When the great North Indian poet, Kabir, was in his final years,
he was asked to preach to a crowd of adoring devotees.
Kabir who, by trade, was a skillful weaver,
but who created the greatest poems India has ever heard,
looked deeply into the eyes of everyone around him.
Finally, Kabir decisively stepped back.
He lovingly admonished his disciples,
“To whom shall I preach?
For I only see God when I look around me.
How can God preach to God?”
You may have had occasion to pick a team, at work, school or in volunteer activities. You may have asked yourself, “Shall I pick the people I like most? Or shall I choose those who can do the best job?”
If you are like most of us, you first picked the people you liked and then considered any of the rest.
However, picking what Steve Jobs of Apple called an “A-Team” is not everything. You also need to move, touch and inspire them. You must appreciate their talents, see their highest potential and be satisfied with nothing less than their very best.
In most of our lives, Mom is the original guru. She is nurturing and supporting. She loves us just as we are. She sees us always as our pride and joy. At times she gets so carried away with our greatness that she assumes we can do no wrong, and willingly defends us unto death.
As we move forward in our lives, we enter into school, and then a job or business, a family, and then civic life. Today, women are as apt to be leaders as men. The glass ceiling has been forever shattered. Yet many of us get all caught up with our own ego.
We are often over-achievers, proud that we beat others in sports, political races, or in landing that big business deal. We long to hear that we are truly great and seldom acknowledge the others on our team who really made it happen.
A truly great leader never takes credit.
He always praises his team for any victories, and personally assumes responsibility for any losses. When a team member fails, he has failed. He deeply believes that he has the best possible team and feels highly privileged to lead them.
If we look into history to the people who really changed the world, not for a few years only, but for entire centuries and millennia, we might want to start with the Buddha.
Here was a crown prince who left His throne and joined the beggars seeking enlightenment. He abandoned all privileges of caste and treated everyone as equals.
Before Buddha, enlightenment was a very esoteric concept available only to a few. In India, you were not usually considered qualified to be enlightened unless you were a Brahman. Siddhartha, Himself, was born a Raj, or ruler, but considered to be only the second highest class.
As a former ruler, He set about to abolish all class distinctions. He dreamed of enlightenment being every human being’s birthright.
Even more daring, Buddha set up the preconditions for enlightenment to become an institution with a set of principles and inner technologies that could scientifically engineer a person’s awakening, whether they be prince or pauper.
Even more, Buddha had to teach this understanding in such a way that it would survive centuries before being recorded on palm leaves.
Eventually, Buddhists missionaries went round the known world. They even won over a prominent king to enlightenment, Ashoka, who decreed noninjury to all sentient beings.
If we look at Western civilization, Jesus of Nazareth, a village carpenter, takes a comparable position. Like Siddhartha, He had a universal vision far ahead of his time, the Kingdom of God characterized by divine love, where the greatest person among us would be the servant of the least.
Jesus probably knew early on in His ministry that His stay here would be brief. He chose to work with very ordinary people.
When He chose His 12 Apostles, He did so with prayerfully and with great care. They were merchants and trades people, much like Him. He had to bring them up to speed, and carry on the message He pioneered in country after country and century after century.
At first, Jesus sent His Apostles out to nearby villages two by two in order to heal people and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God. They were highly successful and apprenticed under Him for three years.
Then, as Jesus was about to die, He had to give them faith that, when they were scattered after the first wave of persecution, they would come back together. Jesus correctly prophesied that, “the gates of Hell” (meaning the grave) would not prevail against His followers. The more Christians died, the more people became Christian.
Like Buddha, it is impossible to overemphasize the influence of Christ in opening up every continent and country on the Planet. However, would Jesus have succeeded in His mission had He not saw the divine potential of his followers? In Him, they became truly great.
When we come to modern times, we can’t ignore Mother Teresa of Calcutta, recently sainted by Pope Frances I. Here was a nun from Macedonia assigned to serve Christians in one of India’s greatest cities.
As Teresa went about her business, an untouchable woman, about to die, came up to her. She couldn’t get help from the hospital on account of her caste. Teresa warmly embraced her as the woman died in her arms.
That experience forever changed Teresa, and made her into one of the greatest saints of all time.
She determined that this should never happen to another untouchable, and started to create “the City of Joy” right in the middle of the slums of Calcutta.
Theresa saw divinity in the untouchables, and gave them a sense of dignity that deeply impacted people all over India.
Mother Teresa was so inspiring that Princess Diana, an extremely popular member of the British royal family, deliberately sought her out and honored her. Perhaps it is no accident that they both died at about the same time.
In our contemporary world, we have been touched, directly or indirectly, in every way by Steve Jobs and his Apple, Inc. As everyone knows, Steve started out of his garage with his high school buddy, “Woz,” after a trip to India.
Steve had a vision of an apple grove in Oregon, and dreamed of making computers for home and education that all the rest of us could use.
Steve went on to make history with his world-famous Macintosh team, who built the first computer with sexy graphics that could actually talk to an audience. Steve deeply loved machines and wanted to bring them to life.
He hand-selected his Mac team, and then fired them up with his vision of building a computer that “even their mother would love.” They worked 80 hours a week, and ate it up! They would dread Steve’s calling them “bozos,” and live for the moment he called them geniuses, like him.
Finally, Steve etched the names of his original team right inside the Macintosh box, and praised them for not simply being engineers, but for being digital artists.
Many years later, after Steve had been fired from the very company he created through a board-room fight, he visited Apple, then at the brink of bankruptcy. Steve observed the genius of a single industrial designer, Johnny Ive, and decided to come back.
He took on the project so successfully that he devoted his final breath to Apple, transforming it into what was then universally acknowledged as the most valuable company in the world.
Steve opened up humanity to the possibilities of creativity and full self-expression through human-friendly, intelligent machines.
He literally lit up the world. Very few people who ever worked with him regretted the experience, even when he berated them, because Steve saw their ultimate potential, and held them firmly to that standard.
Do you see now how an enlightened person always has only magnificent people around him/her? And we are not talking about an enlightened person’s character flaws here. We are talking about an enlightened being who dedicates himself or herself to the growth of other persons, and for the greater good.
How can you profit from these deeply inspiring men and women? It might help to realize that a hero is an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances.
Enlightened heroes are people who rise up to the challenges of their time and commit to changing the world, no matter how unlikely it may seem.
You can do several things today with the people in your life. If you consistently do them, and you don’t already lead the team, you soon will.
Above all, remember that you are great, that you are divine, and that empowerment and enlightenment are your birthright… and are your destiny!