What Shakespeare Can Teach Us about Enlightenment

All the World’s a Stage

When I was an undergraduate many years ago, my deep admiration for the works of William Shakespeare first blossomed. My passion for his plays has been an integral part of my life, and his writings have taught me many important things.

Shakespeare: An Enlightened Being

During my undergraduate years, I had the privilege of taking a Shakespearean class and was also able to travel through Europe.  I vividly remember going to Stratford-upon-Avon and watching a Shakespeare play, As You Like It.  The words, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts; his acts being seven ages,” struck a profound chord deep within me.  Shakespeare’s words are not merely those of a playwright but instead, those of an enlightened being. He describes who we are with great insight and accuracy.

It’s Just a Play

Everything is one. There can only be that which is permanent. That which is permanent has always been and always will be. Everything arises from this oneness, this non-dual, this supreme self or supreme reality.  Anything that is impermanent will change.  It cannot be that which is real because it won’t last.  It can only be a reflection or, to use an analogy, a play.  Our life is a play and it’s being played so well that we’ve forgotten that we’re the director, the players, the stage, the words, and everything else.

In forgetting this important information, we have caused suffering upon ourselves. If we realize that life is but a stage and that all that we are is a witness, then our suffering can end. We may roar out with laughter during the happy parts and we may cry out with pain during the sad, but we can stand back and realize it’s just a play. Without the attachments, the suffering ends.  We can just be with life; we flow with it and accept it.

Forgetting Our Supreme Reality Has Caused Us to Suffer

We are that out of which everything comes. When we awaken to this truth, then we discover who we are.  We can deeply enjoy life’s play because we don’t identify with the players anymore. Yes, there is still pain and pleasure, but because we don’t identify with these parts, they come and go; we, however, remain the true self of who we are.  We awaken to the fact that we are the dreamer and the playwright of our play: ultimately, we are the Shakespeare of the Universe.  All we have to do is play our part,…

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