What is the light within? An excerpt from the Upanishads on Easter Sunday

Updated: Apr 29, 2020

As a reflection of the beautiful guiding light of intuition, the strength and the resiliency within each of you, I want to share the following excerpt from the Upanishads. I hope you'll set aside a moment to enjoy reading it and that you'll carve out some sacred time for self care on this Easter Sunday.


A king (Janaka) made a wish that he could ask any question of a sage (Yājñavalkya) any time he desired and that the sage could not refuse to teach him. Because of the boon that he had received from sage Yājñavalkya, that he could ask questions, Janaka again asks some questions. Here is the beginning of an important philosophy. Janaka asks: "What is the light which illumines this person?" In this human being, what is the light which illumines itself and illumines others? What is the power depending on which the person works? Ultimately, it is a sort of illumination, an awakening, a knowledge, which can be regarded as 'the light'. Now, what is this light? How do you work in this world; with the help of what? What is the aid that you have in this world which enables you to perform your function. Yājñavalkya said: "Well, the simple answer to this question as to what is the light with the help of which people work in this world is that the sun is the source of all light." He gave an immediate, open and simple answer. "It is due to the light of the sun that people perform actions in this world. If the light of the sun were not to be there, activity would be impossible. So your question is answered." What is the light with which the people act in this world, perform their functions here? The light of the sun is the answer. It is due to the existence of the light of the sun that people move about, perform their activities, and appear to be contended. Janaka agreed that this is so indeed. But when the sun sets, when the light of the sun is not there, what is the light, with the help of which people perform their functions? That is another question which follows the simple answer which Yājñavalkya gave. When the sun sets, and there is darkness everywhere, what is the light, with the help of which people act? Then Yājñavalkya said the moonlight is the only support for them. When the sun is not there, the moon is there. With the help of moonlight, people may work. All actions are performed by the moonlight if the sunlight is not there. But if moonlight is not there, if sunlight also is not there, what is light, with the help of which you will work? "Fire is the light then." You light a fire if there is no sun and no moon, and with the light and the warmth of the fire that you burn, you may be comforted, and you may do your work. But if fire also is not there, what is the support then? Sun has set, the moon has set, fire also is not burning, for some reason. Then, what is your light, and what is your support? How would you sustain yourself and do your duties? When everything goes, and no light is there at all, no torch, not even stars twinkling in the sky, everything is pitch darkness, how do you communicate with people? How do you know where what is? By sound, by speech. "Who is there?" "Are you here?" "I cannot see anything, everything is dark," people start saying thus when all lights are off. When somebody says; "I am here", "it is this", "it is that", then by the sound of the speech of the person, you locate where what is. So Yājñavalkya says: "When the sun sets, when the moon is not there and fire does not burn, by sounds and by speech people communicate their ideas with one another. Merely by speech they can work, if everything else fails." But suppose there is nobody around you, and nobody speaks, no sound is coming forth, then how will you act? There is nobody around you; no sound comes; there is no gesture of any kind, externally; you cannot locate anything; everything is dark; sun has gone; moon has gone; fire does not burn – what is the light then? What will you do at that time? Your own self is the light; there is nothing else afterwards. You guide yourself, by yourself. You have a special sense in you. You may call it a sixth sense. Apart from the five senses, we have a sixth sense in us by which we act when everything else fails. It is a kind of inward illumination which begins to reveal itself when everything else fails as a support. That light is our own self. Why is it that we should wait for the time when everything else has failed, before the light within manifests itself to guide us? Is it necessary for the sun to go, moon to go, fire to go, etc., in order that we may know that we have a light within us and that we can be a light to our own selves? Ordinarily, there are external temptations and stimulations from outward sources. The light within gets attached to these stimulants from outside. It may be sunlight, it may be any object of sense. Our selves get absorbed in the objects outside and become totally dependent on externals. We appear to have some sort of an independence and a capacity to exist by ourselves, only when everything external fails. Normally, we feel that we require many external appurtenances to sustain us from outside. We require a bungalow; we require many other facilities to exist; we require friends and servants; we require food and water; we require so many things. Without these things, we feel we cannot live. But if nothing of this kind is there, still we will exist. And that capacity to exist, when everything goes, reveals itself only when everything goes, not before, because of the dependence and the hope that the self pins upon the objects of sense outside, due to their presence. That you have a light of your own; that you have a worth of your own; that you have a status of your own, you cannot realise as long as you are dependent on things outside. We look like nobodies as long as we are just one in the crowd. But we are not really one in the crowd; we have a status of our own. But that status is never known to us due to our sense of dependence, a habit of hanging on to something else, which we have cultivated right from childhood. We have been brought up in an atmosphere of dependence. Always, we are depending on somebody or something – on parents, on teachers, on society, on bosses, on money, on wealth. All sorts of things are there on which we hang for our support. But there can be circumstances when we are deprived of all supports. When we are deprived of every kind of external assistance, the self that we are, the strength that we are, the status that we have, comes to our relief and begins to act. It is impossible to imagine what that light is and what that strength is. We have got maximum power within us. We are mines of strength. We are not poor weaklings as we appear to be. We appear so on account of certain defects in our personality. One of the defects is the habit of depending on things; the other defect is our intense desire for objects of sense. Every desire draws energy from the body, from the Pranas, the senses and the mind, and pours it upon the objects which we are contemplating. We get depleted of all strength due to contemplation of objects. Secondly, there is also an inward feeling that we cannot exist without these objects. So, for these reasons, the light within gets stifled and smothered and it is not seen. It is like a light inside a bushel, as they say, and its existence remains undiscovered. You depend on your own self when everything else goes. This is what Yājñavalkya says. Your self is your light; your self is your knowledge; and your self is your strength; your self is your sustenance. There is nothing except your self when everything else fails.

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