by Thich Nhat Hanh from SoundsTrue.com interview “Meditation Is not the Business of Monks Alone”
There is the collective consciousness and the individual consciousness. Our individual consciousness is made of our collective consciousness, and our collective consciousness is made of our individual consciousness. We reflect everything. And everything reflects us. And the process begins with yourself. Awareness, enlightenment, mindfulness within yourself. And you offer, first of all, a light, from within. That light, once lit up, will show you two things. What is wrong in you, what is not wrong in you.
What is not wrong you try to maintain and develop. What is wrong you try to transform. And while practicing that you realize that you have the capacity of saying what is wrong around you, and what is not wrong around you, so you see that you are connected to your society. And what you are doing for yourself, you are doing it for your society also. When you refrain from using drugs and intoxicants, you do not do it only to protect yourself; you do it for your children, for your friends, for society at the same time. Because if you don’t do it, how can you expect other people to do it for you? Therefore, you practice for all of us, and your practice has already had an impact on me, and on other people. You have already begun to change the world.
By lighting up the lamp of lightfulness in you and recognizing what is positive in you to renourish, and negative in you to be transformed, you have begun your social action from yourself. And when I see you doing like that, I receive your light. I know that in order to be worthy of you, I have to do the same. I have to light up the candle in me, I have to recognize the positive and the negative in me, I have to take care of both aspects. And you form a sort of single of two people. And when a third person comes in, and they get struck by our light, our awareness, our practice, and they join our single, we have three persons, and from that base, we advance, and we create the collective awareness, the collective environment, and if you happen to be a movie maker, I happen to be a writer, then it was our development, in order to kind of create that kind of collective awareness that is enlightenment.
People have to be enlightened on their own situation. And that is why enlightenment is so crucial for our survival, for our happiness. In our society, we have witnessed to several forms of enlightenment. Maybe we don’t call them enlightenment, but they are real enlightenments. Like in North America, you are aware, already, that smoking is hazardous to your health. And you make and inscription on every package of cigarette. Be aware: Smoking might be dangerous. And that is a form of enlightenment. And ten years ago, we did not dream of having non-smoking flights to Europe, to Asia, but now, we have non-smoking flights to Europe and to Asia. And that is enlightenment. We awake to the real situation, and we make our enlightenment grow. Because there were companies who did not want to make a non-smoking flight. But because people were awakening, so they appreciate a non-smoking flight—that is why these companies they have to create a non-smoking flight also.
And suppose you are more aware on what you are eating. You don’t want a lot of fat, of cholesterol—because you want to consume less cholesterol, you want to protect your body—and the degree of enlightenment is important, that is why manufacturers of food they have to comply with your wish, and they have to join in the work of enlightenment. And if you are a scientist, a teacher, a writer, an artist, you can always bring your talent into helping our enlightenment to grow, and that is the hope for our world. Meditation is not the business of monks and nuns alone. Meditation is the business of every one of us. Whether we are politician or economists, or teacher, we have to get enlightened. We have to wake up to the situation that our world if we don’t want the destruction of our world. If we want the world to survive. And then we have to speed up that kind of awakening. Of enlightenment—otherwise, it would be too late. That is why no one can be indifferent about enlightenment, or awakening. The quicker we wake up, the better the chance we have for our children and their children.