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Chapter 8  -  The Light Within

We learn our greatest lessons through our own direct experience, and the experience of Divine Presence is found by simply relaxing into the ever-tranquil embrace of the Light Within.

Finding Divine Presence

Divine Presence is not something to obtain, but rather it is something which is ever-present in the calm depths of one's own heart. Divine Presence can often be noticed in the occasional quiet gaps of the ego's chatter. Divine Presence is what remains after the ego is quieted. 

Divine Presence is your ever-present companion, it never leaves, it is already present within you in the depths of your heart, although it may often be totally obscured by the noisy chatter of the ego.

When one fully accepts and welcomes the present moment, free of resistance and expectation, the ego will gradually become quiet. Without anything to analyze, divide, criticize or resist, the ego has much less to do, and will therefore become much quieter. Nonetheless, the ego will not entirely give up, it will continue to try to get you out of your acceptance of the present moment, and try to get you to return to the "old way" of analyzing, separating, criticizing and resisting. However, if you simply continue to accept and welcome the wonder and opportunities of the present moment, without resistance or expectations, the ego will gradually fade and become the humble servant that it was meant to be, allowing Divine Presence to be the foundation of every moment of life.

What if Divine Presence Tells Me to Do Something Unkind?

It won't! Yes, it is true that the pesky ego will try to get it's own way, and may create many different kinds of messages in order to get its own way and assure its own survival, but do not be deceived. The ego doesn't know how to promote truly selfless ideals, and that is the sign by which we can recognize the work of the ego. Whenever the inner message involves anything other than selfless ideals of love, harmony and beauty, then you can be certain that it is simply more chatter from the ego.


From myself I am copper
   through You, friend, I am gold.
From myself I'm a stone, but
      through You I am a gem.

Jalaluddin Rumi, Look This is Love, Annemarie Schimmel


Every moment of life is a new, fresh opportunity to participate in the wondrous flow of love, harmony and beauty. We have the freedom to allow this grand flow of loving-kindness, compassion and generosity to be the foundation of our daily life, bringing peace and calm to every step, or we can turn our backs on it all, allowing the ego to take over, and thereby set ourselves up for failure, struggle and unhappiness. When in doubt, do what is most loving, most kind, most compassionate, and most generous.

Whenever you begin to see your own shadow (the ego), that's positive proof that you're not turned toward sun (Divine Presence). Turn, face the sun, and rejoice in the glorious radiance. Behold, you are a spark of Divinity.

The messages of Divine Presence will always involve selfless ideals such as Loving-Kindness, Compassion, Joyfulness, Generosity, and Even-Mindedness. Whenever you hear anything else, simply dismiss it as the ego's chatter.

When you say "Divine Presence" Do You Mean God?

Divine Presence is a wondrous gift which we are given, fresh and new in every moment. Divine Presence is not the entirety of the vast Source, but rather it is a gift from that Source, a fragment, a ray of that Light.

Throughout history, mystics of all ages have recognized an underlying trinity in all of existence. For the Persian mystics, this has often been expressed as the trinity of love, lover and the beloved. For the Christian mystics the trinity is exemplified as father, son and holy spirit. The essence of the trinity is that there is a source, a recipient, and a means of connection between those two.

In modern days, a simple example of this fundamental principle of trinity might be radio communications, in which there is a transmitter, a receiver and an invisible radio signal which carries information from the transmitter to the receiver, as shown in the following sketch:

radio, signal and receiver

In the mystical concept of trinity, there is always a source, a recipient and the connection between them. In the illustration above, the radio receiver by itself (without any radio signal being received), is not capable of producing any useful message. The useful information arrives via the invisible radio signal.

A simple explanation would be that there is a source (which might be called The Divine, or God), there is a recipient (which might be called the depth of one's heart, or soul), and there is the connection between those two (which is manifest as Divine Presence).

Does this mean that one must believe in God or a Source for this process to work? No, the gift of Divine Presence is always given to everyone, but in order to make use of this precious gift, proper attunement is necessary. For example, a radio receiver does not need to believe that there is a transmitter, yet the broadcast continues to arrive just the same. However, if the receiver is not tuned to the proper frequency, the broadcast will not be properly received. The key here is to discover that there is such a broadcast, and then strive to tune into the broadcast more clearly day-by-day.

Oh dear friend please do not spend too much time trying to analyze or criticize this simple broadcasting metaphor. All that truly matters is that you take the time to discover for yourself, via your own experience, that deep within the depths of your own heart there is a calm, tranquil, ever-loving Divine Presence which is available in every moment, in every situation.


Spirituality is not necessarily intellectuality, nor is it orthodoxy or asceticism. Orthodox, ascetic or intellectual pursuit after truth – all these are the ways people have taken in order to reach a spiritual goal, but the way is not the goal. If there is a definition of spirituality it is the tuning of the heart.

The Smiling Forehead, Hazrat Inayat Khan


The divine message of love, harmony and beauty is being offered to every person in every moment. However, if one is not properly attuned, the message will not be heard clearly. Fortunately, whenever anyone is ready and willing to become attuned to the Divine Presence, then one will discover through direct experience that there truly is something deep within which brings great peace and happiness into all of life. It often seems that with each step that one take toward Divine Presence, it takes ten steps toward us, rushing to greet us, filling us with miraculous serenity, day-by-day becoming an ever-greater influence in every aspect of life.

How Can We Recognize Divine Presence?

candle glowThe brilliance of the candleholder is not its own brilliance. The brilliance comes from the light within.

When one allows the Divine Presence to flow into, and radiate from, one's own life, the whole world is changed. Have you ever met someone who seemed to radiate beneficent qualities such as beauty or grace? That mysterious quality was Divine Presence.

Without Divine Presence, we are nothing more than lumps of clay. The beautiful qualities which we admire in people are simply the out-pouring of Divine Presence, and you too have been given those same gifts, yet they will remain hidden until you let them shine out into the world.

Notice the beautiful flame burning in the heart of each of these photographs:

            heart flame 1

One might be tempted to say that such people are special, or that they each possess something unique. But in fact, when we look at the situation from a broader viewpoint, we discover that the radiance which we've seen in each of them is actually a reflection from One Light, and it is a gift which we too are being given.

             heart flame 2

There is One Light which is reflected in all!


Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth; a likeness of His light is as a niche in which is a lamp, the lamp is in a glass, (and) the glass is as it were a brightly shining star, lit from a blessed olive-tree, neither eastern nor western, the oil whereof almost gives light though fire touch it not-- light upon light-- Allah guides to His light whom He pleases.

Qur'an, sura al-nur (24:35)


It is the birthright and ultimate experience for each one of us to allow the wondrous light of Divine Presence to be reflected into the world through the manner in which we live our own life.


Let the beauty we love be what we do.

Jalaluddin Rumi, Essential Rumi, Coleman Barks


You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine into the world in such a way that they may see your good works, and thereby glorify your Creator

Gospel of Matthew 5:14-16


The Divine Light shines ever-brilliantly in the calm depths of your own beautiful heart, and that same Light shines in the hearts of all beings. Through the presence of that One Light, the Divinity Within, we are all interconnected. Indeed, the very purpose of our existence is to be willing instruments of the Divinity Within.

The greatest virtue in this life is to be ever-aware of the Divinity Within, and the greatest loss in this life is to be unaware of Divinity Within.

Bickering Over Names...

For thousands of years people have been arguing about God, fighting over what name to call the Almighty One, and bickering over cosmology. Alas, even today such foolishness continues, and it is utterly pointless. The logical, rational mind can never understand the Divine. Only the heart can contain such knowledge, never the head. Simply become an instrument of Divine Presence and allow the Divine Presence shine forth from you! That's all that really matters.

Names are merely pointers which direct our attention toward something. Names are not that which is pointed to, names are simply metaphors which help to bring something to mind. Bickering about names is not beneficial, all that truly matters is that we ourselves are, in each and every moment, bringing into the world the beauty that we love, an unobstructed flow of Divine Presence.

We can see certain signs and have certain experiences which point toward a Creator, but try as we may, we can never fully comprehend the Creator. Could an ant comprehend nuclear physics? Rather than trying comprehend the incomprehensible, the best use of our fleeting moments on this planet is to allow ourselves to be instruments of Love, Harmony and Beauty.

Mankind has pursued innumerable paths leading toward God, yet on every path one arrives at a point where the human mind can no longer follow the trail, and the trail toward God simply disappears into an impenetrable cloud of unknowing.

It is certainly very useful to have as one's highest ideal a well thought-out God-Ideal, an ideal of perfection, a supremely high ideal toward which one can aspire. However, any name or definition which human beings create will never be anything more than a partial truth, a limitation, or worse yet, an obstacle.

The ultimate manner in which to truly experience the Divine is to completely give up trying to name, define or analyze "That One", and simply recognize with absolute certitude that beyond all the impenetrable veils of unknowing, there is some Supreme Cause, in whom we live and breath and have our being, and who has placed the wondrous gift of Divine Presence in the depths of every heart. Our task in this life is to let that blessed gift flow freely into the world, showering all whom we encounter with loving-kindness, generosity and compassion.

How Can I Become More Patient?

We can become more patient by being more loving, more generous and more compassionate. Any lack of patience is always a sign that the self-centered ego is at work creating expectations and desires. To become more patient, one must rise above the desires, expectations and selfishness of the ego, allowing the glorious gifts of Divine Presence to flow freely from the calm pure depths of the heart.

The key to breaking the habitual relapses into unawareness and impatience is to consistently replace the old, undesired behavior with a new, more desirable behavior. Any habit can be broken by substituting a new, more desirable behavior.

Each time you catch yourself responding from the self-centered viewpoint of the ego, look at what has caused this relapse into forgetfulness, seek forgiveness, and resolve to catch yourself even sooner next time.

The Wonders of Love

When a lover rests in the arms of the beloved, the boundaries of "self" and "other" tend to disappear, and all that remains are feelings of deep calm and indefinable peace. In order to begin to soften the ego's harsh boundaries of "self" versus "other", one of the first practices often recommended for the spiritual seeker is to learn to truly love.  


Someone came to the great poet of Persia, Jami, and asked him if he would take him as a pupil and teach him spiritual truth. And Jami asked, 'Have you ever loved in your life?' He said, 'No, never'. Jami said, 'Go and love first. Let your heart be tuned, let it be melted first. Then come to me. Then I will show you the spiritual path'.

Sufi Teachings, Hazrat Inayat Khan


For most of us, in order to conquer this monster called ego, we must first learn to perfect our love for other human beings, through the trials of both individual relationships and community. And then, as love blossoms and flourishes through the wondrous scope of human love, one will eventually be ready to offer the greatest possible love for the Ultimate Source, the One who is manifest in our life as Divine Presence.


Since the Friend claimed me as His own,
   there is no other friendship for me.
When He revealed to me His beauty,
   all else that I saw appeared unreal.

Bustan, Sa'di Shirazi

Venturing into the Stillness

As the ego is subdued, and the barriers of self versus other begin to soften, the peace which surpasses all understanding is gradually discovered deep within. Ironically, the process of seeking happiness through achievements and possessions in the external world is only needed to prove to us that without a doubt that is not the right path! The source of true happiness is not found "out there", but rather it is only found deep within the calm pure depths of one's own heart, the throne of God, the seat of Divine Presence.

Simply learning to relax into the embrace of tranquility is one of the greatest treasures which one can ever discover. After all the hunting "out there", you will discover that the most wondrous treasure has always been with you, obscured by the ego, hidden in the depths of your own magnificent heart.

Here are some ideas for your own journey into inner space:

Create a place and time for your daily journey into inner space. It doesn't need to be anything fancy, just a simple place where you can sit comfortably for at least 15 or 20 minutes without any undue disturbance. Sit in a comfortable position, take a few deep breaths and let your eyes gently close.

As you gradually relax, just be aware and observe. Don't judge. Just observe. Don't become attached to any thoughts while you are relaxing. While relaxing, don't be swept away by the river of thought. Just watch the river of thought with amusement, and notice how the thoughts float along, coming into your awareness, and then perhaps dissipating or perhaps being replaced by more chatter. As external sounds arise, just allow them to gradually fade into the background.

babe in armsGradually, as you continue relax, become aware of, or simply imagine, feelings of being in a safe and tranquil place, resting in the loving embrace of Peace itself, like a contented babe being held in loving arms.

Become aware of, or imagine, a merciful and beneficent Strength providing all that you truly need, safeguarding you, watching over you. Satisfied, content, just continue to relax into the embrace of those loving arms.

Living in Harmony with the Divine

In each moment, we must consciously face a crucial matter of choice:

Do I choose to be an instrument of Divine Presence,
       or 
             Do I choose to be an instrument of my own ego?

When living in harmony with the ways of the One, being an instrument through which Divine Presence flows freely into the world, all of life unfolds with ease, and happiness abounds. Such a state of being in harmony with Divine Presence is the direct experience of the condition which has often been referred to as true essence, purity, buddha-nature or original mind. But no matter which metaphor we choose to describe the experience, there are really no words which can adequately describe the ease and happiness which are found in all of life when one is in harmony with the divine and is allowing the Divine Presence to flow freely through oneself into the world.

Moving Between these Two Worlds

For true happiness, one must be able to move freely back and forth between the activity of the outer world and the tranquility of the vast stillness within. Without such freedom of movement, one is simply stuck, and the resulting state of mind will fail to bring any lasting satisfaction or happiness.

Sadly, all too many people are stuck, deeply mired in either the activity of the external world, or the activity of their chattering ego, and are unable to experience the deep calm within. True freedom and happiness will only be found when one is able to move freely and easily between the activity of the world and the deep inner peace within.


Mastery lies not merely in stilling the mind, but in directing it towards whatever point we desire, in allowing it to be active as far as we wish, in using it to fulfill our purpose, in causing it to be still when we want to still it.

In an Eastern Rose Garden, Hazrat Inayat Khan

One's divine birthright of a life of love, harmony and beauty will be fully revealed only when one is able to freely move back and forth between this world (the physical realm) and that world (the spiritual realm), moving back and forth somewhat like a pendulum, gathering the glorious fruits of that world and bringing them to this world, gathering the challenges of this world and allowing them to dissolve in the vast calm depths of that world. Achieving and maintaining such mental fluidity will require some daily effort, but the resulting inner peace and worldly mastery are well worth the effort.


The mind of an average person may be pictured as an unruly horse that jumps and kicks and throws anyone that tries to ride it. Masters of the world are those who have mastered themselves, and mastery lies in the control of the mind. If the mind became your obedient servant, the whole world is at your service.

Githa Series II, Hazrat Inayat Khan (unpublished)


Divine Union

That which is sacred is not made sacred by a specific word or a specific language, or whether it is a part of this book or that book, but that which is sacred is made sacred by its harmony with Divine Presence. That which is in harmony with Divine Presence is always sacred. That which is not in harmony with Divine Presence is not sacred.

Discovering Stillness in the midst of Daily Life

As one learns to accept "what is", rather than resisting the present moment through denial, anxiety or anger, the process of accepting "what is" opens to doors to the station of calm peace wherein one truly discovers the peace which is beyond all understanding, the peace within.

All that we need for happiness is already being given to us in every moment, yet all too often we fail to recognize what we are receiving because of our preoccupation with the restless chattering of the ego. The only place to ever find lasting happiness is the inner calm, the inner silence, of the depths of your own heart.


When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.

Gospel of Matthew 6:6


The first stage of worship is silence.

Muhammad


Silence is God's first language, everything else is a poor translation. In order to hear that language we must learn to be still and rest in God.

Invitation to Love, Fr. Thomas Keating


Be still, and know that I am God;

Psalm 46:10, New International Version

 


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Wishing you love, harmony and beauty,
    wahiduddin

Dec 31, 2008