If peace were just the absence of war, silence the absence of noise, death the absence of life, health the absence of disease, darkness the absence of light then enlightenment would just be the absence of illusion and deceit. But they are not.
Freedom is usually a misleading term. If we are not imprisoned we are thought to be free and certainly for a prisoner freedom represents an ideal which means more perhaps than it ever does to those outside the prison walls. It is one of the terms used for achieving the Nirvana state, the enlightened state and in that language is called liberation.
They are just words for concepts and really we need more than that – we need the evidence of our own eyes to get there. I do not know who invented them but the Ancient Egyptians and almost all other cultures had pots. The Egyptian ones that are 6000 years old and made of hard stone must have taken months to make and are absolutely stunning. You and I could not begin to make them with or without metal tools that they did not have. Later came the earthenware pots, then metal and glass – our supermarkets are still full of glass jars and bottles. In my youth we got money back for some of them which were washed and reused, but now they go in recycling bins, are mashed up and remade.
Anyway the bottle is magnificent. People were able to store and even cook food in their pots and found that although grapes would rot if they took out the juice it kept better, in fact it became wine. And if they boiled up poppies and poppy stalks or willow bark they had a potion that was a potent painkiller. We know that alcohol has been dreadfully abused since then and is the cause of almost all domestic violence. We know that the poppy juice is just as abused but still needed by hospitals. Some bottles contain great wines which improve and some contain polluted rubbish.
Many of us start life as empty bottles. Hindus would say we are reused bottles. In their view to become liberated or enlightened means we need no longer be bottled. For one reason or another the liberated can exist outside their bodies. If we think we are the bottle then we have not reached that stage, or that is the lesson. We all know the stories about the genie in the bottle. But it is what is in our bottle that is important and decides our fate. When we are judged it will be just like the wine we drink. And indeed just as transient. How does the content of a bottle manage to stand out? How can it be so precious that it will be remembered for all time? Some potions, scents and wines are extremely valuable and in our case any value placed on our essence will be for the same reasons.
Hindus will also tell you that if you aim for liberation you will not achieve it as it comes with the abandonment of all desires. It is true. If however you are aware of liberation you may well direct your life towards that goal and in order to reach it must give it up to something much greater than your own liberation. It is understanding what is greater that is difficult. This is not giving your life for king and country. For music or money. It is making your bottle able to hold the most fabulous and invaluable substance in the universe which may be what it was made for. That most bottles are used for alcohol and substandard goods is not the point. Our containers are magnificent and it is hard to put more value in what they hold. If you had taken a year or so to craft from a lump of extremely hard stone a beautiful container like these by using smaller lumps of even harder stone and sand to do so:
you might care more about what it was used for. That is probably why they were buried with the people who cherished them.
Here is an excellent article with many illustrations and items in museums which shows how the Ancient Egyptians made their magnificent stone pots, or stone plates with curled edges:
To make your life worthwhile, let alone special, takes many years. Sometimes it takes many more years than you have. But there are ways to do it and if we can learn what they are from those who have actually done this themselves we may save ourselves a lot of these years, and even make possible something that is so rare that we can safely say it is almost impossible.
Even if you start today you will not be a John Lennon, Bob Dylan or Leonardo Da Vinci. People with that kind of talent are ones in billions. You will not even be a one hit wonder. You will not get into the hit parade at all or probably even into a studio. But even they do not have the most fabulous substance in their bottles and most of them were looking for it for much of their lives.
Look instead at that poor parish priest Frank Buttle who lived the life of a pauper but over it made a million pounds when a million was the equivalent of 100 million now, all for poor children. That man was also a priest. Mother Theresa was a num who gave her life to the poorest of the poor Indians and even washed their bodies when they died and prayed for them. But like Buttle she did more than that, she made sure that her ‘work’ carried on after her death:
“Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation, which in 2012 consisted of over 4,500 sisters and was active in 133 countries. They run hospices and homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis; soup kitchens; dispensaries and mobile clinics; children’s and family counselling programmes; orphanages; and schools. Members must adhere to the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, as well as a fourth vow, to give “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor” Wikipedia
Both these people gave up their own lives for poverty and their work. That is what makes them so valuable and special. I would add that even Bill Gates and his wife are devoting much if not all of their fortune to charity and I personally know of two people whose studies are being helped by them. Bill has the capability to change millions of poor lives and has seen the need to do that. But we do not have his talent to make the money he has. I should add that Mother Theresa is not without critics:
“A controversial figure both during her life and after her death, Mother Teresa was widely admired by many for her charitable works, but was also widely criticised, particularly for her opposing both abortion and contraception. She also received criticism for substandard conditions in the hospices for which she was responsible.” Wikipedia
I am only mentioning these last two people because they exemplify the giving up of one’s own life and desires. Perhaps they never gave up the desire to help poor people, perhaps they did not achieve liberation. But the giving up of one’s life to a work that is much greater than any of us is what leads to that. And we must be extremely careful about choosing this work. What is it that we are made to hold? We may not have the talent of many but we can certainly fulfil our potential if we understand it.
In my own case it was by communicating with myself at the end of my life that led me to understand my own potential and the things that I should not serve. I wanted to be a rock & roll star like many my age, then a successful businessman, and many other things but none were what I was really made for and only when I rededicated my entire life from birth to death to that did my enlightenment come and free me from the constraints that I had imposed on myself, and indeed the constraints imposed on me by society. If I was looking for any approval from even one person on this planet I would not find it unless I include my own self at the end of his life. It is a private matter and the real masters are always hidden. If they are not we must beware.
We cannot risk following anyone else. Nor blindly accept what we are told so first we must open our eyes then we can decide what we should do with our lives. Opening your eyes is the easy part but means reworking everything we have taken for granted. I had given examples here of some of this as I see it, not for you to accept but for you to see how one person has done it, someone alive in your own time with exactly the same limitations. However I have now deleted all of that as it is not helpful. I have looked at as many ‘enlightened’ men and women as possible and found almost all not to be! My work is as much to do with after death as it is to do with life but yours will probably be as different as a sunflower is to a melon. My work was about dealing with men and women in our ancient past because I was able to do that. With spirits because they were part of my real life from an early age. That is not what you need to do. If you can sing you are fortunate. I cannot even hear properly let alone sing in tune. What is it that you are uniquely adapted to do? Buttle had a knack for dealing in shares and making profits. Theresa inspired other women to do what she did and was unafraid to deal with death, dirt and disease. We are all capable of holding different substances in our bottles and it is what we do hold that will be judged – that is our karma. We will also be judged on what we could have held but did not, what we could have done with our privileged lives and education.
If you see a man striking a woman or a child or even an animal should you challenge him? Will you allow fear to blind you? I do not suggest you take on big violent people as you will get mashed. We do need to be strong and courageous to open our eyes but also careful. Terrible things are happening in our world and our media seldom report them impartially but opening our eyes to the dread reality does not mean challenging it. The poor are being subjugated and persecuted all around us and our world‘s governments are refusing to help, indeed some are making it worse. It was no different in Buttle’s day, nor for Mother Theresa, but they did not take on the world, just worked to alleviate its suffering and led by example. So if we are made for this it is up to us to help the poor rather than challenge the system that makes this happen. Not to shut our eyes to it as it is not our problem. If we are made for high office we may be working on the system.
It is a fact though that in the 21st century we have not managed to resolve poverty or war and perhaps still use both to create wealth. However the innocents suffering from this clamour in the afterlife and our karma may well bring us down collectively as a hopeless and cruel species.
What can we do to help the innocents? I do not recommend revolutions – they are always worse than what they replace. What we need is awareness. And at least as many lives dedicated to peace and healing as to war and harming. We also need to understand that liberation and freedom often grow out of persecution, seldom out of happy and prosperous lives. Truth and justice emerge from lies, illusion and injustice because it is the experience of the latter that make a home for their opposites. It is a life’s work but as I have discovered is also a hidden work. We are our own judges and will be judged quite harshly by ourselves when we die if we put illusion in a container intended for truth, if we are unjust and created poverty when we could have alleviated it. And that judgement will determine whether we are to be freed or recycled to try again.