Article by Phillip Hawkins
There was once a young warrior who had grown arrogant and full of his own importance. Filled with boastful pride from his many victories and contemptuous of those he had vanquished. He was driven to prove he was invincible against any mortal man; only the gods had the power to defeat him.
A priest at his father’s court urged the headstrong warrior to learn humility, for such arrogance was a weakness that would lead to his downfall. To accept there would always be someone who was faster, stronger, and more skilled in battle. The priest pleaded for him to renounce the way of violence and learn the lesson of the five principles and seven truths from a Master who had never been beaten in combat. Unable to accept this simple truth and enraged by the thought there was one considered to be superior, he swore to find this mythical Master and return with his head as a trophy and testament of his victory. Preparations complete he set off on his quest to find and do battle with this mysterious and mythical Master, known only as a Master of the five principles and seven truths. Legend spoke of a fearsome and powerful war lord. Unbeaten in countless battles, he mysteriously renounced violence, rode out of his city alone one night, never to be seen again. It was said he had chosen a life of the spiritual brotherhood to seek a life of peace and tranquillity, a life of solitude and silence in some far off high desolate place.
The months stretched into years. For the warrior prince, it was a journey fraught with expectation and disappointment. Each Master he challenged left him contemptuous by their lack of skill, the hollow ring of their boastful words, and the shallowness of their wisdom. Such was his own self-belief he was totally oblivious to the fact each new adversary was simply reflecting his own arrogant personality.
Growing weary of his fruitless search he began to think this fictional Master was nothing more than a story told to scare the weak and feeble minded. That was, until a wandering monk who when questioned, said he knew of a recluse who may or may not be the person he was looking for. The monk’s story was vaguely familiar, like a distant echo fading out of reach. He advised him not to make this journey for all who had done so were never seen again. He urged him to reconsider the high price he may have to pay for immortality. His pride wounded, the prince demanded to be shown the path that would lead him to face his greatest challenge and claim his rightful place as the greatest warrior of all time. The old monk looked deep into his eyes and saw the fires of battle burning brightly and knew he would never be dissuaded from making a journey that would inexorably lead to his death.
Resigned to the inevitable outcome, the old man wearily raised his hand and pointed to an overgrown dirt road cutting through the nearby foothills that led to mist-shrouded mountains in the distance. Burdened by a great sadness the monk sat down on a rock at the edge of the road and took time to consider his next words. With a sigh of resignation, he instructed the young warrior follow the path he had shown him, commanding him not to veer to the left or the right, eventually you will come to a sheer rock face that will prevent you from going any farther. There you will find an entrance cut into the cliff face.
I beg you to reconsider what you are about to do, for once you enter through that doorway you will never be able to return to the life you once knew. Regardless of your youthful strength, your courage, and the skill learnt in many battles, they will be of no use to you. I must tell you the journey you are determined to take will cost you your life. You will face many battles each one harder than the last. If you are fortunate to stand before the great teacher, you will have to face unimaginable fears, a darkness beyond your comprehension. If you survive that final test you will be asked to forfeit your life, and you will willingly do so. If my words aren’t enough to deter you, begin your final journey and I pray that your Gods go with you, but even they know the final leg of your journey must be made alone and they will not interfere in what you are about to do. The warrior stood in silence, looked towards the mountains in the distance. Without speaking another word turned, and began to walk towards his destiny.
Confident in his ability to overcome any challenge before him he took a moment to look back as if to acknowledge he was on the final leg of his journey. The monk was nowhere to be seen and an eerie silence was overwhelming. It was as if the earth itself was holding its breath in anticipation of what was to come.
Following the monk’s directions he made steady progress, and after many days he came upon a sheer cliff face stopping him from going any further. The doorway when he saw it looked as natural as the rock that held it in place. Any hesitation was quickly overcome by bravado and the desire not to appear afraid in front of whoever was inside. Without knocking he forced the door open and stepped into the darkness. Once his senses grew accustomed to the lack of natural light he became aware of a small figure sitting on a dirty blanket in the centre of the room. The old man placed some dry twigs onto the ashes of an old fire which slowly came to life. Flames began to rise from the embers and eat into the cold and darkness that surrounded them, but did little to warm the air of the dank chamber. Taken aback by the pitiful sight before him, he laughed out loud before asking if the old man was the warrior he sought.
The old man smiled as he looked deep into the young warrior’s eyes. I was once a great warrior; some would say the greatest ever known, undefeated in over a 1000 battles and as many wars. But as you can see, my last battle took place many years ago, even before your grandparents were born. He raised his hand and pointed to a corner of the room deep in shadows. As if by silent command the flames rose from the embers to uncover the warrior’s armour and sword, rusted covered in debris and decay. Disgusted the young warrior spat his words out, I came to challenge the greatest Master and all that I have found is a decrepit old man, sitting in the dirt and filth spinning fantasies and make believe. What can you teach me, old man; speak whilst you have the chance before I take your life for wasting my time. “What I have told you is true, every word is both true and factual and should I choose to do so I could take your life before you could think to draw your sword.” There was a blinding flash of light and the old man stood in front of the warrior with the tip of his now gleaming polished sword at his throat.
Fear not my foolish young friend I am not here to kill you, but neither will I train you to become more proficient in the killing others. My role as Master of the five principles is to prepare you for the journey ahead during which you will have to overcome many challenges. You are not yet ready to make this journey, and if I allowed you to do so your first battle would also be your last. The warrior considered the old man’s words for a moment, and then asked what if I choose not to sit and listen to your council and simply kill you and leave the way I came in. The old man smiled as if hearing words spoken so many times before. I warned you in your father’s palace and on the road not to make this journey and the consequences of your actions. Using the tip of his sword he pointed past the young man. The door you came in, and your way out no longer exists for you. He spun round and to his horror realised the door he had entered only minutes earlier was no longer there, nothing but solid rock disappearing into the darkness on all sides. Confused with panic growing inside of him, the only means of escape was through a new door which appeared to be behind the old man.
The choice is yours – you can sit and learn, or you can draw your sword and die. I can’t allow you to leave here and return to your old ways. You will never be allowed to needlessly take another life ever again and now you must face up to the consequences of your actions. Foolishly the young warrior stepped back and drew his sword. The lesson had begun. In doing so the Master began to teach his unwilling student arrogance, pride and anger have no place in a true warrior’s heart.
Skills that served the young man so well in the past now appeared leaden and rudimentary. No matter how hard he tried the Master appeared to know what he was going to do before he had time to attack or defend himself. His sword was razor sharp and moved with such speed and grace, but the only thing it sought to sever were the cords that tied the young warrior to his conceit, arrogance, and pride. Very quickly he was reduced to a heap on the floor, exhausted and sobbing, to be beaten by such pitiful adversary. The old man stood before him and respectfully bowed his head before covering him with a blanket, allowing him to sleep. When he was ready and fully recovered he would begin the next leg of his journey, or the battle he had just fought and lost would be fought and lost countless times until his desire to fight was replaced by his desire to learn.
The old man sat down once more, put fresh kindling on the fire to keep the chilled air at bay. He closed his eyes and quietly waited the dawning of a new day, and the challenges it would bring. The task before him would need to be played out many times before the first of the five principles would be able to take root in the darkness that filled the young warrior’s heart and mind. Such was the anger and growing hatred a pattern was quickly established. He would rise to the challenge of defeating his ancient advisory, only to fall into the depths of despair as he was outclassed and out manoeuvred by what appeared to be a very frail old man who possessed immeasurable skills to kill him in an instant, but lacking all desire to hurt him in any way.
Time had lost all meaning, but had taken its toll on his appearance and his mental state. His fancy clothes and body armour were now foul smelling from the dirt and grime that covered him from head to foot. His hair and beard caked in vomit from the physical excursion. Far worse was the depression, and the feeling of being totally powerless against this demon in human form. He had sought immortality believing it to be his birthright, but lying in the darkness he had found only an unimaginable sense of despair he was defenceless against. With time the fights become more infrequent until the day finally dawned when the young warrior could rise no more. The clash of swords had been replaced by the sounds of the crackling embers as their sparks tried to rise and escape the flames that sought to consume them, and the pitiful sobs of a once proud and conceited man who now felt broken beyond repair.
Change always begins with a question; and when asked who are you. The old man knew the battle was over and the healing could commence in preparation of the next leg of his journey. In asking the question the warrior had become the student, damaged and subdued but still with the need to overcome the enemies in the guise of his own ignorance and fear. Before answering him the old man knelt down beside him and gently raised his head allowing his student to swallow a few drops of cool refreshing liquid that soothed his parched throat, and brought with it a deep and peaceful sleep. He eventually awoke, surprisingly refreshed and renewed. He was no longer dirty or disheveled; his clothes were clean if well worn, like that of an itinerant monk. Where once stood a pile of rusting and disused armour, now there were two.
They sat in easy silence without the need to fill the space between them with unnecessary words, but the question still remained waiting to be answered. When the answer came it did so naturally without any trace of pretence. Who am I? I am the Master of the first principle, the gatekeeper of the door behind me through which you must pass if you wish to eventually come face to face with the Master of the seven truths. Like you I came in search of immortality, and like you, I was also beaten into submission. I was taken apart and then put back together again, so I could be repaired, healed, and made whole. Everything you have witnessed and experienced since you entered here was nothing more than a reflection and a physical projection of what you were, your beliefs about yourself and of those around you. Even my initial appearance to you was created by you; we spoke at your father’s palace, then again at the roadside, and you saw what you expected to see. My appearance and the cave itself mirrored your contempt and disgust for anyone that you deemed beneath you, not deserving of your time and consideration. As you change so my appearance will change as you begin to look beyond what you think you see.
How do you undo what has been done? You can’t, and no amount of grief or regret will ever change that, the past can be revisited but never changed. The journey you have chosen to undertake will take you inexorably forward towards a better understanding of your true nature and who you really are. Part of that growing maturity is to accept the person you once were no longer exists. That is why the person who enters here never leaves the way in which they came.
This new understanding comes at a heavy price and brings with it a heart that grows heavier with guilt and remorse. Will I learn so much that this burden becomes unbearable and buries me beneath the weight of my own guilty conscience? That is for you to decide, but the heavy price you speak of is nothing compared to the price paid by those who suffered at your hands. You must choose the direction you take from here, I can point the way but you alone can make the journey, decide on the lessons you wish to learn, and the baggage you choose to carry. Unbridled regret will keep you locked into the past, fear that lacks discipline will stop you moving forward and guilt left to fester will eat away at your mind body and spirit, and ultimately destroy you. Redemption demands strength and courage and forgiveness is a virtue of the strong, what you have done cannot be undone and the first person you ask forgiveness from is yourself.
Others must find their own solutions when and where they are able to do so. Your responsibility is to yourself while ensuring your actions never knowingly harm or impede another’s journey. Your forgiveness to yourself is vital to your progress; if you wish to sit in judgement of your past actions you must consider the circumstances as well as the deeds themselves. We do only what we know how to; ignorance and fear are often the motivation to our actions and it is unwise and unjust to condemn a man for lessons not yet learnt. Your armour and sword lie rusted and discarded at your feet never to be used again. The battles ahead will demand self-discipline and the development of new strategies if you are to overcome the challenges you will have to face. Responsibility can be a heavy burden but the wise man learns in time to carry it lightly and you must decide how much baggage you are willing and able to carry on the next leg of your journey.
You said you were the Master of the first principle. What is this truth that I must learn before I can leave here? The first principle is based on the first of the seven great truths; we are all connected, and in hurting another we begin to destroy ourselves. Although outward appearances may convince us otherwise we are one and the same spirit, and what we do to others we do to ourselves. We are both cause and effect and the evil or good we do to others is first created in our hearts and minds, so we can never separate ourselves from the consequences of our actions. Anger and the rage it creates is toxic and if our intentions are poisoned so will we be. The desire to fulfil our most basic needs is natural and necessary to our development, but if ignorance and fear are our motivation we can become addicted to the fulfilment of those needs at any cost, and indifferent to whom pays the price. You were once driven to feed an insatiable need, a thirst that was impossible to quench no matter how hard you tried, you became so focused on your own needs and desires you gave no thought as to the people you destroyed in the process. To you, your actions were totally justified because they brought you what you wanted, but because your conquests couldn’t nourish your spirit you were continuously craving the next victory to make you feel whole and complete. Unfortunately, this was one battle you were never going to win.
You believe your time here has been spent fighting me with swords and armour, but in reality my role was simply to keep you safe and to stop you from hurting yourself unduly. I was never in any danger from you and except from the initial moment of conflict when you entered, the only person you fought with and defeated is yourself.
All I had to do was provide a safe environment and the opportunity for you to enter your own darkness to face and conquer your own demons. The light that illuminates this small space is nothing more than the dawning light of knowledge and understanding. You are becoming aware of your true self and once you accept that, the darkness you think surrounds us will simply evaporate back into the nothingness from which it came. Understand and accept the first truth and nothing can stand in your way. Many claim to know this truth but in reality very few understand it, for if they did, their actions would be totally different and they would embody truth demonstrated. In your time with me, the old has died and passed away and the new has begun to take form ready for you to leave. But before you do I must offer a final word of caution, once you step through the door behind me you can never return this way for you will have entered into another time and place, ready and prepared to face the challenges set for you by the Master of the second principle.
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A Reiki practitioner since 1999, Phillip started teaching Reiki in 2000 and using those skills and abilities he has spent the majority of the last seventeen years working with a wide range of social and educational needs including Autism and ADHD. Working with addicts dependent on alcohol and drugs, people whose lives were extremely violent and abusive, and others who had to deal with severe mental health issues. This has enabled him to work extensively in the private sector, schools, colleges, education and care in the community, the prison service and psychiatric units.
In 2016, Phillip decided to semi-retire from full-time employment to concentrate on developing his career as a published author and the setting up of his Reiki personal development programme at the Chilton Community College.