AFTER NEARLY A HALF CENTURY of teaching, the Buddha lay dying surrounded by his distraught disciples. In tearful whispers they pleaded, “Blessed One, who will be our teacher now? Who will guide us? How will we achieve enlightenment without your help?”
The Buddha’s last words were, “Be your own light.”
All those who had followed his teachings understood. The truth is the light. Seek the truth, and the truth shall set you free. Free from sleep — Sleepers awake! When Siddhartha Gautama “woke up,” he was recognized as “The Awakened One,” a Buddha. He was his own light, he was enlightened.
Everyone has their own light. Inside each of us is the glow of the memory of who we really are, where we come from and where we are going. In this light, the sound of truth can be heard, clear as a temple bell. In a moment, there is an understanding and awareness of the answers to our questions. Everything appears to be exactly as it should be, with a divine reason for everything. A sense of profound love and gratitude may overflow into tears and laughter.
Throughout history people have experienced enlightenment, a sudden illumination that reveals a larger reality. For a moment, an hour, a day, a year, people flower, unfolding to receive the Light. Enlightenment is this experience. It is an awakening to the awareness that everything is connected. It may be felt as a sudden resonance, an awareness of the vibration of life energy and intelligence all around you. In an instant, you know everything intuitively, being a part of everything. Then the questions and questioner disappear, and only the Universe as it is remains.
It may come by meditation, music, sport, sex, gardening, touching a wild animal, or a near-death experience. Any moment will do. It is always there.
The Buddha realized that everything is connected. There is only the One. Separateness is an illusion. When Indra, the Hindu Lord of Heaven, fashioned the Universe, he cast an infinite net in all directions. He tied a pearl at each knot. Every atom that exists is a pearl. Every thought, every moment is another pearl. If you look at one, you see all the other pearls reflected in it. Like a hologram, each pearl contains the whole image.
Modern science has confirmed the existence of a mysterious membrane embedded in the Universe that communicates information across vast distances instantly. Physicists call this interconnectedness “quantum entanglement.” Albert Einstein described it as “spooky action at a distance,” because nothing known could travel faster than the speed of light. Cause and effect appear to intersect everywhere at once.
Einstein came to the same realization as the Buddha: “A human being is a part of the whole called by us ‘the Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest, a kind of optical illusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening the circle of understanding and compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Many people have had these same realizations throughout history. What they have said about their insights and revelations has been repeated and passed on, becoming in time, maxims, proverbs, poetry and scripture. In India, they call them Mahavakays, or Great Statements, words that echo with the experience and wisdom of many lifetimes. They reflect the lessons of love, happiness, judgment, religion, and other gateways to understanding the reality and meaning of our common pilgrimage through life. They reveal the secrets and clues to being your own light.
These words of wisdom are stepping stones to another point of view, extending our vision with the benefit of insight, hindsight and foresight. They enable us to see beyond the limits of our own mind, revealing new answers and new directions. We all have our own itinerary in life, but words that resonate with Truth illuminate our path.