Sunday, December 3, 2006

Light and creation

Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent. It's a time when the whole Christian world begins the month- long process of celebrating the fact that a new force can enter our world. That the old order can be turned upside down and a new one established.

Christ called on us all to become open to an inner light. We remember His birth as an occasion of Joy because of His message to all mankind that everyone can become available to this light of God.

Christians aren't the only ones who cultivate this practice. The Buddhists refer to enlightenment- the process of becoming filled with light. The Mevlevi Dervishes whirl not just to pray, but because they understand they have a sacred duty to bring light down into the world from above. The Jews celebrate Chanukah, the festival of lights.

This idea, it seems, is shared by most of mankind, and it offers us all hope- hope that things can improve, that the dirty little crevices of darkness we all covet and carry around inside us can be illuminated, then swept clean with a broom made of sturdy twigs. All of this to leave room inside us for something much bigger than ourselves.

The idea even goes a bit deeper than that. Suns are the engines of creation. All of the elements in the universe begin as hydrogen, which in the vast nuclear crucibles of suns are fused into the heavier elements.

Creating an inner sun within ourselves is analogous. We can literally begin to create new substances in our bodies which are, under ordinary circumstances, either completely lacking or in very short supply. This is important, because in order to erect a more durable and useful inner structure, we're going to need all those additional elements. If all we have in us is that elemental hydrogen, we're basically nothing more than bags of hot air.

It's often helpful to me to understand by analogy in this manner. It helps me to form a deeper sense of the absolute interconnectedness of all things, and of how every level of the universe works in a similar way : from suns to bodies to cells, everything engaged in one perpetual act of creation.

There is no destruction. Everything we call "destruction" is just transformation, as new states continuously emerge from old ones.

When speaking of this unity, Dogen once said, "In the great way of going beyond, no endeavor is complete without being one with myriad things. This is ocean mudra samadhi." ("Beyond Thinking," p. 78, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi, Shambala Publications 2004)

When we open our eyes, we all find our dwelling place in this ever-emergent ocean of truth and light.

I hope December affords us all myriad opportunities to open ourselves ever more deeply to this light and to love, and to share the gift of life as openly as possible with others.

1 comment:

  1. As you mention creating a Sun within ourselves, it is good to ponder how the Sun performs its alchemy. There are two forces which act to create what we know of as the sun: gravity, and radiation in the sense of to radiate.

    The enormous force of gravity causes matter at the center of the sun to be under an incredible pressure. To use an Anthropomorphological analogy, some of the matter is crushed by gravity beyond its ability to withstand it. The matter simply can't "take it," and it "gives up." That is, it relinquishes its form as matter -- it "dies" as matter -- it "gives up the ghost." It then begins its journey as the corresponding energy, an outward movement through the body of the sun which takes hundreds of years to reach the surface. It then continues in all directions radiating into space as approximately 49 octaves of radiant energy, of which our eyes see one octave.

    So what is it that we can do to approximate a replica of this action of the sun? An old nickname for Saints in the Catholic Church is "sin eaters." Saints are the blackholes of suffering; they not only hold onto their own suffering which is placed under an incredible pressure, but they absorb the suffering of others. This is the alchemical model of gravity. As no negativity escapes and as the pressure increases, there is a transformation -- much like that which takes place in the heart of the sun, whereby the negativity and suffering, being unable to withstand the incredible pressure, give up their space and location and turned into a new form of energy which radiates outwards. For want of a better phrase and for lack of a less threadbare word, we can call it Love, which radiates outwards in all directions with no exceptions.

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