Appo Deepo Bhava- Be a light unto yourself

By Dr Ramala Sarma

As the whole world trembled by the news of the devastating earthquake of Nepal, the birthplace of the Buddha, different social networking sites on Buddhism are sending out positive vibes for this quake-hit Himalayan tion. They run the great words of the Buddha: How can we live in the present moment, live now with the people around us, helping to lessen their suffering and making their lives happier? How? The answer is this: We must practice mindfulness.

One might wonder what good mindfulness could do to a tion that is currently experiencing all sorts of pains and miseries. The Buddha said that cultivating mindfulness is the key to overcoming suffering and recognizing tural wisdom. Mindfulness helps us become aware of what is already true moment by moment. It teaches us how to be present with whatever is happening, no matter what it is. It helps us be more present with ourselves just as we are. Thus it teaches us how to stop continuous suffering that results from our attempt to escape discomfort we inevitably experience as an outcome of simply being alive. Eventually it shows us glimpses of inherent wisdom.

Thus for the Buddha, our end lies within us and hence our journey is a journey within ward. Here the self is the means as well as the guide. Though we need a master to guide us, all he could do for us is to show the way. Probably it is what the Buddha meant when he said ‘Appo Deepo Bhava’ to Anda, his disciple.

Appo Deepo Bhava or be a light unto yourself— these were the last words of the Buddha, his parting message to his disciples. As the Buddhist legend goes, Anda was the chief disciple of the Buddha. He had been with the Enlightened for forty-two years, just like a shadow, non-stop, day out and day in. Even then he had not become enlightened till the Buddha’s last day on this mortal world. Thus when the Buddha was dying, Anda started crying and he said, what will I do now? You are parting but I have not yet become enlightened. Then the Buddha said to him, don’t cry. That is the difficulty. I cannot make you enlightened— only you can do that miracle to yourself. Nobody can do anything for others. Be a light unto yourself. The Buddha arrived at this conclusion from his own experience with the masters he took refuge in.

To study under a suitable master in the initial stage of his spiritual pursuit, the novice Siddhartha (the early me of the Buddha) too went to the one who had the highest reputation and practiced his doctrine. Under his guidance, though he achieved the great art— the high degree of mental concentration— it did not get him to the ultimate goal he was seeking. Soon he left him and joined another master whose ultimate achievement was the highest stage in worldly concentration. Even there the novice Siddhartha could not find what he was trying to attain ultimately. This led him to abandon the idea of learning any more from other masters. He set out to find his own solution to what troubled him in this worldly life.

Prince Siddhartha’s trouble was nothing but the process of aging, decaying and dying. As we all know, in his early life, Siddhartha was a prince living in the lap of luxury destined to be a king of a wealthy and influential land. However, he saw himself being a helpless victim in the process of aging, decaying and dying— the vicious cycle— what we call the inevitable events of our life. The questions that churned up in his troubled mind were— Are we really helpless here? Is there any way out of this vicious cycle? So to seek the answers to these questions, Price Siddhartha left the royal palace and the princely life. His search, however, was not for a heavenly blissful life; it was not to escape what we call worldly miseries. Rather his intent was to attain the wisdom that would eble him to view the worldly phenome as they are.

His practice helped him realize that our problem lies within. We view things through the lens of our beliefs, opinions and prejudices— the tools responsible for our partial view of the world inside and outside of us and thus for our eventual suffering. Hence he turned his attention toward his own mind, i.e., on just one single object. Gradually his mind became calmer and his senses settled down without a rush of information flooding in. Filly, he sharpened his mind to a level that it turned into a colossal force which could penetrate through all phenome— mental and physical— and give a clear pictures of what they are.

This tranquillity of Siddhartha’s mind and the associating force he attained could be compared to a laser gun or superconductor. We know that in a normal beam of light, the photons scatter in all directions making it weak. This implies that ordiry photons are non-coherent as well as out of phase. However, when we send a beam of light through a lens we can see a certain degree of coherence making it powerful enough to burn a piece of paper. Similarly, the thought waves from a super concentrated mind could be said to be forming one single wave function which can be directed when one wishes to penetrate the desired elements.

To attain a super concentrated mind, Prince Siddhartha had to stop all inputs from the six senses, viz., eye, ear, nose, tongue, the physical body and the mind itself. For they instigate us to weave out a worldly life based upon experiences, biases, prejudices and attachments of all kind. He rooted them out with his great tool, super concentration of mind. As he removed them, his mind became blessed and pure with a quality unknown before. This purity was surrounded by wisdom called ‘penetrative wisdom’ that could penetrate through the veil of our worldly knowledge, beliefs and opinions, and see the true ture of all things.

Filly, Siddhartha became the knower of what really reality is. Light arose in him; Prince Siddhartha became the Buddha, the Enlightened— a state which is called Nirva in Sanskrit. ‘Nir’ means no and ‘va’ means weaving. Hence Nirva means the stop of weaving of the worldly life and its continuum based on desire, lust, hate and delusion etc.

Thus our journey is a journey of self-discovery. It is to go in, see and kindle the truth within. It is not a question of learning or of achieving but a question of recognition. It is to awaken inner wisdom— the great power to accept everything as it is, the capability to see I in the moment. The moment ‘I’, the moment ‘we’ and the ‘moment happening’ are the most real things what we have to count. For the truth is not outside but in the innermost sanctum of our being, not there but here, not then but now.

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