A light unto yourself

The Blessed One had spent 50 years walking the land, teaching, giving us a vision of the sacred. Tonight, at 80 years of age, he had chosen to leave us and step into the unknown.

Although ill, he was a picture of grace and dignity. He lay on a large trunk of a fallen tree, his head resting on his right arm, his gaze looking downward. There was a feeling of deep peace on his face.

We had all gathered around him in the forest, about 30 of us, as we did everyday at dusk, to hear him teach. Most of us had travelled with him through the country for several years, stopping after every few weeks in one of the many forests that dotted the landscape of our land in those days. That evening, however, we knew that The Blessed One was very ill and would lie there quietly.

Soon, news of his going away from this life would spread, and people would come from far and wide to pay their last respects to the greatest teacher of our times. In the utter simplicity he exemplified all his life,  at dawn, his body would be put to fire and be absorbed by the elements, as all things are – something he never ceased to point out to us. But his spirit would remain with us forever.

That night, however, a full moon night, we were alone with our beloved teacher. The large, round moon shone strongly and cast its light on us gathered in the banyan grove. Ananda sat in front of us, eagerly waiting to minister to every bodily need of the teacher. The rest of us sat quietly.

There was sorrow, but there was also a deep peace. Our teacher was leaving this earth. It was a time as momentous as the time when he attained freedom, nirvana, fifty years ago. Then, he had freed himself from the bonds of this life but continued to live this life, to manifest his destiny as a great teacher. Tonight, he was leaving this life completely. The shattering realisation that he had come to fifty years ago was now coming to completion. He had given us a name for it – parinirvana – complete freedom, the total cessation of the flame of life, as we know it.

In his passing away, he was bringing us into touch with eternity. Hence, instead of weeping and worrying like people usually do, we sat there with a deep serenity, although not unmarked by sorrow.

The Blessed One’s gaze shifted from the ground towards us. He spoke slowly, each word considered deeply before uttered, with many silences in between.

“Tonight, I pass away into the Other, o bhikkus.

I leave you without myself, but not without the teaching. I shall be awake and alive in the teaching. As long as the teaching is alive, all that I stood for, all that I came to this earth to give, will also be alive.

But this teaching is not a teaching to be followed. It is a teaching to be tested against your own experience, a mirror to your own life, not an instruction to be obeyed.

Therefore, bhikkus, follow nobody, obey no authority, including this teacher’s. Put it all to the test of your experience. Live it, see if it applies to your reality, and if not, discard it.

Be a light unto yourself. A light that shines deep and bright in the darkness of the forest of life.

Be a light unto yourself. A light that burns away all suffering, that awakens the passion to live.

Be a light unto yourself. As I have been to this self. A light that brings warmth and insight to all on who it falls.

A light that will take you across the sea of bondage to unmentionable beauty.”

Having said this, the Blessed One closed his eyes. We sat in total silence for long. Perhaps an hour, perhaps more. The forest had gone to sleep, only the crickets creaked, amplifying the silence. The Blessed One’s breathing became slower, his chest arose and fell more softly, until it finally stopped. There was no sound, no movement, but absolute, total silence.

Our teacher had passed into eternity.

~ by tdcatss on November 29, 2015.

2 Responses to “A light unto yourself”

  1. Good post :)

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