The last words of Gautama the Buddha on the earth were: Be a light unto yourself. Do not follow others, do not imitate, because imitation, following, creates stupidity. You are born with a tremendous possibility of intelligence. You are born with a light within you. Listen to the still, small voice within, and that will guide you. Nobody else can guide you, nobody else can become a model for your life because you are unique. Nobody has there ever been who was exactly like you, and nobody is ever going to be there again who will be exactly like you. This is your glory, your grandeur — that you are utterly irreplaceable, that you are just yourself and nobody else. — Osho, Indian mystic
I was reminded of this quote because of late I have been experiencing a shift in perception. I can go back 30 years at least, and vividly remember instances where the rug got pulled out from under my feet and I felt alone, ashamed and worthless. It became really important for me to be accepted and loved unconditionally. Other’s view of me started to play a very significant role in my life. Their high opinions became my high, their low opinions became my lows. I slowly but surely began perfecting the art of pleasing and camouflage. Hiding my truth was how I existed as I lived my life like a chameleon, changing my colors to fit in.
I now look back and remember the time in my life when this mistrust of myself took root in my life and I feel such compassion for that 13-14 year old me who did not know another way to be. With the limited tools I had at the time for any kind of self-awareness, I dashed down a dreadful spiral of depression, consolidating the self-worthlessness I had so viscerally begun feeling. I have lately visualized holding my younger self in my arms, as I would my own daughter who is just turning 13 in a few weeks, and tell her how precious she is, valuable, lovable and wonderful. I would tell her that she has a place in this world, that she possesses an inner light, and that she must never forget to shine that light.
Well, my 13-14-year-old self never heard those words 30 years ago, but today, I forgive myself for holding myself responsible and blaming myself for things I never did. I forgive myself for dimming my light because I was afraid or because others would feel diminished if I did shine as brightly as I knew I could. I wanted to be that chameleon, playing it small, lingering in the shadows, not wanting to disrupt the “way things were”.
Well, that time is gone. I am no longer that chameleon and I no longer care to “fit in”. I am no longer going to dim myself or my inner light in this false notion that it disturbs others. My job is not to make everyone around me comfortable. What a concept! Richa, welcome to your radical life!
Following others, as Osho says in his explanation of the Buddha’s teaching, is not being true to yourself. It is a mechanical way of being where your eyes are locked on the leader, teacher or saint, and you never pause to look at yourself on a deeper level within. Looking up to a great teacher, you learn a lot, you can cultivate many wonderful qualities, but you cannot polish your own diamond within, your inner consciousness, and so you are trapped. When you follow, you are not free.
A Buddha has not to be followed but understood. A Buddha has not to be imitated but listened to — listened to in tremendous silence, love, trust. And the more you understand a Buddha, the more you will feel he is speaking not from the outside but from within, from the very core of your being. He is a mirror who reflects your original face — but he is only a mirror. All great masters are mirrors, they reflect your original face. But don’t cling to the mirror. The mirror is not your face!
No amount of external validation, qualifying or pleasing will generate inner peace or a sense of self-worth. True wisdom is living your own light, the light of your own consciousness and not by pleasing others, imitating others or being a shadow of someone else’s thoughts or ideas. In this sense living a life of mastery becomes the mastery of one’s own life and not yet another path, dogma or righteousness belief system. A true master will create masters, not followers. A true master will throw you back into yourself, challenge your status quo to master your own life, to be a light unto yourself. A true master’s whole effort is to make you independent of him. Think for a moment and see, has dependence led you anywhere?
Only your inner light can become the sunrise. Don’t throw away the responsibility of creating your life or casting it on someone else’s shoulders. It is you who must take radical responsibility for your life and no longer linger waiting for the next “sign” from the Universe. Trust yourself, love yourself, shine your inner light.