Rice or Flowers?

The simple formula for liberation

A new article by Ohad Pele
Highden, New Zealand, April 2020

A well-known Buddhist story tells about a monk that lived like a beggar. Every day he would ask for charity until he gathered two Rupees. Then for one Rupee he would buy a bowl of rice to feed himself and with the other coin he would go and buy a beautiful flower. When people asked him why he was spending half of his fortune for a flower he would answer, pointing to his rice bowl: “This is what I live from” and then pointing to the beautiful flower he continued: “And this is what I live for!”

It seems that humanity in general had forgotten what it lives for. We have forgotten the flower and focused on the rice bowl. In an endless pursuit after means to sustain our survival we had forgotten what we live for? What is the meaning of life? What is actually worth living for and what is worth dying for, or at least spending half of our energy, time and money for.

The gift of the Corona time that had landed upon us is that it had just stoped many of us from the endless business of earning our rice bowl and put us at home, in isolation, pushed to think and feel what is the meaning of our lives. Humanity was forced to long for the “flowers” that without them life is worthless. 

In the Jewish tradition this full moon is the celebration of freedom. For thousands of years Jews celebrate the redemption of their ancestors from slavery to Pharaoh in ancient Egypt and the exodus. 

What fuels such a heroic move out of slavery is the burning of the soul inside the individuals, the individuals that form a group that stands and says enough! No more! We are willing to risk survival for meaning, as life without love and freedom is worse than death. 

The crisis that our modern society was lead into is equal to the 10 plagues that according to the biblical myth stroke the empire of Egypt and allowed the ancient Hebrews to stop working as slaves, bake simple bread (the Matza) and leave to the desert, to the unknown. 

The biblical mythology of the exodus is a story about individuals who feared how deeply unhealthy their civilisation is and who said no more! We are outa here! We are going to create a new civilisation in the “promised land” and even if we do not know the path, and even if we need to wander through the desert with no GPS we are going to do that. We are going to risk our comfortably numb slavery life style for it made us forget who we are and why we are. We have almost forgotten the Flower.

Of course not everybody was willing to take the risk. 

The Hasidic masters have already said that it is much more difficult to take slavery out of the people than to take the people out of slavery. Moses could guide the people out of slavery but to uproot the slave mentality out of the people, that needed some inner work of each individual, and for that 40 years in the desert were needed before crossing the Jordan river to enter the holy land. 

Many of my friends and students around the world are passing these days articles and YouTubes filled with theories that claim to prove that the governments and the health industry are lying to us all about the Covid-19 phenomena. The real truth is all about some small group of people with financial power who are just thirsty for more and more power and who are trying to control us all under a totalitarian umbrella. The real story, so they say, is about control versus freedom and human rights. It is a story of the new Pharaohs trying to enslave the whole world. 

While I had never been so naive to think that governments or the media had ever told us the truth about anything meaningful (therefore already as a young man I had refused to go to the Israeli army and was never following “the news”) I am neither naive enough to believe the alternative “truths”. As someone who spent years aligning with the Great Mystery of life, I feel quite comfortable in the Not-Knowing. 


But here is what I do know: The real freedom is the freedom of each of us to stand for love in our inner world and to chose love over mere survival. As a civilisation, for some thousands of years we have chosen survival over love, yet in the big game of this universe those who choose this way will paradoxically not survive. Life that is all wrapped around survival is life lead by fear, and fear is usually a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

My blessing therefore for all of us, me included, in this Passover, in this full moon, is to bring back the beautiful flower to the centre of our attention, to ask ourselves what do we live FOR and make it at least as important as what we live from. This will fuel us with such immense power that no one could ever control us anymore. 

Happy Passover !

חג חירות שמח