Like ninety million other people my Facebook newsfeed is a mixture of posts from people I know, specific things I’d like to know about/from, and miscellaneous other “incidentals.” One such incidental on my newsfeed recently was a quote of the Buddha. I noticed it in passing – or, rather in scrolling. It caught my eye and as I kept scrolling it ended up catching my thoughts, too.
The exact wording I now forget, but it was something along the lines of “share your enlightenment with others,” but using more words and going very briefly into why everyone should do this. Instantly, I felt conflicted.
The role or idea of the boddhisattva came to mind. Someone is a bodhisattva who has attained liberation and also has vowed to return to a physical life, lifetime after lifetime, for the sake of helping others attain liberation, too. That seems to fit the quote. Fine. Dandy.
However, the bodhisattva clique is rather small – and probably smaller these days than ever. So what about the rest of us? Well, any reason-minded person could tell you that when it comes to something like enlightenment, as with virtually everything else, we’re all at different places. Some have more money, and some are in the process of getting more. Some have bigger families, and some are in the process of growing theirs. Some have already long been invested the intense labor of Self-realization, and some are just starting.
All of that is also fine and dandy. In fact, it’s quite perfect – and here’s why: Freedom. Because I am where I am, and you are where you are, we’re both free to tackle our respective “next step” in whatever way we think will prove most productive.
Occasionally, those who’ve already rounded one corner or the next are able to yell back to those approaching that same corner and offer advice or guidance to make that process smoother for those people. It’s not a matter of seniority, superiority, or ego. It’s a simple act of kindness, with potentially immense implications for the journey of those at a different place along the road. It’s that simple. And yet it’s not that simple. No one wants to feel like they’re “less.” The truth is, no one ever is, but that’s not always easy to see for some people. Priorities and perceptions are so easily – and so often – skewed. Suddenly, there’s a bit of a mess. Someone labels someone else egoic, arrogant, prideful, or bossy, when what’s actually at work is that those same qualities are well and alive within the labeler and are hoping to remain not only undetected but also fortified.
And so, on one hand, the Buddha is as right as ever. Enlightenment SHOULD be shared. Everyone on the journey has someone to their front and to their back. We can all help and be helped – often simultaneously. Thus, enlightenment should ALWAYS be shared.
On the other hand, though, things are a bit darker. Many won’t seek help or otherwise ask for it, perhaps because they don’t realize how much they need it and perhaps because they’re simply too egoic, arrogant, proud, or bossy to allow for the help. This makes sharing one’s enlightenment risky business. Everyone seems to frown on unsolicited advice, regardless of how incredibly warranted, practical, or even necessary it might be. At this point, I’m reminded of the passage in the Bible where the “casting of pearls to swine” is discouraged. This leads me to my next conclusion.
I’m feeling the need, and have been for around a week already, to retreat. Pull back. Introvert myself. To contract. There are a few things I need to nail down for myself, but there are also a few people who need to learn to walk a little more on their own – and actually walk. It’s like wasting one’s breath. You can share your knowledge (enlightenment) with someone all day every day, but at the end of the day if the one you gave so freely to never makes the effort to implement that goodness in their own life, and create/realize their own enlightenment, you might have been equally productive simply holding your tongue instead – and in the process would have spared yourself the sad frustration of knowing the potential, but unrealized, blossoming of that other soul with whom you shared.
Sometimes, too, absence makes the heart grow hungry. A post or two ago I shared a story from the Upanishads about a gamble the senses were having with each other. It’s a cute story with a deep lesson. You should read it. I’m about to enter a similar gamble with myself and others. I’m sure it will be a boon to everyone, and I’m sure the absence of what little enlightenment I have to share will be filled soonly. You’re about to prove me right and you don’t even know it.
All the grace that is mine to give, I gladly forward on to you!
Om Shanti and namastu te.