The wise man, whom we have called "the Venerable Sage," came one day to the court of King Janaka, ruler of a portion of India. In those early days, people had no lanterns or artificial lights. They used to keep open fires nearby most of the time. The King had a desire to ask this sage some questions about the source of light, but it happened, on that day, that the Sage did not feel inclined to talk. Still, somehow, Janaka got his permission to begin a conversation.
"Revered Sir," the king asked, "What lights a man's way in this world? What is the real source of light?"
"Why, that is easy, O King," the Venerable Sage replied, "the sun lights a man, of course. For, with the sun alone as light, a person sits, goes out, does the day's work, and returns."
"True, Sir! But when the sun has set, what lights one's way in this world?"
"Why, then, O King, the moon is one's light. For, by moonlight, one can sit, or go out, do one's work, and return."
"That is true, O Sage," agreed Janaka. "But," he added, "when the moon also has set, what then?"
"Then fire is one's light, O King. For, by the light of fire, one sits, or goes out, does one's work, and returns."
Again Janaka agreed. "That is true, Sir, but when the sun and moon have set, and the fire has gone out, then what lights one's way in the world?"
"O King," answered the sage, "at that time, voice alone is one's light. By the sound of voices, one can sit, or go out, do one's work, and return. For, when it is so dark that one cannot even see one's hand in front, one can still hear sounds, and move toward them."
"That, too, is true, Sir. But when the sun and moon have set, and the fire has gone out, and all sound has stopped, what then lights one's way in the world?"
"Then the Self, alone, is one's light, Your Majesty. For then one must sit, or go out, do one's work, and return, all with the help of the Self alone."
Janaka happened to know quite a lot about the Self already, but he urged the Venerable Sage to explain more about it. He hoped he could add further to his own spiritual knowledge, so he continued to question the Venerable Sage.
"Which is the Self?" Janaka asked.
"The Self, Your Majesty, is the Knowing One, here among our various parts -- the Inner Light within the heart. It is He who sees this world of our waking state. It is He who sees the world of dream. And, in the dreamless sleep, when we think that we are not seeing, the Self is there, seeing.
"There can never be an end to the seeing of the Seer. He is eternal. In deep sleep, you seem to know nothing, but in truth, the Self goes on knowing, for can there ever be an end to the knowing of the Knower? No. He exists forever.
"In the space within your heart lies this One Controller of All, the Master of All. It cannot be destroyed. It does not attach Itself to anything. It is not bound, does not suffer, is not injured. Good and evil do not affect It.
"When a person clearly sees this Self inside as God, the Lord of the past and the future, then he has nothing to fear. This is the undying, fearless Brahman. Fearless, indeed, is Brahman, and he who knows this becomes the fearless Brahman."