Light The Darkness

Conversation With Aiya (9)

Read in TAMIL

It was a cold autumn evening. Aiya and I were walking in the park when there was a sudden thunderous splash in the dark sky. It was firework display. Its glow randomly punctured the dark canvas of the sky and briefly brighten the ground. Deepavali is due next week. Also soon there is Guy Fawkes’ bonfire night which is celebrated with splendid fireworks. Outside India, I think UK is one of the very few Western countries, where Deepavali is celebrated with pomp and fireworks.

‘Festival of light!’ I said, ‘victory of light over darkness, goodness over evil’.

I looked at Aiya as I continued.

‘It is a universal belief, isn’t it? In the end, always the goodness that prevails over the evil’.

‘May be’, said Aiya who was walking only a couple of steps in front of me. Except for the sound of the crushing autumn leaves under our feet, there was not much noise. Few moments passed before another splash of firework sparkled at a distance.

‘Aiya, The concept of light over darkness or the goodness over evil may all be true at the end, but don’t we all pass through the phases of life when we don’t even know if there is light at the end of the tunnel!’, I said with a heck.

‘Of course’, said Aiya, ‘but it all depends on the perspectives, because, in truth, there is neither light nor darkness’.

‘What!’ I exclaimed.

‘We do see light and darkness, Aiya! Don’t we all usually associate darkness as the evil and light as the goodness, simply because we see light and darkness as opposite to each other?’

‘Of course we do. We all prefer light over darkness; light gives life, shows us the world. We equate light to knowledge and darkness to ignorance. Yes, ordinarily such a view is fine’.

‘So, is there an extraordinary aspect to this?’ – I exclaimed.

‘No, no, I am just making you think a little bit deeper about the darkness too! While the joy of Deepavali is known as the festival of light, the poor-darkness is often given a bad press, is it not! After all, if darkness is not there, where can be light?’

Aiya continued. ‘Do you understand? If there is no darkness at all, anywhere, forever, then what is the need for light?’

‘Aiya, it is a difficult and hypothetical question… Darkness is always there’.

‘Precisely. That is the first thing to understand. Darkness has existence.’

‘Of course!’

‘Sometime people think darkness as nothingness, the vast space of darkness as null and void. That is silly. Nothingness has no existence. Since darkness exists, it cannot be nothingness.’

‘But it does not exist all the time. When light comes, darkness goes away’, said I.

‘It may be. But anything that comes and goes has no lasting existence at a given place.’

‘So…?’ saying thus I looked at Aiya.

‘So, if their existence is temporal, then there is a logical probability that light and darkness could also both co-exist or both absent at the same time!’

‘No, that is impossible, difficult to comprehend!’ I said with a stress.

Aiya stood for a moment and smiled. We sat on the bench.

‘Aiya…. I accept the temporal nature of light and darkness; however, I cannot accept both can be absent at the same time. That is unthinkable. Also I cannot accept both can co-exist at the same time.’

Aiya was quite for a while. Couple of more fireworks erupted in the distant sky.

‘From our point of view, when we say light, we simply mean the visible light only. On that basis, we define darkness as the absence of light. Therefore by definition, light and darkness do not coexist. When the Sun shines, darkness disappear. When the light is switched-on in a room, the darkness therein disappears.’

‘Exactly, so darkness cannot co-exist with light’.

‘But look at this’, Aiya was pointing to the long shadow that was thrown on the ground by the nearby street lamp.

‘You see the shade of darkness, yet there is light. As a matter of fact, there are billions of stars on the sky, yet we can see them co-existing with darkness’

‘Yes, but the light wave travels in straight-line and so opaque objects as impediments on its path cause shadows.’

‘May be. The point is darkness and light do co-exist.’

Aiya raised both his hands and pointed to the whole sky with such great reverence.

‘Look, the whole universe which is deemed as ever-expanding can be seen, as the display of never ending fireworks of stars, encased within an infinitely large canvass of darkness! Can’t you see? It means all sparks of lights are within this vast canvass of darkness.’

Aiya looked at me intensely, ‘Do you follow’.

I nodded my head. ‘Kind of …’

‘I am simply trying to take you out of the limited mind-set of seeing light and darkness as two distinct and opposing things. Those are not!’ Aiya said with a giggle.

‘Are you saying that light is darkness, Aiya’

‘Yes, and also darkness is light’


‘You see what we normally call light is that which is visible to human eyes. It is found to be a limited portion of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum that fills the entire space. It is what we refer to as the light in the narrowest sense.’

‘So light is relative to every life-form?’

‘Of course. That is why some animals are able to see, in what we call, the darkness.’

‘Seeing is merely a function and power of the eye, is it not?’

‘Yes, at least in the context of physical sensing of objects and events. Eyes are just one kind of sensors. Worms do not have eyes but their sense of smell is good enough to “see” or to “know”. So sensory perceptions vary and rely on the ability to see different part of the EM spectrum. So what is darkness to us could be light for some other life forms’.

‘So wherever there is emission, there is light to see or to sense.’


‘That means, everywhere?’

‘Yes…. everywhere. As you may have studied, all objects emit some form of EM radiation in some band of the spectrum, which means there is always some light; in other words there cannot be darkness at all if our definition of darkness is absence of light’.

I have recalled my college days about black-body radiation which is the natural emission from matter. By simply adding and subtracting different waves of light, patches of darkness could be also produced.

‘Does it mean darkness is also light?’ I asked.

‘Perhaps in a loose scientific speak, yes. For our visibility, we measure the brightness as the luminous-flux of the light. When the luminous-flux is zero then the light is darkness for us. But it does not need to be that way for other life-forms’.

‘That means, there is no absolute darkness at all?’

‘Well, if we go by our definition of EM emission, where there is no emission from an object, then that object ceases to exist for our cognition. When there is no emission at all, that could define absolute darkness.’

I quickly added.

‘Yes Aiya, I know, science stumbles across the need for the existence of black-hole or the perfect dark matter from which there is no emission at all! It is a place where everything is absorbed and nothing passes out or passes by.’

‘Yes, perhaps such a place could be an evidence of absolute darkness; but by its very definition, it can never be seen’.

‘Aiya, that means, absolute darkness is different from light’.

‘No, on the contrary, in the absolute darkness, all lights are absorbed. Therefore it is full of light that cannot be humanly imagined, or seen.’

‘So, it is light but that cannot be seen!’ I said with certain doubt.

‘Look at the sky. Have you ever wondered why it is dark in spite of billions of stars shining! You know very well that the space is dark even though there is the Sun shining.’

‘Yes Aiya. I remember studying all these. In simple terms, visible light that we see is that which is reflected on other objects. In the vacuum of space, there are no reflecting objects and so the space is dark’.

‘Yes. When you use the torch in the dark room, all objects that reflect the light are visible. If there are no objects, say when you are aiming the torch in the empty space, you will not see any light. It does not mean the light is not there! It is there but within the darkness!’

I laughed and said, ‘So if darkness is light, then Deepavali is after all a festival of Darkness’.

Aiya replied swiftly.

‘No, Deepavali is still the festival of light! Deepavali is all about glorifying a supreme-light that is far beyond the infinite canvass of darkness in front of us’.

‘Aiya, Is there a light outside and not constrained within the infinite canvas of darkness? What that could be?’

‘Well, this is where we need to stop relying on science for an answer. Science is based on physical evidences only and therefore rely on the sensory perceptions. So the absolute darkness or the absolute light that are defined to be beyond sensory observations would always remain beyond the reach of science. Secondly science approaches the world with the question “why” and tries to explain the “how”! Of course, by such approach, science benefits us with far greater insights of the world and far better tools in our disposal. But it is always about what is “seen”, or the objects that are outside the seer.’

I could see where Aiya would take me in the discussion. I was all ears as he continued.

‘On the contrary, Vedanta approaches the world with the question “to whom these all are”. When that question takes the driving seat, then the object or what is “seen” does not matter but the subject, the “seer” is. Do you follow?’

‘Aiya…. Not really. I followed so far about the perspective definitions of light and darkness and in some way, they are one and the same. Then you mentioned about a supreme-light that is far beyond all that can be seen within the dark canvass of universe. Where is such supreme-light?’

I just want to get to the grip of it. Aiya was laughing heartily.

‘Well, Deepavali as the festival of light has come only to remind us about the supreme-light which is self-effulgence and in which all else shine. Do you recall on Deepavali night at home there is usually a divine lamp from which other lamps and the sparklers or fireworks are lit?’

‘Yes’, I said with fond memories of my childhood days of Deepavali.

‘The supreme-light is like that divine-lamp, being in the centre and giving light to all.’

‘Where does it exist, Aiya?’

‘Well, let us find out! What makes the world visible?’

‘In the day time? Of course the Sun light’.

‘In the night?’

‘Perhaps a lamp’

‘When there is no light at all, are you able to see’.

‘Not really, the eyes cannot see in the darkness’.

‘But in the dream, you see many worlds, even though your physical eyes closed.’

‘Yes, but all those dreams are in the mind.’

‘So there is light in the mind that projects these dream worlds. Is it not?’

‘Well, metaphorically if the intellect is light, then yes, there is light. I know dream is just a reshuffling of memory, giving some sort of experience’

‘What happens when you are in deep-sleep?’ asked Aiya.

‘Well, during deep-sleep I do not see anything.’


‘Because I am sleeping. All my sensory perceptions are not functioning and the mind is not there too.’

Aiya continued to ask. ‘During deep-sleep, is there light or darkness?’

‘I do not know Aiya! May be darkness… may be light… may be nothing. Perhaps as you suggested before, there could be neither light nor darkness’.

I thought to myself, how strange and inexplicable it would be when both darkness and light are absent!

I said, ‘I do not know.’

‘Fine, but when you get up from the deep-sleep, you say that you had a good sleep, don’t you? How would you know that you had a good sleep?’

I did not reply as Aiya continued.

‘In deep-sleep, you were not aware of anything. You did not even know if it was dark or light. There was no pain or pleasure. There was no good or evil. There was absolutely nothing.’

I said, ‘Yes… there was nothing’.

‘But we have already established that nothingness have no existence.’


‘So in deep-sleep, there cannot be nothingness. As there was no pain or pleasure, no wants, no fears, we could say deep-sleep was a kind of fulfilment. Is it not? It means, there is absolutely everything’.

‘Kind of…. It is fulfilling experience’.

‘Who is the experiencer?’

‘I’, said I.

Aiya touched me gently.

‘Who is that I? That is the key question. That I in each of us is the true witness to all our experiences. Remember, experience can only occur in the present time! Experience cannot be in the past – that would be only a thought. Experience cannot be in the future – that would be merely a wish. So when you experience, you are in the present. You live. Simply it means, experience is the existence. Do you understand?’

I simply nodded my head as Aiya continued.

‘Without consciousness, there is no experience. Therefore the experiencer, the I, is verily the foremost thought that raises and merges in the ever-glowing consciousness. That consciousness is the supreme-light, which is the divine lamp that lights up all our senses, mind and intellect.’

‘But Aiya, science tells us that it is the function of brain, the mental and sensory perceptions and bodily functions that perform. Science does not consider the need for consciousness’, I said this with a complete mistrust on this assertion of science.

‘Yes, that is why I have already suggested the need for a far more superior science, the Vedanta. Let us go back to our discussion of light. If we are able to see an object, it means, there is a reflection of light upon it. This also means, every existence of matter indicate the existence of the revealing light upon it.’

‘Yes, it is a fact’.

‘But that fact becomes a problem for science to handle, when the existence of our self is studied.’

‘Aiya, I don’t understand’.

‘When we move away from the “seen” to “seer”, we study ourselves by raising questions like who am I, the seer, who sees the world etc. By the very logic of light-science, the illumination of senses, mind and intellect must also indicate that there must be a light that powers them. It is because we know by evidence and experience that our body and the subtle senses are insentient. The senses, mind and intellect do not exist in deep-sleep. So these are merely insentient faculties of our existence and they come to life only by the light of our consciousness, which is self-effulgent.’

‘Aiya… that means, we are not even aware of the ever-glowing nature within us’.

‘Yes, that is the tragedy. That is the ignorance or the true darkness which we need to cut asunder by self-realization. Look at the beautiful, bright moon. Do you know that on the surface of the moon, there is only darkness? There is no day or night because it does not have an atmosphere. Yet, when it reflects away the light of Sun, it glows. It does not know its glowing glory. We too are like that. Perhaps that is why human mind is also compared to the moon. Like the Sun, the Atma within us shines through, animating all our embodiments, like the glowing moon. Yet, without this realization, we remain in darkness.’

Aiya stood up as if it is time to walk, as he spoke.

‘Atma is beyond all our senses. That is the supreme-light which is the source of all our worldly knowledge; which drives the human-race to chase the myriad of names and forms within the dark canvas of external universe which the Vedanta calls as “mitya”. That supreme-light is the key, which in a flash, could unlock the oneness of all, the non-duality of the universe; by knowing thus we could see darkness as light and light as darkness. We could see the divinity in all and in fact, see all in one as the non-dual Atma’.

‘Aiya…. Is that the reason we celebrate Deepavali in the early morning, decorating the dark sky with the sparkle of lights and welcoming the dawn’.

‘Yes, the supreme-light within each of us is forever lit. We need to see it. We need to understand that the supreme-light shines through all being and only upon its glory, the phenomenal world exist for us. Upon its glory, our lives become divine and joyful. I think that is the purpose of Deepavali.’

‘Aiya, I think it is the best Deepavali gift that I can ask for….’

Aiya started to walk. I was following him with full of sparkles in my heart. As if it was a reverberation of my joy, the sky was bombarded with a glittering shower of fireworks.

Happy Deepavali!

Mee. Rajagopalan

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