So You've Achieved Enlightenment - Now What?
Can you imagine an Enlighted World?
Imagine an enlightened world, a world of service and compassion with the desire to end human suffering
Would you like to attain illumination, enlightenment? This is the ultimate goal of all who embark upon a path of spiritual growth, and even, some say, the very reason for our existence. But have you ever asked yourself this question: if you did achieve enlightenment, what would you do with it?
As far as I am aware, all those who have achieved enlightenment, thereafter devote the rest of their lives to teaching, and helping others to become enlightened in turn. But if the numbers of enlightened souls were to grow and grow, then eventually there would be more “enlightened ones” than “un-enlightened ones”. The masters would be searching for pupils to teach, and this shortage would inevitably create a tremendous competition for students, wouldn’t it? To be unenlightened would become the exception.
And if all of the newly illuminated masters spent all their time teaching, then there would be no-one left to do the “real” work so essential to keeping our society functioning. I mean, could you see an enlightened master washing dishes in his local diner? Do you think he would be content serving at the check-out in WalMart? Would he live a sustained and fulfilling existence sitting in a call centre cubicle, working at a computer day-in, day-out?
Or then again, if we were all enlightened, perhaps we would not need to work at all. With our newly acquired and finely honed powers of creation much vaunted in “The Secret” and the Law of Attraction, then we could simply manifest in the physical all that we needed in this reality, without having to work and toil to earn it. How about that?
However, the utter irony is, that by becoming enlightened, we would move beyond material thoughts and desires, and so by inference, we would no longer have any desire to possess, or to own, the very things which so consumed our hearts and minds when we were unenlightened. So even if we could physically manifest material wealth and luxuries, we would probably choose not to do so. You see, we would know in our illuminated state that human suffering comes about because of our selfish desires and our attachment to material things, and so we would not choose to create anything which would engender more suffering for ourselves or others.
Compassion for those who are still suffering would become our overriding emotion, and if indeed any desire did still remain for us, then it would most probably be the desire to help others release themselves from their self-inflicted pain, just as Buddha strived to do.
May I joyfully shine your shoes, Sir?
A wise man once said that you will know true happiness when you can find contentment and satisfaction in doing the unsung tasks of every day life; mowing the lawn, washing the dishes. When these tasks become joyful for you, when you no longer see these tasks as trivial and unworthy, when you no longer strive to be “important” then you have taken a giant step towards your own self-realisation.
In fact, what is more likely to happen were we all to become enlightened, is that there would be no more competition, no more killing, no more greed, selfishness and jealousy. There would be an all pervading awareness that we are all connected, that to harm another is to harm ourselves. That what we give to others we receive in return, and that what we withhold from others, we withhold from ourselves.
We would realize that lasting fulfillment can only be obtained through being of service to others. There would in fact be no shortage of souls willing to sweep the streets, wash your car or shine your shoes. An enlightened person would derive joy from the simple act of being of service to another. He would realize that it is not what you do is that is important, but how you do it. Any task performed with love and dedication creates a more positive, satisfying outcome.
I once watched a lady in India, down on her hands and knees, working tirelessly, to remove multiple stains from a carpet in a hotel lobby, using only a toothbrush. I remember the uniformed lady in Japan, who bowed and beamed with pride as she welcomed you to her ATM cash machine - a superfluous task as the machine itself gave verbal instructions. What they had in common however, and what I admired them for, was their joy and pride in the task they performed, however menial it might appear to the casual observer.
To the enlightened being, no task is too small to be imbued with love, all attention should be focused on the “now” - the present moment, and all other beings should be treated with the love and respect they deserve.
Imagine a world where the prevailing motivation is to be of service and to help each other – to relieve the suffering of those around us. Can you? Imagine everyone striving to help one another, and deriving real joy from their actions. This is what an enlightened world might be like, and by imagining it you can help to create it.
So, it’s OK to go ahead and strive for illumination. After all, we all need someone to sweep our streets and shine our shoes don’t we?
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