In a Daoist forum, a member had asked about how to find good neidan teachers in a certain part of USA. In reply, another member quoted a slightly revised version of Buddha’s instructions to his cousin, Ananda on what students should do after his passing.
Since the revised version was not attributed, I had to Google the source. Apparently an author had paraphrased Buddha’s words on his website without giving credit to or quoting the source. It appears that the instruction left behind by Buddha before his death is quite popular and carries the heading of
‘Be a lamp unto themselves.’ :
‘And whosoever, Ânanda, either now or after I am dead,
shall be a lamp unto themselves,
and a refuge unto themselves,
shall betake themselves to no external refuge,
but holding fast to the truth as their lamp,
and holding fast as their refuge to the truth,
shall look not for refuge to any one besides themselves--it is they, Ânanda, among my bhikkhus,
who shall reach the very topmost Height!
-but they must be anxious to learn.'
[Chapter 2, Mahaparinibbana Sutta - The Book of the Great Decease - T W Rhys-Davids]
What a wise instruction left behind by the great master!
Of course students would be perturbed when a great master is about to leave them behind. However it appears a bit misunderstood by some, on the web, on what went on behind the thought.
In the Sutta, Buddha told Ananda that unlike the closed-fist of a teacher, he held nothing back from his students – which meant he taught them everything he knew, including meditation.
Therefore his students can stand on their own two feet and practise on their own. And need no further instructions from other sources. They can be their own guide (lamp).
Another thing is to hold fast to truth or sincerity within and they will need no other teachers. There will be a guiding light (lamp) within.
To reach the highest level, students must be anxious or earnest to learn.
Is there any difference from what the other two great sages, Laozi and Confucius taught? Not much. If only students can be earnest and sincere, they can become wise by studying the doctrines of these three ancients.
However, students need to learn neidan from a good teacher, before they can be a lamp (guide and light) unto themselves.
Through diligent study and practice of what the ancient Classics teach, it can be simple and easy once we arrive at clarity to become a lamp unto ourselves, and at times, unto others.