Imagine living in a small village that has been devastated by a massive earthquake. It’s winter. Everyone is without power. Most people don’t even have a structure to take shelter in. Food is scarce. People are in pain and shock.
But you, by some great twist of fate, have a large home that survived without any damage. And you have generators supplying you power. Your refrigerator is stocked with food.
What do you do? Do you help those who are without food and shelter? Is that your responsibility? Or do you turn on the television and watch ESPN coverage of Monday Night Football and forget about your freezing and hungry neighbors? Do you ignore their pounding on your door by turning up the sound.
The answer is easy. You help in every way you can. People are suffering and you can help.
Well guess what? People are suffering everywhere. Everyday. And you can help.
With your consciousness. With your love. With your empathy. With your understanding.
A smile can turn someone’s life of despair into a life of possibilities.
Do you ever look upon your consciousness as a responsibility? Have you ever considered that your consciousness extends beyond you and your family and friends to people you don’t even know?
Perhaps you can more easily see that responsibility if you consider your level of consciousness as the amount of brightness you are able to shine onto the world. The lower levels of consciousness, people shrouded in shame and fear, live in a self-made world of darkness.
The higher levels, that of advanced mystics on the inner planes of consciousness, are characteristic of light and illumination. Famous examples of this would be St. Francis, Ramana Maharshi, Aurobindo, Thomas Merton and Mother Theresa.
The principal is that in the presence of light, darkness vanishes. Or you could say that in the presence of light, darkness has no existence. It has no substance in that it has no existence except in the absence of light.
How far is the influence of light? Very far. Just try to fathom the distance of the stars we see at night. Some are millions of light years away. Some don’t even exist anymore but their light is just now arriving. This shows that light, even from millions of years ago, is still having a subtle influence on our experience, at least our experience of the sky’s night time beauty.
But what does that have to do with consciousness, you might ask? It’s a metaphor, but it is also a description.
The Sufi saint, Inayat Khan, was said to have an aura so bright that people could read by it at night. Meher Baba’s disciple, Adi K. Irani, was known to bring people into his office and “light up.” The point is that people, who have consciousness at a higher vibration than average, are able to counteract the negative energy of those with the lower vibrational energy.
If you knew this to be a fact, and you were a being with a high level of consciousness, would you take your consciousness as a responsibility? If you were Gandhi, would you view your “soul power” as a responsibility or as your own private business?
I believe that being alive is an opportunity and a responsibility. I believe that to be as conscious as we can be not only elevates the life we live, it also enhances the lives of others.
I came across a quote from the Dalai Lama which touched upon this same theme:
Everyday, think as you wake up, “today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”
That sums up holistic personal development in a nutshell. I agree with all of it. For me, each day is another opportunity to love, to exercise compassion, and to remember what I am doing here in this physical form.
If as a culture, if we could put more emphasis on inner consciousness rather than on the external features of what kind of car we drive, or what kind of clothes we wear, or how many wrinkles we have, or how big our house is, we would find more peace. Heart disease would decline, violence would decline, and all the other illnesses — whether in their physical, mental, or social forms– would decline. Anyway you look at it, the light of consciosness can alleviate a lot of darkness.
So when the Dalai Lama says to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all mankind, he isn’t just being poetic, he’s being pragmatic.