In the Bhagavadgita, Krishna talks about action without reward. The sage of this Upanishad has used a better word than Krishna, play. As long as there is an expectation of reward an act remains work; otherwise, you will have to describe it as play. So the sage did not say that compassion is his act, he said it is his play. Nowhere in his mind is there any desire for reward. The sage has not set out to fulfil any desire in the future. There is an overflowing of joy within. That joy is trying to spread out and be shared.
For example, a tree has flowered and the fragrance fills the surrounding area: this is play. The tree is not bothered with who is passing by or who is sitting beneath it. The tree has no expectation. The tree gives the same shade to a donkey as to a political leader.
The flower makes no distinction: even if no one passes, its fragrance still flows because that is its inner pleasure.
There was a famous psychiatrist, Wilhelm Reich. He was one of the greatest personalities of the past half-century. What usually happens with such intelligent people happened also with him: he was put in jail for two years. A person who was the least crazy was condemned as a lunatic by American law and thrown in prison. Even though we accumulate thousands of years of experience, human beings do the same things again and again.
I have heard a surprising story about Reich. He was treating a mental patient with analysis. The patient was given an appointment for 3 pm but did not arrive on time. It was 3.15 pm when the patient came running in and asked to be forgiven for coming late. Reich replied, “You arrived just on time. I was just about to begin work.” The patient asked, “If I had not come, how could you have begun the work? After all, it is I who is going to be psychoanalyzed.”
If a flower throws its fragrance in an uninhabited place, we can understand, but if Wilhelm Reich begins the psychoanalysis in the absence of his patient, we will call him mad. Reich said, “You are only an excuse. Even if you had not come, I would have begun the work. It is my joy!”
It is easier to understand the flower because we cannot imagine that a flower can be mad. It is different to understand a man.
I have heard about Lao Tzu that many times he would speak sitting alone under a tree. Once, a passerby was surprised to see this. He stopped, approached and asked Lao Tzu, “There is no one to hear you. To whom are you speaking?” Lao Tzu replied, “It is my inner feeling. Something has come to life within me and I am pouring it out. Today there is no one to hear, but today the feeling to speak has arisen. So, I just go on releasing my inner feeling. The atmosphere, the air will preserve it, the sky will remember it, and when some listener is ready he will hear.”
Behind A Thousand Names — talks on the Nirvan Upanishad at Rs 295; published by FULL CIRCLE