Perhaps one of the most famous rallying cries of yogis, activists, optimists, anarchists, and anyone believing that it is possible for the world to live into its highest potential.
For years it had always seemed to shout “do good, be good!” to me. Which of course came with its accompanying self-disappointment when I did or was not. Then in a sudden shift in perspective, something I’d seen one way all my life, had a whole new connotation.
All my life false and real, right and wrong tangled.
Playing with the moon, ridiculing wind, listening to birds….
Many years wasted seeing the mountain covered with snow.
This winter I suddenly realize snow makes a mountain.
-Eihei Dogen, translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi
The only change possible, is the change we do ourselves. It is never possible to change another person, it’s not even possible to make someone a better person.
The one thing, the only thing, that ever happens, is that we are at our highest most centered and allowing state. When another steps into that place, they may be able to change. But it comes entirely from them. You did nothing, except yourself.
Even when we think we are with people who make us better by their example, they are not changing us. They have inspired self-reflection, perhaps, but then we decide how we will step next, which must necessarily be the one and only way WE step. We cannot be that person and their achievements.
So instead of Ghandi telling me “Be better! Save the world!”, I now hear him encouraging “Let the world and others be. The greatest support you can give to both is your highest most truthful and open self.”
Which inevitably returns me to Ram Dass:
“I would say that the thrust of my life has been initially about getting free, and then realizing that my freedom is not independent of everybody else. Then I am arriving at that circle where one works on oneself as a gift to other people so that one doesn’t create more suffering. I help people as a work on myself and I work on myself to help people.”
“In our relationships, how much can we allow them to become new, and how much do we cling to what they used to be yesterday?”
“What you meet in another being is the projection of your own level of evolution.”
“Only that in you which is me can hear what I’m saying.”