Monday, May 9, 2011

Make of Yourself a Light!

The Buddha’s Last Instruction

“Make of yourself a light,”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal – a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire –
clearly I’m not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.
~ Mary Oliver ~

One of my very favorite Mary Oliver poems is "The Buddha's Last Instruction." It resoundingly says "make of yourself a light." Be who you are. Live each day, each moment as a light, a light unto yourself and for others.

Oliver reminds us that life has its difficulties no matter who you are. The Buddha had a very hard life, you know. He had murderers among his monks; people who were jealous and selfish. He faced physical challenges and a harsh environment. Yet his longing to alleviate suffering for all beings was so strong that he couldn't rest until he reached enlightenment.

All he is asking each of us is to be a light to ourselves and others.

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