In the contemporary world of electricity, fewer and fewer people would use candles at night. However, when the power is off, a candle is again the source of illumination. But when the power returns, the candle is put out and set aside, and no one pays attention to it. It seems only when the power is off and light is needed, people would think of a small candle.
Even so, a candle never complains about it. When needed, it just comes forth and brings light to people. Silently, it burns itself. Silently, it illuminates for others. Such is the offering — without regret or any desire for any form of return and without needing attention. Only a candle does so.
Are there people like candles in the world? Can people truly understand the spirit of the candle?
There should be. Some people have experienced it, some appreciate it, and there are some who practice it. Only those who understand in depth the spirit of the Way of Bodhisattvas can actually practice it. Furthermore, it is understood that all these offerings are not wasted, and that, even though each one is itself being consumed, it can offer illumination for others. In fact, the bright light is for practitioners themselves as well, illuminating their pure and beautiful mind.
When all returns to nothing as it completely burns out, not a thing is left. It is the ultimate beauty – Emptiness. Only the candle can understand it. Only having understood it as such, would one be willing and wish to become a candle.
When Chan practitioners are enlightened and realize the wisdom of Emptiness, the clear mind of Buddha is manifested, and the spirit of the candle is realized. For them, there is only offering, only giving, with an incomparably pure and beautiful mind, illuminating the brightest for sentient beings, light the path at the darkest moment. Just as the candle accomplishes its tasks, the enlightened Chan practitioners return to silence and stillness, entering Nirvana or Emptiness.
(2005/3/30 Written at Ipoh, Malaysia. Published in the book《閒事心頭》by YBAM Buddhist Digest Publication Board.)