Chapter 3: Compassion: Love’s Highest Refinement
I used to go to Calcutta where I would stay in a very beautiful house. And the owner of the house was immensely concerned about it. He was very rich, one of the richest men in Calcutta, and he had no children. So there was just the wife and the husband with nothing else to do but maintain the house, the garden and the lawns with great care. Whenever I came he would take me around to show me what new things they had done.
The last time I went, he didn’t talk about the house, the garden, the swimming pool. I was puzzled - it was so abnormal for him. Twenty-four hours passed and the house was not mentioned at all: the new paintings that he had acquired and the new “antique” furniture - the new antique furniture! - and how much it had cost him. And he was looking a little bit sad too.
I asked, “What is the matter? You look very sad.”
He said, “Yes, I am sad.” He took me out onto the lawn and showed me a house in the neighborhood - a new house had been built and he said, “Unless I can defeat this man I will remain sad!”
The neighbor invited me for lunch. He also wanted the owner of the house, my host, to come with me, but he immediately refused. I had to go alone.
When I came back he said, “Don’t take any note of my refusal. I cannot go into that house. Unless I build a bigger house than him I cannot go there! It hurts. I am feeling humiliated.”
If you cannot participate in the joy of others, how can you feel sorry when they are in trouble? If you feel jealous when they are joyful, then you will feel joyful when they are in trouble. But you will not show it, you will show sympathy. Sympathy is not a good word.
There are a few words that are very ugly but which have become very respected; words like duty, service, sympathy - these are ugly words. A man who is fulfilling his duty is not a man of love. A man who is doing service knows nothing of love, because service is not done, it happens. And the man who sympathizes is certainly enjoying some kind of superiority: “I am not in that sorry state. The other is in the sorry state; I have the upper hand - I can feel sorry for him.”
I lived in Jabalpur for twenty years. The richest man in Jabalpur used to come to me once in a while.
One day he said, “One thing always troubles me: I have been helping all of my relatives, even faraway relatives, I have made them all rich in every possible way, but nobody feels friendly toward me. In fact, I feel a certain antagonism from all of my relatives. Why is it so? I have done so much for them, and there was no need for me to do anything for them. I did it out of love, but they feel antagonistic.”