Enlightenment - Let There Be Light
by Purnima Coontoor
Ever wondered what is the secret behind the Buddha’s peaceful visage in meditation, the compassionate eyes of Mother Teresa, the expression of rapturous bliss on the face of Chaitanya Prabhu, the glorious persona of a Mahavira meditating in solitary splendour, the light of forgiveness on the face of Jesus hanging on the cross, or the beatific smile of Krishna playing the flute? What is the special ingredient in their personalities that gives them an extraordinary halo and the glow of divinity that sets them apart from ordinary mortals? That special illumination that transformed them as well as the lives of millions whom they touched?
It is the light of the universal consciousness that shines through these enlightened souls that is immediately apparent even to the naked eye. It is the benevolent, omnipresent treasure trove of inner light that is within all of us, but accessed by only a few through immense sadhana over innumerable lifetimes. The light of spirituality that envelops their body, mind and spirit, extends to their immediate environment, and then to the entire universe.
"As I lived up to the highest light I had, higher and higher light came to me." – Peace Pilgrim, American peace activist
The very word ‘enlightened’ implies that one has the light, and it is within. The Bible says, “Take heed that the light in you should not become darkness.” “Lead me from Darkness to Light…” goes an immortal prayer from the Upanishads. “In the beginning, God said let there be light…” says the first passage of Genesis.
Light has always been associated with things positive, a dispeller of internal and external darkness. Diwali, the popular Indian festival of lights, is marked by lighting innumerable lamps in every household – symbolic of banishing the demons of darkness from within and without. While the external source of light dispels physical darkness, it’s the inner light that dispels the darkness of ignorance (avidya) and illusion (maya). The light within thus lights the flame of enlightenment in mortals, the ultimate goal of a soul incarnated on earth.
Depending on man’s allegiance to different symbols, this light is variously referred to as the ‘Light of God’, the ‘Light of Christ’, the ‘Christ/Krishna Consciousness’, ‘Universal Consciousness’ or just the ‘Inner Light’. In Vedanta, the inner light is looked upon as the Brahman itself, the eternal atma jyoti that lights the soul in all its seven sheaths and incarnations, and indeed, the very universe itself…
Deepam jyothi Parabrahma, deepam jyothi Sadashiva…
The inner light
The Light is the essence of humanity. In mere mortals, the inner light manifests in the form of positive emotions like love, compassion, peace and joy. We experience these bursts of positive emotions intermittently along the rollercoaster ride of life. But most of the time, our base tendencies prevent us from being consistently in that state. We fall prey to ‘maya’ which creates the illusion of duality because of which we tend to think in terms of I-me-myself. We thus create a tangled web of highly complicated personality traits which plunge us deeper into the state of ignorance. There is no room for the inner light to shine, for the windows of the souls are firmly shut in such a state.
Among yogis, the Light is a steady, eternal flame which illumines each and every act and moment of their lives. In a yogi, all differentiation of ‘I’ and ‘you’ and ‘he’ vanish. The ‘other’ ceases to exist as the whole universe is revealed to be made up of one and the same universal intelligence: sarvam khalvidam Brahma (All this indeed is Brahma). In the ‘light’ of such knowledge, there is no room for baser emotions like selfishness, hatred, envy. Yogis slip away from the hold of possessiveness and attachment. Tamasic and rajasic tendencies melt in the benevolent flame of inner light to make way for the pure sattva, and restore the soul to its original glory. Hence the glow of spirituality in the enlightened.
Deepa Kodikal’s Teachings of the Inner Light is a remarkable exploration of the same. In her book, the author goes on to expound the qualities of universal consciousness. Pure consciousness is nothing but a crystal-clear mind which bestows the boons of the divine consciousness, of the Absolute, she says. The Divine Light encompasses sight, light, comprehension and knowledge, all together. It is like a lamp which lights the expanse of the mind that illuminates and makes them see things clearly and instantly, like a sudden flare of intelligence. Above all, in this light, there is clear awareness of the self. This merging within the divine is called samadhi, a beautiful state to be in, she says.
Revealing new dimensions
This inner light is not merely metaphoric; it seems to be a reality in an altered state of consciousness. There are innumerable instances of people who have had near-death or out-of-body experiences, talking of a ‘core’ or ‘tunnel’ of divine light that they are irresistibly drawn to. More often than not, most tend to be transformed into peaceful and contented individuals after exposure to this benevolent light, and (literally) back on earth, tend to experience calmness, peace and contentment in their lives. It’s as if the cosmic plan has been revealed to them in this light, causing the present lifetime to fade into insignificance before its expanse and grandeur. A parent, soon after the loss of his child a few years ago, had this vision of the ‘beautiful tunnel of light’. He saw his child being drawn and merging into this violet glows, and says he himself felt its irresistible pull. “It was such a calming, beautiful light that I felt it was no wonder that the charms of earth are incomparable to this experience. I wanted to follow my son and merge into the benign light, but then I felt the pull of earth too, and woke up,” he says. After this vision, melancholy left the father, and he felt a lot more calmer and far more at peace with the loss of his child. Clearly, the spiritual light takes one to a different dimension of experience and understanding.
The third eye
During meditation too, one often has glimpses of this inner light. Behind closed eyes, one doesn’t encounter absolute darkness as is to be expected, but can observe dancing images and flashing lights. How can this be possible, when the physical eyes are closed to an outer source of light? There has to be an inner source, which reveals the treasures that lie beyond the body and its five senses. If spirituality is the inner search for happiness and fulfillment, then it can only be gained by seeking this inner light. This potential energy is within all of us. Tired of the inertia of lifetimes, it is waiting for the first gaze of the seeker to be trained upon it, to transform into glorious kinetic energy and bubble forth into the consciousness to change the course of the soul.
Says the Bible, ‘If your eye be single, your whole body shall be full of light’. The statement implies that while the outer eyes are beneficial at a physical realm, they do nothing for inner fulfillment. A single eye is required to be turned inwards to light up the inner world. This is exactly the reason why Lord Shiva is depicted with three eyes, two normal eyes shut to the universe, and the third in between the eyebrows open. According to the Puranas, when Shiva opens his third eye, pralaya or destruction of the world ensues. Another story talks about how Shiva opened his third eye to burn Kaamadeva (the god of desire and lust) to ashes when the latter tried to disturb his meditation. Clearly, these are metaphors to indicate that when the third eye, which opens one’s vision to inner light or knowledge, is activated, an inner pralaya happens and baser instincts will be destroyed, maya ceases to influence, and one wakes up to inner reality that is universal consciousness.
All techniques of meditation are an effort to open the third eye. Paramahamsa Yogananda’s Kriya Yoga meditation, like many other methods, is mainly about focusing on the third eye centre, called the ‘kutastha’ or the ‘ajna chakra’. After intense sadhana, the light in the third eye is revealed. In his various writings, the yogi describes the experience and goes into raptures about its beauty. He describes the light as a five-pointed star of silver light embedded in a circle of blue light, in turn encircled by a golden orb. Riding high on this light, matter, time and space cease to exist, and the universe is revealed to be made up of a single cosmic intelligence. Revealed during samadhi, the seeker rarely wants to climb down from this exalted state, but when he does, the mundane too seems extraordinary to him.
Spirituality and Physics
It is fascinating to draw parallels between the physical and metaphorical light, and author and consultant Peter Russell embarks on this exercise in his book, Science to God.
Attempting to bridge the mystical and the scientific, he compares physical light to the light of consciousness. There are no limitations to the extent to which light can travel – it is only a lack of a reflective surface and limited human sight that gives the impression of darkness. Like consciousness, light is not confined to space and time. In both cases, there is only the ever-present moment.
“In physics, light turns out to be absolute. Space, time, mass, energy are not as fixed as we once thought they were. The new absolutes are those of light – the speed of light in a vacuum and the quantum of action of a photon. Similarly, in the realm of mind, the faculty of consciousness is absolute. Like the light in a projector, the light of consciousness is unchanging, eternal,” says Russell. Further, every photon of light is an identical quantum of action, and the same is true of consciousness. The same light shines in every sentient being.
Beginning the inner quest
How does one delve into this inner light, and bring it to conscious levels of operation? How to dispel this inner darkness and enjoy the light of eternal sunshine? “To understand light, one must understand darkness,” says Shri Shri Nimishananda Guruji. “Inner darkness is nothing but insecurity and fear caused by lack of hope and will power. Sages and seers are those who have transcended these obstacles, and can confidently say – Aham Brahmasmi – I am God. If you realise that God is not separate from you, you are not matter but spirit, what is there to fear? A jnani is one who shines with this inner light of knowledge.”
Negativity must first be expelled from our thoughts and actions, to pave the way for inner light to emerge. This cannot be accomplished by merely thinking about it, but by strongly resolving to do so – by sankalpa, urges Guruji. He says this can be taken further by three methods – by the power of jnana or knowledge, the power of mantra – by deeply resonating with the pranava or universal sound, and the power of bhakti or devotion.
The spiritual light also shines through when the mind is still and silent. The purer the mind is, devoid of intruding thoughts, the nearer it will be to the inner cave of light, says Deepa Kodikal. Through sadhana, a time will come when this inner cave of silence and light will saturate every thought, every word, and every action and crystallise every relationship. In this state, even when the body is employed in action, the true meditation is ‘happening’ on its own. When this happens, one is always calm, collected, just and understanding.
nowledge will come automatically from within. One acts with precision and perfection, with forcefulness and resourcefulness. One experiences enormous peace – so much that it cannot be contained within, but radiates and enfolds everything, bringing with it a touch of divinity.
Says Karthik, a teacher and media person, “My first experience of inner light was of a lightness of being – where everything was bathed in light, and I was in bliss. Everything around me, all creation around me was light and my only description of that feeling is Love…anbe shivam (Tamil for ‘the Universe is love’). I see this divinity in so many people around me, and it pains to know that they are not exploring this aspect of themselves.” Lalitha is a mother and a self-declared ‘good human being’. “I don’t know about inner light,” she says, “but I suspect it is that which is operating when my heart bleeds when I see kids begging on the streets, or when a misguided humanity indulges in mindless violence; or my heart melts on beholding the light of innocence on a child’s face”. Supreet, a software engineer, feels that intuition is inner light. “A sudden flash of understanding and knowledge, a solution to a nagging problem that emerges from nowhere within you – that is inner light,” he exclaims.
Lord Krishna has the last word on what an enlightened person is all about in the Bhagavad Gita:
“Dukheshu anudwignamanaha, sukheshu vigatasprihaha, Veetaragabhayakrodhaha, sthitideehi muniruchyate”
One who is detached in sorrow and happiness alike
One who is beyond desire, fear and anger
One who is firmly established in himself – he is a yogi.
To quote Abraham Lincoln, “I am not bound to win; I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to the light I have.” And that is the only duty that those on a spiritual quest need to know, understand and discharge.
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