Master, I am reaching for the light!
Forget the light, give me the reaching
People who try to do something about what is outside themselves are nothing but knuckleheads.
Reaching for the Light
I am fast approaching the anniversary of my father’s death. All Fall he has been on my mind and as we approach his death day he feels really close. Before he died my Dad’s thoughts and prayers all circled around “the Light,’ A Muslim, he often spoke about and reflected upon the Verse of Light from the 24th Sura of the Quran. He kept it with him night and day, in his dreams and as he went about his day. He spoke about the light, the niche, the lamp and the glass. As he explored scripture from the world’s religions (The Torah, “Let there be light”; The Christian Bible and the Transfiguration of Jesus, et….), he always came back to this verse in the Quran. As he explored esoteric texts, say in the work of Rudolf Steiner, “the light is formed by the light for the light,” it was against the backdrop of the 24th Sura. At the end of his life, my father pursued his spiritual life as he had for nearly 80 years. And something profound and beautiful was happeni
ng for him, something rooted in his lifelong desire for spiritual fulfillment.
AND he reminded me of the student in Yunmen’s koan, this student who, seeking satisfaction in life, was reaching outside himself. “I’m reaching for the light, ” he says.
It is one of the graces of this life that we experience lack and dissatisfaction in life, that we long for “something more.” It is a gift that out of this longing we undertake our pursuit of healing light, God, Awakening, Buddha Nature…, whatever you might want to call it. We are blessed that a deep desire for wholeness awakens and in Sherlockian terms, “the game is afoot.” In my own life this is a profound blessing, the awakened longing. I look back and this longing has always been. Some call it a “search for meaning,” a needing to know how it is I fit into the fabric of things.
The game is afoot. The game? In the face of perceived problems, we search for the medicine that will heal us, the missing piece that will mend us. For the student, for me, and I suppose my Dad, this is “the light,” a ray from without in which we are brought to wholeness. The missing piece that we seek, since we only experience it as missing, must be outside of ourselves.
The outward searching for wholeness is an attempt to know ourselves, to receive input from outside which will fix me and allow me to achieve the wholeness I lack. Here I, David, achieve my self. In my new fixed view of myself, there is nothing I lack. All is well, until circumstances intrude and it is not. Another perceived problem rises in life. Then, once again, the game is afoot to find the missing piece. Any fixed view of our selves is limited, limits freedom and will eventually be intruded upon. For this reason the first of Buddha’s Noble Truths is “Life is suffering.” A endless turning.
Give Me What You Got
So now it is up to Yunmen to say something to the student. The student is so earnest and sincere, her longing so deep that she is prepared to do something about it. She reaches out to Yunmen, to the buddhas and patriarchs, to the light, for wisdom. However, as she looks for fulfillment, it is a hard, 180 degree about face that she must make. The light of her own gaze is outward, so Yunmen turns her around, inward, when he says “show me what you’ve got, give me the reaching.”
It’s Your Life
There is nothing you lack. The wholeness you seek you already have. The enlightenment that will fix things is already a fact of your life. You awaken to this wholeness by noticing the life that you are living. So, Yunmen turns this donkey’s head towards home — “give me the reaching, your longing.” And it could be anything —anger, sadness, hunger, love — anything. Yunmen invites the student to become intimate with her life, notice it, occupy it, be in it and in the noticing notice how things shift and heart opens to fullness, to the vastness of what is; opens into love.
Whenever this happens we are awake.
On his deathbed, my father spoke about the light, but now his gaze seemed no longer to have an outside focus. Instead as his words shifted you could see that his consciousness shifted as well. He said this, “it is happening, it has already happened.” These were his last words. They brought to me a memory of an experience he once told me of sitting on a mountain in California, the sun shining across the vastness of a Sierra Mountain Valley, the wind blowing in the trees, the dappled light, ground squirrels moving from rock to tree and back again. “Home at last,” he said about it later, “free at last.” As he sat, a Mountain Crow came and sat right on top of his head.
There is no way to know who you are and be free.