The Quest for the Royal Road: The Lamp Which is Never Extinguished

Published: 17.01.2016

Deepavali is a historical festival. Innumerable traditions have been associated with it. Lives of several great man have been linked with this festival. Innumerable great men, having reached the end of their life-journey, attained the state of nirvana, on this day. It was on the Deepavali day that Sramana Bhagwan Mahavira attained nirvana. It was the amavasya[1] day in the month of Ashuiin. On that day, a flame became inextinguishable before it extinguished. A sun became transfixed before it would set. That flame of the lamp, that glow of the sun and the consciousness of that great personage continues to enlighten the minds in the whole world even today.

Usually, a person's death is mourned. But when someone attains nirvana, there is no mourning, but joy and elation, because nirvana implies the immortality of the soul, the full and complete manifestation of the divine light of the soul. When Bhagwan Mahavira attained nirvana, people lighted the lamps. The dense darkness of the amavasya night was transformed into light. Every iota of darkness gave way to light. We see in the light of that lamp a symbol, the symbol of eternal truth that permeates life. The individual, in whose life rises the great sun of eternal truth, attains nirvana. That nirvana is supreme peace.

Bhagwan Mahavira pursued Truth. Through that sadhana he revealed his consciousness. The layers enveloping consciousness disappeared and he realised Truth. He not only realised Truth, he also attained Truth. After attaining Truth he was ready every moment to reveal it. He abolished traditional and orthodox beliefs and gave an important formula to realise Truth. That is called relativism. No human being can realise Eternal Truth with a one-sided point of view. One-sided attitude and the non-acceptance of the whole Truth constitute the biggest problem of our times. A relative point of view is the existence of reality consistent with logic. Not abiding by that reality means not abiding by Truth. He who does not abide by Truth attains neither nirvana nor the Supreme peace.

Bhagwan Mahavira's whole life symbolises relativism. He did not allow this symbol to be blurred by relating himself with any one side. Truth becomes fragmented when knowledge is incomplete or one-sided. Bhagwan Mahavira never supported that kind of Truth.

The senior disciple of Mahavira, the Gandhara Gautama, visited the paushadshala[2] of the devotee Ananda, who was observing the vow of sanlekhana[3] unto death. Ananda respectfully greeted Guatama and Gautama acquainted himself with Ananda's practice of chittasamadh[4]. Then Ananda respectfully said, "Oh respected one, a house-holder that I am, I have acquired avadhijnana[5], I can see as far as 500 yojanas in East-West and the Lavana sea in the South. In the North, I can see Chullahemavanta mountain. In the upward direction, I can see up to the first heaven, Saudharm[6] which is the abode of the gods and down below up to the Lolucha abode of the infernals.

Gandhara Guatama did not agree with what Ananda said. He said, "Ananda, you are mistaken. A srauaka can acquire avadhijnana, but not to such a vast extent. Ananda, you are undergoing a sanlekhana right now. While observing it, a sravaka has to abstain from telling an untruth. You committed a breach of that vow. Hence, you should accept your lapse and agree to do expiation."

Sravaka Anand, upon hearing Gandhara Gautama's words, asked with humility, "Oh Respected One, should one expiate for a true observation or an untrue observation? If an untrue observation should be expiated, it is only you who should do it."

This remark by Anand made Gandhara Gautama feel uncertain. After accepting the alms, he went straight to Bhagwan Mahavira and narrated to him the whole incident about Anand. Now Bhagwan Mahavira had before him his first disciple, Gandhara Guatama, on the one hand and the worshipper Anand on the other. Addressing Gautama he said, "Gautama, a house-holder can have such a vast avadhijnana. What Anand says is right. He has indeed acquired such avadhijana. Go back to Anand and beg his forgiveness. Gandhara Gautama was to break his two-day fast. But he rushed to Ananda without breaking the fast and apologised for his stubbornness and wrong observation.

This incident from Bhagwan Mahavira's life reflects his relationist approach. The forgiveness sought in the context of that particular incident was not of any bitterness. Through that apology, Gautama admitted his intellectual crime, he admitted his mistake, his limitation and also agreed that his was a one sided view. In this matter, Bhagwan Mahavira sided neither Gautama nor Ananda. He only gave expression to Truth. Gautama himself was engaged in the quest for Truth. He repented having enunciated an incomplete Truth and that very moment he prepared himself to turn that imperfection into perfection.

If the present day mental attitude prevalent in India is studied in the light of this incident, it would be possible to understand the biggest mistake of illusion in the social and political fields. The biggest mistake in the present age is favouritism. When a person is bound to a party and is not ready to accept the mistakes of that party, how can he find Truth? Bhagwan Mahavira had no favouritism of any kind. In this context, another incident from his life needs to be mentioned.

Bhagwan Mahavira had arrived in a garden in the city of Shravasti for a religious congregation. The chief devotees like Shankh and Pokhali as well as thousands of other people were present at that congregation. At the end of the discourse, Shankh suggested to his co-religionist brethren that they should have a community lunch. The proposal was accepted. Preparation for cooking the meal started in the city. Everyone arrived but Shankh was missing.

On reaching home, Shankh had remembered that it was the day of his fortnightly fast. Hence he should avoid the meal and meditate after observing the vow ofpaushadh. He informed his wife Utpala, and went to the paushadhshala and after sublimating his physical senses was absorbed soon in kayotsarga and deep meditation.

People waited for Shankh for a very long time and finally sent sravaka Pokhali to his house to fetch him. Utpala, Shankh's wife said, he was at the paushadhshala. Pokhali reproached her and coming back to the Sravakas, informed them about the situation.

Early morning, after completing his paushadh, Shankh went to Bhagwan Mahavira. Other Sravakas also arrived. Finding Shankh with Bhagwan Mahavira, they complained angrily, "You are wonderful Shankhji; You really played a joke on us. You could have told us if you wanted to go for paushadh. How far was it right on your path to go for your religious practice, keeping us in tHe dark?"

Shankh listened to their angry words in silence. Addressing those people, Bhagwan Mahavir said, "Oh, Sravakas, do not show contempt for Shankh. He had no intention of deceiving you. He loves dharma and is firm about pursuing it, and is wide awake because of practising self-contemplation befitting a seer. It is not right to think about him otherwise." The Sravakas conflict got resolved by Bhagwan Mahavira's words.

If we look at this incident in the context of the present- day politics, there can be a lot of argument over the issue of minority and majority. But Bhagwan Mahavira did not wait to think that he was justifying the position of a single individual by displeasing a large number of people. He was not given to thinking in that manner, because he was committed not to any side but to Truth. He never hesitated when it came to establish Truth. His quest for Truth had reached a point, where he himself had become Truth.

In the unprincipled and partisan politics of today, protecting the seat of power is the sole objective. One's own party's needs must be strung in order to remain in power. Before the consideration of the strength of the party, all distinctions between proper and improper vanish. Under such a situation, a person tries to cover up not only his own mistakes but also the mistakes of his party. Even good things in the parties opposed to his party appear bad to him. And he sees truth even in the wrong policies of his own party. Under these circumstances, the political environment becomes smudgy because of the partisan policies. An attitude to grasp Truth is the only ray of hope in this dense darkness. If one succeeds in adopting such an attitude, not only political problems but also the problems of family and society can be solved.

More conspicuous than these problems is the problem of obstruction in the attainment of Truth. What causes this obstruction? And how can it be brought under check? If we go to the root of this problem, we find the striking presence of the feelings of attachment and malevolence. There can be no objectivity in life without understanding the process of controlling the feelings of attachment and malevolence. Although at the political level, it is not possible to conquer one's attachment and malevolence like a sage, it is in nobody's interest to ignore this point. The great statesman, Kautilya was written that even a ruler should have mastered his senses. The ruler, who has not mastered his senses, cannot administer justice to his people. He is likely to usurp the wealth of his subjects and can perpetrate atrocities on the women of good families. The king who has not mastered his senses, remains sank in lascivious life, leading to the downfall of his kingdom.

The rulers of yore have been now replaced by today's politicians and bureaucrats. Even for them, it is necessary to control their senses and feelings of attachment and malevolence to some extent. Truth cannot be attained unless attachment and malevolence are conquered or brought under check. So long as the sun of Truth does not rise in Indian politics, the dark clouds hovering over its future cannot be dispelled. Today the future of India is fraught with many apprehensions. No individual feels sure. Personal and selfish motives are dominating the national interests. The complexes of attachment and malevolence are becoming stronger. Partisan policies are being followed. If Bhagwan Mahavira is read in this context, it is possible to find some new light. Deepavali is the festival of light. In order that it brings new light for the future generations, it is necessary to light the lamp within like lighting the lamp without. The moment the lamp is lighted within, the layer of attachment and malevolence covering Truth would be automatically wiped away, and with that, Truth would be revealed. Discovering this revealed Truth is itself lighting the lamp with oneself. And lighting of the lamp within is itself the significance of knowing Bhagwan Mahavira, of having faith in him and attaining him.


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Title: The Quest for the Royal Road
Acharya Tulsi
Publisher: Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
Edition: 2013
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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anand
  2. Bhagwan Mahavir
  3. Bhagwan Mahavira
  4. Clairvoyance
  5. Concentration
  6. Consciousness
  7. Deepavali
  8. Dharma
  9. Environment
  10. Gautama
  11. Kayotsarga
  12. Mahavir
  13. Mahavira
  14. Meditation
  15. Nirvana
  16. Objectivity
  17. Paushadha
  18. Sadhana
  19. Sanlekhana
  20. Soul
  21. Sramana
  22. Sravakas
  23. The Quest For Truth
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