In your Golden Future, will there be a troupe of enlightened actors? Is it possible for a man who is enlightened to be an actor?
The enlightened man is an actor. He cannot be otherwise. He knows he’s not the body, yet he behaves as if he’s the body; he knows he’s not the mind, yet he responds as if he’s the mind. He knows he’s neither a child, a young man, nor an old man – a man, or a woman; yet he behaves as if he is.
The whole art of acting is behaving “as if.” The ordinary actor is superficial; he imposes a role upon himself, and acts accordingly. But the enlightened man finds for himself that other than to be an actor is to be in illusion, is to be blind, is to be in utter darkness. He does not take up a role, he finds himself already in the drama of life – recognizing himself that he’s not what he’s doing, he’s not what he is saying, he’s not what he appears to be.
And what he is, is beyond expression; what he is, only he knows. Nobody can be an audience to it. In his innermost being he’s the observer and he’s the observed; and the whole theater is empty. But he continues in the world – it is his sheer compassion; otherwise, for him there is no need to breathe a single breath more after his enlightenment.
Gautam Buddha used to tell his disciples, “Before you become enlightened, imbibe the spirit of compassion.” One of his disciples, Sariputta, asked him, “Why this insistence? – because we have heard you say many times that ‘enlightenment brings compassion,’ so what is the need to imbibe the state of compassion before enlightenment? This seems to be contradictory.”
Gautam Buddha said, “It seems to be contradictory, but the purposes are different. The compassion that comes to you after enlightenment…you will not be able to share it if you have not practiced, disciplined yourself before enlightenment for this tremendous experience to happen – to remain alive just for the sake of those who are still groping their way in the dark alleys of life.”
Hence, there are two kinds of enlightened people: one is called the arhata, and the other is called the bodhisattva. The arhata is one who has not disciplined himself in the art of compassion; so when he becomes enlightened, his work is finished. He has no need to linger on this shore of life, his boat is ready to go to the further shore.
The bodhisattva has the same experience of enlightenment, but he has disciplined himself in compassion; so when enlightenment comes to him – that tremendous treasure of knowing oneself, one’s love, one’s truth, one’s beauty, one’s joy, one’s blissfulness – he’s so disciplined in compassion that, although his boat has arrived, he will try to linger on this shore as long as he can, to share.