Mystic Mantra: The extinguished lamp

The process of uncovering one’s potential for Buddhahood could be likened to the lighting of the inner lamp

It is said that when Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, lay dying, his disciples entreated him for one last teaching. He, who had already taught all that he knew, who had spent decades delineating the path to enlightenment, what might he have to say at the end? Just this — “Appa deepo bhava!” Be lamps unto yourselves. This Deepawali as we light our homes, let us take a moment to think about the inner illumination the Buddha pointed to in his last words. How might we become lamps unto ourselves? There are two points of emphases in this statement — “lamps” and “yourselves”. In saying “unto yourselves”, the teacher is laying the responsibility of working towards enlightenment upon the student. Do not think of the teacher as the one who will illuminate you. Do not outsource your spiritual work. The teacher can point towards the path; it is you who has to actually walk on it. Thus, the dying Buddha asks his students to look beyond him, the form of the teacher, which will die soon. The real illuminant is within.

The process of uncovering one’s potential for Buddhahood could be likened to the lighting of the inner lamp. Ignorance of our true nature has engulfed the inner lamp in a veil of darkness that cloaks its glow. This darkness is made of unwholesome states of mind. It needs to be illumined bit by bit, with the flame of knowledge. This could be done by successively watching the mind when it is overwhelmed by an unwholesome mental state, and then countering it with the cultivation of an opposite, and wholesome, mental state. Through knowing and observation, the effect of the negative mental state is reduced, and by shining the light of a counter positive state, the negative mental state can be successfully rooted out.

Let’s see how this might work. Say I am prone to anger. Watching myself in the moment that I get angry creates the necessary mental distance from anger, lessening its intensity. In addition, if I am able to cultivate the quality of loving-kindness towards all beings over a period of time, it will act as an antidote to the poison of anger. Gradually I will find myself less prone to it, and more attuned to a wider view of life where my own wants are not the centre of my universe any longer. Interestingly, nirvana is also explained using the analogy of a lamp. Just as a lamp, when its oil is exhausted, will extinguish on its own, so will we along with our suffering when the oil that fuels us — karma through ignorance — is exhausted through knowledge and directed self-effort. The entire adventure of spiritual seeking, then, is the lighting of one lamp, of inner illumination, so that another lamp, of the self, might be extinguished. This Deepawali let us hope our inner lamps will light our paths to extinguishment, to nirvana.

Swati Chopra writes on spirituality and mindfulness. Blog:

Download the all new Deccan Chronicle app for Android and iOS to stay up-to-date with latest headlines and news stories in politics, entertainment, sports, technology, business and much more from India and around the world.

( Source : swati chopra )
Next Story