One winter day, a masterless samurai came to Eisai’s temple and made an appeal: I’m poor and sick,” he said, “and my family is dying of hunger. Please help us, master.”
Dependent as he was on widows’ mites, Eisai’s life was very austere, and he had nothing to give. He was about to send the samurai off when he remembered the image of Yakushi-Buddha in the hall. Going up to it he tore off its halo and gave it to the samurai. “Sell this,” said Eisai, “it should tide you over.”
The bewildered but desperate samurai took the halo and left.
“Master!” cried one of Eisai’s disciples, “that’s sacrilege! How could you do such a thing?”
“Sacrilege? Bah! I have merely put the Buddha’s mind, which is full of love and mercy, to use, so to speak. Indeed, if he himself had heard that poor samurai, he would have cut off a limb for him.”
Meditation is a flower, and compassion is its fragrance. Exactly like that it happens: the flower blooms and the fragrance spreads on the winds in all directions, to be carried to the very ends of the earth. But the basic thing is the blooming of the flower.
Man is also carrying a potential for flowering within him. Until and unless the inner being of man flowers, the fragrance of compassion is not possible. Compassion cannot be practiced, it is not a discipline. You cannot manage it, it is beyond you. If you meditate, one day you suddenly become aware of a new phenomenon, absolutely strange: compassion is flowing from your being towards the whole of existence. Undirected, unaddressed, it is moving to the very ends of existence.
Without meditation, the same energy remains passion; with meditation, the same energy becomes compassion. Passion and compassion are not two energies, they are one and the same energy. Once it passes through meditation it is transformed, transfigured; it becomes qualitatively different. Passion moves downwards, compassion moves upwards. Passion moves through desire, compassion moves through desirelessness. Passion is an occupation to forget the miseries in which you live, compassion is a celebration. Compassion is a dance of attainment, of fulfillment: you are so fulfilled that you can share. Now there is nothing left; you have attained the destiny that you were carrying for millennia within you like an unflowered potentiality, just a bud. Now it has flowered and it is dancing. You have attained, you are fulfilled. There is no more to attain, nowhere to go, nothing to do.
Now what will happen to the energy? You start sharing. The same energy that was moving through the dark layers of passion now moves with light rays upwards, uncontaminated by any desire, uncontaminated by any conditioning, pure, uncorrupted by any motivation; hence I call it fragrance. The flower is limited, but not the fragrance. The flower has limitations, it is rooted somewhere, in bondage. But fragrance has no bondage – it simply moves, rides on the winds with no moorings in the earth.
Meditation is a flower, it has roots. It exists in you. Once compassion happens, it is not rooted, it simply moves and goes on moving. Buddha has disappeared, but not his compassion. The flower will die sooner or later; it is part of earth and the dust will return unto dust, but the fragrance that has been released will remain forever and forever. Buddha is gone, Jesus is gone, but not their fragrance. Their compassion still continues, and whoever is open to their compassion will immediately feel its impact, will be moved by it, will be taken on a new journey, on a new pilgrimage.