The Dark Night

‘Night’ – Ivan Marchuk, 1981 – WikiArt

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Being human is a complicated gig.
So give that ol’ dark night of the soul a hug.
Howl the eternal yes!

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

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There is a poem that fed the imagination of many prestigious writers and philosophers like T. S. Eliot, Simone Weil, or Thomas Merton. Many a spiritual seeker has found in it a guiding lamp for the harsh ascent towards divine union. Its name: the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’, a short poem written by the 16th-century Spanish mystic and poet John of the Cross. It refers to the unknowable nature of both the goal and the path, and how such darkness would allow us to merge with the presence of god in ourself. As John of the Cross wrote: “In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God.” I am presenting here the translation by Edgar Allison Peers. Following the poem is a short text that I wrote, words that the poem has evoked in me, the inspiration that it invoked…

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On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings — oh, happy chance! —
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.

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Read this famous poem by John of the Cross and a few more words… (READ MORE…)

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Longing

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Longing
Is happiness already formed
Crying for your noticing.
It is the soft yet
Heartbreaking expression
Of our forgotten completion.
To suffer was never bad;
Not a thing to run away from
Or curse, or cover, or repair.
It is presence itself ignored —
The wound that it provokes;
It is the plaint of your beloved —
Who wants to turn her down?
Pain is the ecstasy of love
Pushing hard through you,
Elbowing its way on you:
It wants to be revealed;
It aims at being recognised;
It doesn’t thrive in the dark;
Cannot quite find you
In the slumber of your indifference.
Believe me
Suffering has no other attributes
Than the radiance of your being;
No other name or identity
Than a plain and infinite joy —
That thing indescribable
Knocking at your door.

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Text and photo by Alain Joly

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Suggestion:
Voices from Silence (other poems from the blog)

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Prayer to the Higher Self

‘Bodhisattva Padmapani, cave 1, Ajanta, India’ – Unknown author, 450-490 CE – Wikimedia

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This prayer is a beautiful expression of longing from a student to the Master, which the title reveals to be the Higher Self. It is excerpted from a long Sanskrit poem attributed to Adi Shankara in the 8th century, whose original title is the ‘Vivekachudamani’, which translates as the ‘Crest-jewel of discrimination’. The text was used as a teaching manual of Advaita for centuries. I found this prayer to be a very moving and humble call for self-knowledge. It is found in verses 35 to 40, and opens to 540 more verses of elaborate teaching of non-duality…

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“I submit myself to thee, Master,
friend of the bowed-down world
and river of selfless kindness.
Raise me by thy guiding light
that pours forth the nectar of truth and mercy,
for I am sunk in the ocean of the world.
I am burnt by the hot flame of relentless life
and torn by the winds of misery:
save me from death,
for I take refuge in thee,
finding no other rest.

Sprinkle me with thy nectar voice
that brings the joy of eternal bliss,
pure and cooling,
falling on me as from a cup,
like the joy of inspiration;
for I am burnt by the hot, scorching flames
of the world’s fire.
Happy are they on whom thy light rests,
even for a moment,
and who reach harmony with thee.

How shall I cross the ocean of the world?
Where is the path? What way must I follow?
I know not, Master.
Save me from the wound of the world’s pain.”

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Prayer by Adi Shankara (788-820)

Translated by Charles Johnston (1867-1931)

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Something must be said of the painting above. It is one of many paintings found in a series of Buddhist caves near Ajanta, in Central India, excavated between the 2nd century BC and the end of the 5th AD. The caves served as a retreat for monks until the 7th century, before being abandoned and forgotten. They house sculptures and paintings on their walls that narrate the many lives of the Buddha. Speaking of their subjects, the art specialist Ananda Coomaraswamy wrote: “We don’t know what to admire more: either their technique, which is already so perfect, or the intensity of emotion they contain, their lives seeming very close to our own; for they are as modern in design as they are in feeling. […] The grace of their movements, their serene self-control, the love with which their every gesture is imprinted, their profound sadness creates an unforgettable impression.”

Here is another prayer composed by Adi Shankara, ‘In the Morning I Remember’…

Here is a homage to Adi Shankara: ‘Shankara the Great’, on the blog…

Bibliography:
– ‘In the Light of the Self: Adi Shankara and the Yoga of Non-dualism’ – by Alistair Shearer – (White Crow Books)
– ‘Adi Shankaracharya: Hinduism’s Greatest Thinker’ – by Pavan K. Varma – (Tranquebar)
– ‘The Crest-Jewel of Wisdom’ – by Shankaracharya (Trans. Charles Johnston) – (Pinnacle Press)
– ‘The Ajanta Caves’ – by Benoy Behl – (Thames & Hudson Ltd)

Websites:
Adi Shankara (Wikipedia)
Vivekachudamani (Wikipedia)
Charles Johnston (Wikipedia)
Ajanta Caves (Wikipedia)
Ananda Coomaraswamy (Wikipedia)

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A Thing of Beauty

‘Saint Peter’s Basilica’ – Rome (Vatican)

Isn’t the world the most extraordinary place? I’ll explain. Take a tree. A single tree, with its roots spreading and fiddling deep into the soil. And its erected trunk that divides itself into branches, and a thousand twigs, and a whole foliage of leaves. The shadow it gives. The home that it is for birds and little animals. And the shelter. And a thing of beauty. To be admired, listened to, touched, felt. The roughness of its bark under your fingers. And the presence. There are millions — most certainly trillions — of such trees that spread over the world to form groves and vast forests. Extending their sheltering embrace to countless beings. And to you too, today. A tree! The strangest thing there is. To look at one is to be taken into a well of wonder. Feel that amazement. See where it takes you. You will be surprised.

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A reflection and meditation on the beautiful world that we are… (READ MORE…)

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The Kiss

“Think ‘I am suffering’, and you are suffering.
Replace the thought ‘I am suffering’
with the thought ‘I am free, I am Freedom, 
I am Consciousness, I am not the body’.
Do not kiss your ego by saying ‘I am suffering’,
rather kiss yourself by saying ‘I am Free’.”

~ Papaji

 

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Quote by H. W. L. Poonja (1910-1997)

Photo by Alain Joly

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Bibliography:
– ‘The Truth Is’ – by H. W. L. Poonja – (Red Wheel/Weiser)

Website:
H. W. L. Poonja (Wikipedia)

 

Other quotes from the category Beauty in Essence

 

The Pilgrims

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Love Leading the Pilgrim

“Man is indeed abroad to satisfy needs which are more to him than food and clothing. He is out to find himself. Man’s history is the history of his journey to the unknown in quest of the realisation of his immortal self – his soul. Through the rise and fall of empires; through the building up gigantic piles of wealth and the ruthless scattering of them upon the dust; through the creation of vast bodies of symbols that give shape to his dreams and aspirations, and the casting of them away like the playthings of an outworn infancy; through his forging of magic keys with which to unlock the mysteries of creation, and through his throwing away of this labour of ages to go back to his workshop and work up afresh some new form; yes, through it all man is marching from epoch to epoch towards the fullest realisation of his soul, – the soul which is greater than the things man accumulates, the deeds he accomplishes, the theories he builds; the soul whose onward course is never checked by death or dissolution.

Man’s mistakes and failures have by no means been trifling or small, they have strewn his path with colossal ruins; his sufferings have been immense, like birth-pangs for a giant child; they are the prelude of a fulfilment whose scope is infinite. Man has gone through and is still undergoing martyrdoms in various ways, and his institutions are the altars he has built whereto he brings his daily sacrifices, marvellous in kind and stupendous in quantity. All this would be absolutely unmeaning and unbearable if all along he did not feel that deepest joy of the soul within him, which tries its divine strength by suffering and proves its exhaustless riches by renunciation.

Yes, they are coming, the pilgrims, one and all – coming to their true inheritance of the world; they are ever broadening their consciousness, ever seeking a higher and higher unity, ever approaching nearer to the one central Truth which is all-comprehensive.”

~ Rabindranath Tagore (1861 – 1941)

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 Painting by Edward Burne-Jones (1833 – 1898)

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Bibliography:
– ‘Sadhana’: The Realization of Life – by Rabindranath Tagore – (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)

Website:
Rabindranath Tagore (Wikipedia)

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Suggestion:
Other articles from the same category ‘Shreds of Infinity
The Heart of Tagore (Homage to Rabindranath Tagore)

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Suffering Leads to Joy

This is the first of a series of texts or essays that will be presented in the future. Different subjects of spiritual interest will be explored in turn. Writing this text started with answering a simple question: ‘How did it all begin for me?’…

 

“Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times.
Come, yet again, come! come!”

~ Rumi

 

How did it all begin for me? This. This deep interest in finding out what life is about. This love of Truth. This spiritual search. In what cradle did it come to existence, in what fertile soil did it come to grow? I remember how acute the desire for change was as a young man. For this was all there was to it at the time. A big, raw, sincere desire to change, to be different. I was unhappy, dissatisfied with what I was. Surely it was the first seed, the primary cause of this journey. The path leading to that change in myself I had no idea about. I had to feel my way along, through random books, exotic places. Except for one intuition though, that there was something more to life than finding happiness solely through acquisitions, through changing the person that I happened to be. Otherwise I would have gone for it in a more acute way. Instead, I turned towards some kind of spiritual call, knowing nothing of it. I rushed into a tunnel of unknowing.

An essay on the subject of suffering. (READ MORE…)