Personal enlightenment with compassion
facilitates the collective enlightenment of all.
Each of us has this chance for free will, but we cannot have it alone. Our individual karma, our environment, and our collective karma are interdependent. Earlier, we used the example of a candle offering light. The candle not only offers light, but it also offers heat, fragrance, and even water and carbon. This is the offering of the candle to the environment. The candle partly creates its own environment. And what the candle has created also influences the candle. The light emitted by the candle is shed back on the candle; you can see the candle very clearly by its own light. And the heat causes the wax to melt so that absorption of the fuel becomes easier. So everything the candle offers, the candle also receives.
Suppose there is a second candle and this candle also shines around herself. We may think of the first candle’s light as individual, but you know that her light is also reaching the second candle. So the candle’s light is not exactly individual and it is also not exactly collective. There is nothing completely individual and there is nothing completely collective. The part is there in the whole and the whole contains the part.The light from the candles is a collective manifestation. It is the outcome, not of one candle, but of two candles. Imagine one thousand candles operating at the same time, and the light is a collective offering, a collective manifestation of all candles.
When you come to Plum Village, the mindfulness community where I live, you offer your personal, individual energy. The way you think, the content of your thinking, the way you speak, the content of your speech, the way you act and the content of your acts all contribute to the atmosphere of Plum Village. If your thinking is compassionate and tolerant, you make a positive contribution to the beauty, the peace, the love of Plum Village. And if your thinking is full of discrimination, worries, and hate, you do not make a positive contribution. That is why everything is collective and personal at the same time. The collective is made of the personal, and the personal is made of the collective.