by Swami Krishnananda
Here you have another Upāsanā prescribed. We can meditate on the flash of lightning, the radiance which projects itself through the clouds when there is a clap of thunder or a heavy downpour of rain. It is a mystery by itself; it is a great beauty. You can wonder at the beauty of nature by the perception of the flashes of lightning and the thunder that you hear during the pouring of rain. And the beauty of nature in the monsoons is, of course, something which needs no explanation. One can contemplate even the beauty of nature as representing God's beauty itself. 'The flash of lightning can be taken as an object of Upāsanā,' says the Upaniṣhad. And in meditation we are supposed to have flashes of this kind. We have visions, and visions come like flashes of lightning. So, the similarity between the inward flashes that we experience in meditation and the outward flashes of lightning in the sky is that they are both flashes. With this comparison in mind, one can contemplate the flash of lightning as an object, so that through this finite symbol of the flash of lightning one can raise one's conception to the larger one which is the flash of reality itself in meditation.
Just as a flash of lightning pierces through the darkness of the cloud, so is this flash of consciousness which breaks through the darkness of ignorance. Vidᾱnᾱd vidyut: 'That which breaks through darkness of any kind, that which dispels that atmosphere where we cannot see anything, that can be regarded as Vidyut, or lightning.' Just as lightning outside dispels darkness caused by the clouds or by the absence of the sun in the darkness of the night, so this lightning or flash of consciousness within, in meditation, dispels ignorance in respect of oneself as well in respect of others.
There are two kinds of ignorance – the external and the internal. In technical language, we call external ignorance Sthūla-Avidyā and internal ignorance Mula-Avidyā. is the ignorance that covers the objects outside on account of which you cannot perceive them. The perception of an external object is made possible by the flash of an external light, but the internal being cannot be seen like that unless the Mula-Avidyā, or the root ignorance, is dispelled. It can be done only in deep meditation. So, the capacity to dispel darkness is common to both lightning inside and outside. With this commonness in mind, one can meditate on the flash of lightning. Vidyud brahmeti: 'Where lightning is Brahman.'
Vidyud brahma ity ᾱhuḥ; vidᾱnᾱd vidyut, vidyaty enam pᾱpmanaḥ: 'This light of consciousness breaks through not only the darkness of ignorance, but also breaks through the fortress of sins.' All sins are destroyed when this flash takes place inside, just as all the errors that you commit in dream are incapable of production of any effect when you wake up. Even the worst of sins that you commit in dream have no effect when you wake up, merely because you have woken up, not that you have done something else to counteract the sins in dream. It is not one action that counteracts another action. It is mere illumination that counteracts all actions. This is the case with any sin, any action, for the matter of that, which is otherwise regarded as binding. No action can bind if illumination is there, just as no action in dream can bind you once you have woken up from the dream. But if you have not woken up, you have to reap the consequences thereof as the law of Karma operates. No law of Karma can operate where there is awakening from the realm where this law operates.
So, it is this flash, this resplendence of consciousness which destroys not only the darkness of ignorance, but also sins of every kind. 'One who knows this secret is afraid of nothing. He becomes a flash to every one else. He becomes a light to others. He illumines the lives of other people also.' Thus meditate, therefore, on 'lightning as Brahman'. This is one Upāsanā.