Gentle readers, I’m in an odd place with this one.
I am certain (and am glad) there are people who draw strength and inspiration from this text, a beloved (anonymously translated) passage from “Buddha’s Farewell Address” – a passage from the Mahaparinibbana Suttana.
I don’t. I mean, I get what it’s about – it’s all over the place, this idea that it starts within and goes outward. It’s a lot of how we understand our rather individualistic faith.
But this idea doesn’t give me strength or comfort. As an extrovert and a theist, I process externally, with others and the Divine, in order to understand myself. My comfort comes from without, not within. And knowing myself, knowing truth, knowing the divine spark – for me, anyway – is informed and revealed only through my experience with others. I know myself in relation. And when my spark goes out, when I am not confident, when I am unsure what the truth is, well, I can’t be my own lamp if my pilot light is out.
Perhaps its my mood, or the season, or the events of the past few weeks, or the weltschmerz and general malaise of the world, but I feel sadder having sung this one.
Be ye lamps unto yourselves;
be your own confidence;
hold to the truth within yourselves
as to the only lamp.
If it brings you comfort, I am glad. Not every song has to work for every person, just as not every theology has to work for every person. I am certain for those who are internal processors, or non-theists, or just of a different temperament, this one inspires deeply – hurrah for you!
It’s just not my jam.