This morning in the shower I was thinking about a quote I read once that was supposedly by the Buddha.
"Before Enlightenment chopped wood, carried water. After Enlightenment chopped wood, carried water." If this is true it begs the questions "Why the hell are we striving for Enlightenment then?!". It also makes me wonder what exactly enlightenment means anyway. If I'll still be chopping wood and carrying water what will be different after enlightenment? I'm glad the world didn't end yesterday. This gives me more time to try to figure out what it means to be enlightened.
Of course since I haven't had the opportunity to sit down with Buddha and ask him what exactly he meant by that quote and since he'd probably ignore my question anyway I'll share my own thoughts about what I think he may have meant by "Before Enlightenment chopped wood, carried water, after
Enlightenment chopped wood, carried water".
*The first thing that comes to mind is, just because you are enlightened doesn't mean you are now
exempt from doing your duty of serve to others.
*Perhaps the attitude towards chopping wood and carrying water changes. Instead of grumbling about having to chop wood and carry water every day without being appreciated we'll begin doing the work joyfully. Perhaps we'll begin feeling gratitude for the tree that gave up it's life so that we can have fire to keep us warm. Gratitude for the water that keeps our bodies healthy. Gratitude for the strength of our bodies that enable us to do the work.
*In the ordinary chores of the day I find an opportunity to practice yoga. While washing the dishes, folding the laundry, sweeping the floors I remember the mantra. In this way, the ordinary chores become an offering to the Divine. There is a little more joy in the work when I remember that.
*Easwaran says that you know you are progressing in your meditation practice not when you can travel out of your body to South America but when you can be more forgiving, more patient, more compassionate. In this way, we can look upon the job of chopping wood and carrying water as a way of helping to lighten someone else's burden. As we become more compassionate, forgiving and patient, we guide others to do the same by our example.
*Anyone can meditate when they are hiding out in a cave somewhere with no-one around and with no responsibilities. It doesn't impress me when people talk of going on retreat to meditate. What impresses me is when someone comes to the aide of a friend in need - even when that means having to skip their meditation practice. That's Enlightenment folks. Putting the needs of others before your own.
*Recognizing our own patterns and working to change the negative patterns - that's Enlightenment. When we can witness the crazy thought waves of the mind and recognize the self doing the thinking at the same time as recognizing the self watching the thinker thinking the thoughts..... Oh God, I think I just gave myself a headache - but you get the idea. When we recognize that we are not our thoughts and that we can change our thoughts which will change our attitude - then the spark that leads to Enlightenment is ignited.
*Probably the most important thing is that as long as we are having this human experience we may make mistakes. We will make wrong choices. We may fall back into old negative patterns. What's important is not kicking yourself but doing the next right thing. With each next right thing we'll surely find ourselves continuing the processing of uncovering the veils of maya. As we remove the veils, our own inner light shines a bit brighter. Our Enlightenment becomes more and more evident. After all - we're all already Enlightened - we just can't see it yet.
*If you want to find a truly Enlightened being - look for the person who is chopping wood and carrying water - joyfully.