With man, suffering deepens because mind can move to the past and conceive of the future.
Not only that: the mind can feel someone else suffering also. Animals cannot feel this. Higher animals have certain glimpses which lower animals cannot feel. In lower animals, if some member of the group dies they just forget about it. They will move on. Death is not a problem. Neither can they conceive of their own death, nor can they conceive that something has happened to some member of their group. It is impossible. It is as if it is not. But man conceives, feels, contemplates his own suffering and also others’ sufferings. With a more sensitive mind, the sympathy can even become empathy. You are in deep pain: I feel that you are in pain; I understand; I am sympathetic. But if my mind is even more keen, more sensitive, I may begin to feel the same pain. Then it is empathy.
Ramakrishna was crossing the Ganges one day in a boat and suddenly he began to scream and cry, “Do not beat me!”
No one was beating him. All those who were present with him were his disciples, devoted disciples. They said, “What are you saying? Who is beating you? Who can beat you?”
Tears were rolling down his eyes and he was crying, “Do not beat me!” They were all puzzled, and then Ramakrishna showed them that just on the other bank one man was being beaten by a crowd. Then he showed his back: his back had the marks of having been beaten. They reached to the other shore and they went to the man who was beaten there. They saw his back also. They were just wonderstruck. It was a miracle. The same marks were on his back as on Ramakrishna’s back.
This is empathy. Ramakrishna suffers more than you because now it is not only his suffering. In a very subtle way the whole world’s suffering has become his own. Wherever suffering is, Ramakrishna will suffer it. But this will give depth to Ramakrishna. Suffering itself is depth. So knowledge gives suffering and knowledge gives depth. It gives richness to life.
Osho, The Ultimate Alchemy Vol 2, Ch 9 Q 1 (excerpt)