By Joseph Raffa
Every human undertaking has its Hall of Fame. Science, medicine, sport, war – you name it, all have their heroes, the greats who have left a distinguished mark in the social mainstream.
Religion, too, has its heroes – men who walked in harmony with God, enlightened men, moral supermen and women. They too left an indelible mark and their influence lingers long after they have gone.
The greats have become inspirational stepping stones. Their lives and deeds are held up to lesser mortals as worthy of emulation. “Look up to them,” we are told. “See what can be accomplished by dedicated people. Do likewise and lift your living.”
So, tradition settles in and carves its own channel of supportive endeavour; indeed, it becomes an authority rarely to be questioned, something to be accepted as the cornerstone on which to base human living. Being lost and uncertain, feeling perhaps entities of little value, we listen and lodge ourselves in the traditional byways offered to us. We enclose ourselves in traditional cocoons and outlooks and these become the shrouds of security that we are reluctant to cast aside.
The greats speak with such authority. The legacy they have left us in all walks of life makes it difficult for us not to turn to them in our time of need as a source of certainty, reassurance and inspiration. Why then should we divest ourselves of these influences? And what would we replace them with, we who are empty, confused, even lost in time’s seductive embrace?
If the words and experiences of the greats are wisely used, they will not become a crutch that we hold on to forever. Rather they should be seen as an encouragement to explore the human content, to investigate the human relationship with everything going on within and without.
Intelligence that relies on another is not intelligence. To awaken is the only worthwhile purpose in life. To awaken to what we are, to what is going on around us, in our hearts and minds. It is little use to worship at the shrine of past endeavours if we continue to sleep in time, in ignorance of our true nature.
Understanding demands self-reliance, a looking inwards and learning without intellectual restraints. The guidelines of the past are not for the young and adventurous in spirit, for those eager to travel to the timeless heart of human nature.
Whatever we learn in life, whatever teachers we have, there comes a time, if we are to mature, to let go of all the hands we have held for support. Otherwise we will never know the joy of walking alone. Love, truth, demand that we walk inwardly alone. Self-discovery can only take place when we are alone, when all else that prevents discovery – the barriers raised by the mind, the accumulation of timeful experience – have been discarded.
In that great aloneness that is there when authority and self-protection have been put aside, we join the essence that raised the spiritual greats onto the highest pedestal of human acclaim. We see then that there is only Oneness, not great and small; that distinction and divisions belong to the mind, not to the essence. And what is to be worshiped is “that” which comes when the mind is still.
Out of this stillness comes love, respect and maybe service, but that belongs to time where these are effective, each in their way. Essence is complete in what it is and that which joins the essence sees itself in the same light.
That’s the way of it.