Heroes are messengers of hope. They personify the values which guide us, showing us that relying on values leads to good results, sometimes after a period of hardship. They play a cultural role than a single life.
Like many of us, I have been lucky to be growing with stories of heroes. Some of them were from religious books, and to my awe, some of them were living in recent history, or even at right then, when I was listening to the adults talking about them during formal dinners. Almost sacred atmosphere was surrounding these stories. The adults would stop eating to fully focus on the topic, their backs would solemnly straighten, and their faces would open into serene elevation when they discussed the values underlying the heroes’ goals and actions. These stories were more interesting than the fairy tales that I was given to read, they had a sense of witnessing something historic, something much more important than the everyday affairs.
These were the stories of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama, or Lech Walesa. Different people, with one thing in common: far before they were heroes, when they were just single person, standing alone in front of a huge apparatus of injustice and oppression. Yet, they did not remain silent, they did not give up their discomfort, they did not allow emotions to overcome them, but instead sought for the way. Contemplating about the goal and the way, they were able to explain it to others. Some people understood and followed. Very few at the beginning, probably only those with similar personality traits, even if they did not have the vision and clarity of a leader. When more people joined, the change became inevitable and won. Power is not in oppression, money or in social status, on the long run, the real power is in truth.
Buddhist belief system has an advantage, when it comes to heroism or personification of any value that we hold sacred – it teaches that heroes or holy beings are not merely somebody else, nor completely differently of us, these same features are ingrained in our own nature. Once a person believes that they can reach what they aspire to and that they transform their life into the path to their goal, nobody can stop them. People are not born as heroes; they are made through thousands of little decisions to act in a certain way and to refrain from the opposite. We ourselves are the ones who are either empowering or restricting the journey towards our goals through our beliefs and mental attitudes. There is always an opportunity for training.
And it helps if one learns and thinks, if I may add.