The wise have mastered body, word and mind. They are the true masters.” – Buddha
When we look for those who have inspired and influenced people over the millennia, we keep returning to the great leaders who have provided clarity and wisdom on what it means to be human. These great teachers, prophets and sages, have never set out to be religious or spiritual symbols. Many of these masters simply wanted to share with others the revelations they had in an attempt to educate and awaken people.
When we analyze the teachings of these masters we find common dialogues, ideologies and philosophies on life and living. While the messages are communicated differently the underlying principles are similar. Are these masters one, simply showing themselves in different times, places, societies and forms? Have they come to help awaken and revitalize humanity to its true nature?
From Jesus who taught about righteousness, giving unconditionally; to Buddha who taught about suffering and set out a recipe for living a good life; to Mohammed who taught us to serve others, the importance of compassion, justice and equity; to Lao Tzu who understood nature and the beauty of its simplicity yet complexity; to Gandhi who inspired truth, solidarity and nonviolence; to the Dalai Lama who practices tolerance, love and happiness. There is one underlying theme these great masters espouse, that is of love and compassion for fellow beings. What defines a master? Let’s explore in more detail some of the teachings that the masters have relayed to us.
1. Living In The NOW, Being Present…
From a Zen parable. A man traveling across a field encounters a tiger. The man flees, the tiger chases after him. Coming to a precipice he grasps hold of the root of a wild vine and swings himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffs at him from above. Trembling, the man looks down to where, far below, another tiger is waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustains him. Two mice, one white and one black, little by little start to gnaw away at the vine. The man sees a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucks the strawberry with the other, then falls to his death. How sweet it tasted on the way down! This is truly non-attachment and living in the moment.
Wisdom knows that there is nothing else except the moment, nothing else matters, that is all we have. Wisdom is in knowing there is no point being attached to anything. How often do we live for some other experience, time or moment that is not actually this moment? This is what all the great masters have taught; live in the present, live with compassion equity and gratitude. We can only experience the reality of mastery in the realm of the present, for it does not exist in the past. We can only experience love, compassion, the environment and the universe at this very moment. All else is an illusion. As the Buddha communicated, “Do not dwell in the past; do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
2. Simplicity & Non-Attachment Another Key To Mastery
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius
Simplicity is the key to mastery. Living simply is not ‘being simple’ as we know it. Simplicity is a state of being. It is a way of thinking, a way of looking at things, a way of expressing things, the way of doing things. All masters know that contentment and happiness comes through simplicity and non-materialism. The prophet Mohammed expressed that affluence leads to hedonism and hedonism leads to a life of constant craving and wanting. Buddha renounced materialism and likened people who chase after fame, wealth or other ego driven desires “like a child who licks honey from a blade of a knife. While tasting the sweetness of the honey the child risks hurting his or her tongue.”
Throughout time we have had many great teachers communicate to us the importance of living simple, non-material lives, so why do we disregard such advice? Do we know better than these great masters? Have we found the secret elixir of life in our consumerism? The great masters are telling us that we are living an illusion if we think we can live a life based around external gratification? We must look deeply and get in touch with our inner reality. We must reassess our priorities and purpose of life if our species is to survive.
3. Living With Compassion & Gratitude
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama
The word compassion comes from the Latin root that means suffering with or co-suffering. To show compassion is to express empathy or suffer with another. In its ultimate form compassion and gratitude are the realization that there is no separation between things. The ancient Eastern teachers see love and compassion as a quality that can be developed and harvested. It is an underlying inner power intrinsic to our true nature. Compassion is closely linked with our consciousness and wisdom. If we are aware of and let go of all worldly obsessions, then we are free to experience the truth of life. Ego can be a controlling influence on our lives that limits us from experiencing true compassion. Once we let go of this ‘ego state’ we can then start to experience our true self and embrace all beings with love and compassion. The below summation from the Dalai Lama, details the virtues of compassion.
“Compassion without attachment is possible. True compassion is not just an emotional response but a firm commitment founded on reason. Because of this firm foundation, a truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively. Genuine compassion is based not on our own projections and expectations, but rather on the needs of the other: irrespective of whether another person is a close friend or an enemy, as long as that person wishes for peace and happiness and wishes to overcome suffering, then on that basis we develop genuine concern for their problem. This is genuine compassion. For a Buddhist practitioner, the goal is to develop this genuine compassion, this genuine wish for the well-being of another, in fact for every living being throughout the universe.”
4. Mastery is Clarity
“I experience a period of frightening clarity in those moments when nature is so beautiful. I am no longer sure of myself, and the paintings appear as in a dream.” – Vincent van Gogh
Have you ever had one of those moments Van Gogh is talking about? Everything is crystal clear, life and all that goes with it becomes apparently obvious for the first time. Then just as quickly as it dawned upon us, it disappears into the ether, leaving us questioning how we can make this a permanent state of being. Masters are very clear and unwavering in their commitment to a philosophy of life. With clarity comes incredible power and freedom. For most, clarity eludes us. We go around choosing opposing things, this confuses us. This internal state of conflict sends out messages to the universe and the subconscious mind. We end up living in a world of disharmony. This creates disillusion, suffering and leads to negative states of being. With these conflicting messages it is easy to see why people spend much of life unfulfilled and in a constant state of confusion and frustration. Mastery knows that once a clear and decisive course is taken we can move toward our true destination. The master knows there are many paths that lead to the same destination, they have a very clear purpose in life. Mastery involves being able to respond to obstacles and difficulties that present themselves, yet being able to remain unwavering in adversity.