Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Fable of the Four Philanthropists

Once upon a time, there was a small town besieged by war. Invading marauders eventually captured the land, built a prison in middle of the town square, and imprisoned all the warrior men of the community. And every day citizens would see their sons and fathers suffering behind bars in the middle of the town square. Unable to bear it any longer, 4 philanthropists got together and decided to make an offering of peace. 

The first philanthropist went to the jailer and said that he had a lot of money and couldn't stand to see the prisoners without fresh water. He begged for mercy so that he could spend all his money to buy fresh water for the prisoners to drink. The invaders allowed it and the philanthropist felt at peace with his offering. 

The second philanthropist went to the jailer and said he had a lot of livestock and couldn't stand to see the prisoners sleeping on rocks and dirt. He begged the jailer to be allowed to use his sheep and animal skins to make beds and pillows for the prisoners. The invaders allowed this gift and the philanthropist felt at peace. 

The third philanthropist went to the jailer and said he had a very large farm and he couldn't stand to see prisoners eating so poorly that many were malnourished. He begged the jailer to be allowed to bring all his food from the farm and make meals for the prisoners. The invaders allowed this gift and philanthropist felt at peace. 

The fourth philanthropist had neither farm, nor livestock, nor money. He was very poor. But he was a saint. So for his gift he did what any saint would do: he stole the jailer's keys, snuck back to the jail at night, and released all the prisoners. And he felt at peace with this offering. 

I listened to this story on a Wayne Dyer CD as I drove through Miami. I thought about the offering of comfort. It is nice to have good food in the prison of this life, good clothes, and luxurious sleep while inside the prison. But how much better it would be to just leave the prison. It's a frightening proposition because we've been told that we are born into the jail cell of this body and the only way we leave it is through death.

Many spiritualities promise salvation after death. Yet the esoteric branches of these same major religions hint at something else. From the Kabbalah sect within Judaism, to the Sufi mystics of Islam, to the Christian transcendentalist, as well as Hindu and Buddhist Tantric practitioners, they have all looked at this belief and said 'yes, but what if it was different? What if we didn't have to die to get out of the cell? What if this life is not synonymous with the prison? Then the prison we are trapped in must be something. And life can be lived in a different way and in freedom.

I wonder about the convergence of all these religions along with the science of quantum physics. It feels like these things have been predicted by the Dalai Lama as well as A Course in Miracles. It seems as if our society's are reaching a point where we're realizing that the attitude of 'wait until death' isn't good enough any more. And it would be criminal for me to waste time in this life consumed with ensuring basic comfort for myself and my family instead of learning how to leave this prison while in this life.

There are days when I am consumed by the first 3 philanthropists.  I just want the money, the comfort, feeding my ego with the thoughts of fame. There is nothing wrong with wanting comfort. I don't even think there's anything wrong with dreaming of reaching more people and having a good reputation. But only when that comfort can be used to achieve the clarity of the fourth philanthropist so that I can find the keys to freedom.

1 comment:

yo said...

Thank you for posting this. It's been on my mind lately and I needed to review it. I appreciate your perspective. I find myself in the prison/cave whatever and wondering what it's like in those other rooms/mansions perhaps. I was mainly looking for this story to help with a new vocation choice. I could find something and continue to help provide comfort for prisoners; after all most of us will remain prisoners. However, I can find no fulfillment in the projection of that. I need to leave, I have the key, but yet I do not know how.