a corpse. He floats with the river, but he floats consciously. He floats with the river, not because he is dead but because he cooperates. He floats with the river because.not that he cannot fight, but because he has come to know that fighting is futile, and has not moved to the opposite - he floats. He communes with the river, he has become one with the river. Sometimes you will see him active and sometimes you will see him passive; now passivity and activity are not two polarities to be chosen - he has accepted both. That’s what I mean when I say “floating with the river.”
Sometimes you will find him in the marketplace, very active. Sometimes you will find him in the temple, very passive. But now he has no fixed mode of his being. He can move from passivity to activity, he can move from activity to passivity. There is no barrier, he has not created a fence around himself. He is fluid, liquid, flowing; otherwise passivity itself can become an imprisonment.
I have heard of one Hasid story..
A man was going to see his friend. The friend was a farmer in a deep, hidden valley in the hills. When the man came nearer to the house of the friend he saw something which puzzled him very much.
He saw a small meadow, not more than one mile long. But one thing was very special and disturbing: in that meadow thousands of birds and animals were staying together - thousands, it was difficult to count, there was no space left. The place was very much, too much, crowded and the whole beautiful forest around was empty of birds and animals.
He could not believe: “Why are they huddled together? Why are they not moving into the sky, to other trees? - and the whole vastness is available.”
And they looked very nervous, tense, worried, not at ease at all, those birds and animals. Of course, everybody needs space. Everybody needs a certain space to live. Whenever that space is encroached, nervousness arises. But nobody is preventing them. There is not even a fence there.
So when he reached the friend’s house, the first question he asked was about these birds, “What misfortune has befallen on them?”
The friend said, “I don’t know exactly because I have not seen, but I have heard that in the past, many, many years before, there was a landlord - a very violent and sadistic man, and he enjoyed this whole experiment. He created a high fence around the meadow. He placed guards all around the place and he ordered the guards, ‘If any bird or animal tries to escape, kill him immediately.’ And he forced thousands of birds and animals into the meadow, into that prison. And for years this was the routine: whenever any bird or animal tried to escape, he was killed.
“By and by, the birds and animals settled, they accepted their prison. They forgot their freedom because freedom became associated with fear and death.
“Then the landlord died. The guards disappeared, the fence fell. Now there is nobody there to prevent them. Neither the guards are there nor the fence is there, but the birds and animals have developed a fence mentality: they believe that the fence is there - they actually see the fence! It has become deeply ingrained, it has become a conditioning.”
The man said, “But why does not somebody try to make them understand?”