Four Candles

Swami Nirvikalpa Saraswati

Once an earnest disciple was discussing spiritual life with his guru, who was learned and wise.

- Most of us are not fortunate enough to be born in the land of Samadhi, the disciple said. Therefore, we cannot easily find the way there. How can people like us reach the shores of the River of Transcendence? The old guru was pleased with his disciple and sat silently contemplating for a few seconds before giving reply.

- Within all people there are four candles called Faith, Strong Will, Memory and Intelligence. Right now, in you for instance, they are not lit. The only possibility of finding the way is to light them, but this is a difficult task. They can only be lit by the sun itself.

Now, listen to this story about Thomas, a disciple of Christ, who succeeded in lighting the four candles and completing the journey through the land of Samadhi. Thomas had been travelling for many years in search of Self-realization. After visiting many places, he finally arrived in the lower state of Samadhi and was walking through. But after a while he became uncertain of the direction and stopped. It was all dark around him and he could hardly see anything. Thin clouds of ignorance were still covering the sky, as is often the case in this region. But suddenly, in a flash, the clouds separated from each other and he could see the sun. There are always such unforgettable moments of realisation, moments in the flowing sunshine, when you see everything as it really is. Only at these moments can you light the first candle, the candle of Faith. Let me tell you something about the candle of Faith. This candle differs from ordinary candles of belief, which are always lit by other people and are easily blown out. The candle of Faith can never be blown out; the flame is eternal.

Thomas got fire from the sun for his candle of Faith, and now, able to see the way, he went on. But soon he discovered that the light of the candle was too weak. The candle of Strong Will also had to be lit to give him enough light to continue the journey. The next time the sun broke through the clouds, he lit the second candle. Now that he had sufficient light to see, he was filled with an ardent longing to go on and on until he reached his goal. This longing gave him the strength of Will necessary to keep moving steadily along the, path.

It is important that you don't stop half way through the land of Samadhi, as some people do. You should never forget that your goal is Enlightenment So Thomas went on, only to discover that also the third candle, the candle of Memory, was necessary for him to remember his destination. This is the memory of the golden key of Om, your, mantra or symbol, which must be kept alive all the way through the lower region of Samadhi. You shouldn't leave it until you reach the shores of the River of Transcendence. The candle of Memory has to be lit in-order to stay on the right path.

Even with three candles lit, you still haven't got enough light to traverse the hilly region near the border of this state. So, from the sun, Thomas lit the last of his four candles, the candle of Intelligence. This candle is not like common candles of Intelligence, which are lit in the normal state of consciousness. This particular candle is so illuminating, that the whole landscape opens up before you.

Thanks to the light of these four candles, Thomas was able to make his way safely through the lower region of Samadhi, and at last found the River of Transcendence where he was able to cross into the land of Enlightenment.

Today, in some Christian countries, the lighting of the four candles of Thomas is traditionally celebrated in the month of December each year, even though most of the significance nowadays is forgotten. Four Sundays before Christmas, there is a religious ceremony and the people light one of the four candles which are arranged in a special candle holder. The following Sunday they light one more candle, the next Sunday the third one, and the fourth Sunday all four candles are lit together. This signifies the way of Thomas through the land of Samadhi, and the candles are the four candles of Faith, Strong Will, Memory and Intelligence. A few days later, Christmas Day comes, the day when Christ was born. This day, after lighting the four candles, Christ is born in your heart. A different state of consciousness, which we call Samadhi is at hand through Christ. This is the real significance of this old ceremony.