Let’s say, hypothetically, a person becomes enlightened to the true nature of the universe and such an understanding frees said person from all forms suffering. This person is no longer blindly conditioned to respond to craving or aversion, and they have a comprehensive knowledge of human experience at it’s lowest level. They understand pure balance, live life in consistent peace, and see beauty everywhere they go.
Fantastic. This is the type of enlightenment that I’ve heard wise people lecture about and that my experience in life, however limited, has lead me to believe is obtainable for myself and others. I also believe that unveiling the above described truth isn’t really that complicated of an endeavor, although it does take a lot of hard work, namely though the practice of introspection and meditation. Whether or not the practice is the enlightenment or enlightenment is itself a discrete state, doesn’t matter, for the sake of this thought
If you take the above as an axiom, you can go one step further and say that there are people who currently live in this state of enlightenment (or at least close to it). It’s also safe to say that, given the amount of people teaching it, for one reason or another, enlightened people tend to try and help others in search of truth find a path toward it.
O.k., so the above is the setup to the latest conversation I’ve had with myself. There’s a line I recently read about how the Buddha universally and timelessly defined morality. Quoting William Hart, quoting S.N. Goenka, quoting Siddhartha Gotama,
Any action that harms others, that disturbs their peace and harmony, is a sinful action, an unwholesome action. Any action that helps others, that contributes to their peace and harmony, is a pious action, a wholesome action.
I think this makes sense because if you give a static definition of righteousness, you often get burned in the margins. For example, if you say it is always wrong to lie, situations where the truth would do more damage than good get ignored in favor of the majority of conceivable situations; the lack of malleability to static definitions of morality makes them break down over time, whereas the above encapsulates the compassion that morality is based on. One could argue that dynamic definitions have the potential to get stuck in never ending recursions (e.g., following the chain of causality down into infinity, wondering whether each subsequent consequence of your initial action is wholesome), but I think wise experienced people tend to be able to know when to stop interpreting the chain of events as purely the fault of their action.
Anyway, I digress; the point is if enlightened people are operating on the above definition of righteousness, and such people simultaneously know that sudden, drastic change is more liable to confuse and frighten people than it is to awaken them to truth, then it follows that enlightened people are more likely to take a subtle, even devious route toward evangelizing truth and the path to it. Now obviously this can be dangerous given that people have the tendency to taint truth with their subjectivity, but pure truth is not owned by anyone, nor can it be tainted. Point being, people can’t monopolize truth, and if offered a path to anywhere but truth, experience will prove that path ill-directed.
This realization is pretty straightforward (if you accept the axioms), but it’s the consequence of such a reality that I think is really interesting. Think about the number of dogmatic religious leaders that could really be secular truth advocates catering to a particularly conservative audience.* That’s not to say that spiritualism and truth have to be mutually exclusive, but a lot of people seem to be stubbornly partisan when it comes to the two topics, which makes it that much harder to convey the importance of each from one camp to the other. I’m not sure how much evidence there is to support this, but then again, I’m only proposing it as a possibility; it’s just a thought…
*This might be contradictory to popular belief when it comes to religions and the churches that (supposedly) propagate their messages, but in my experience, a lot of the church leaders I’ve met tend to gloss over the hard controversial topics, instead focusing on the more secularly supported lessons taught in bible’s stories.