This week’s class fell on Rosh Hashonah, the first day of the Jewish New Year. In Jewish tradition, the first ten days of the year are considered the High Holy Days, the Days of Awe. There’s a sense that over these first ten days we lay the blueprint for the rest of the year. So the suggestion is to spend this time in quiet contemplation, taking stock of how we’ve moved towards the light, and how we’ve moved away. Along with this intensive self-inquiry, it’s traditional to eat apples dipped in honey, a symbolic act for bringing sweetness into our lives.
So I thought it only right to offer this class to sweetness and light…
Hence, I added srim, the Laksmi bija mantra, to last week’s mix of Gayatri and Om Namah Shivaya — and brought in a group of Hafiz/Landinsky poems and a reading from Lawrence Kushner’s kabbalistic musings, Honey From the Rock.
For visitors unfamiliar with the Laksmi bija mantra, let me say a few things about srim — which I can’t properly transliterate here — fyi, it’s pronounced “shreem.” Srim is a seed mantra meaning it contains the full potency of the deity field. In this case, Laksmi, aka the power of splendor, magnificence, expansiveness, abundance… you get the idea. So the teachings go that whatever Laksmi touches grows into its most magnificent form. And sweetness is one of the attributes of Laksmi. This is a perfect sweetness. Not so sweet as to be cloying or just plain too sweet. This is the perfection of sweetness. The sweetness that makes us feel, well, let me say it like it is, positively delicious. We might say we experience the sweetness of Laksmi as a kind of effervescent grace. When all is right with our lives and infinity is possible…
Before I go on, let me also say a few things about Monday Night Class. There is much I love about this class. Its longevity. The people who find their way there. The depth and power of the teachings and practice. The sense of welcome, safety, and community. Sometimes though, I think what I love best is the sweetness of the laughter. Here’s a clip from this week’s class:
Here’s this week’s dharma talk. Which begins with the below posted Hafiz. This small group of poems offers an excellent teaching on what gets in the way of our ability/intention to live in and of our sweetness and light [and delight!] I’ll post the Kushner quote which I also read in this talk, below Hafiz. Kushner is writing specifically about Light. The two together make an excellent counterpoint on the topic of sweetness and light. Add in the mantras and we have a fugue for the heart…
Here are the Hafiz poems, from Daniel Landinsky’s book, The Gift.
THE SAD GAME,
Keeps the sad game going.
It keeps stealing all your wealth –
Giving it to an imbecile with
No financial skills.
TIRED OF SPEAKING SWEETLY
Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.
If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy.
Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
And wants to rip to shreds
All your erroneous notions of truth.
That make you fight within yourself, dear one,
And with others,
Causing the world to weep
On too many fine days.
God wants to manhandle us,
Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
And practice His dropkick.
The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:
Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.
But when we hear
He is in such a “playful drunken mood”
Most everyone I know
Quickly packs their bags and hightails it
Out of town.
The small man
Builds cages for everyone
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
FIND A BETTER JOB
All your worry
Has proved such an
Find a better
I WISH I COULD SPEAK LIKE MUSIC
I wish I could speak like music.
I wish I could put the swaying splendor
of the fields into words
so that you could hold Truth
Against your body
I am trying the best I can
With this crude brush, the tongue,
To cover you with light.
I wish I could speak like divine music.
I want to give you the sublime rhythms
Of this earth and the sky’s limbs
As they joyously spin and surrender,
Against God’s luminous breath.
Hafiz wants you to hold me
Against your precious
Here’s the quote from Lawrence Kushner’s Honey from the Rock:
It is no accident that all the great creation tales begin with light. Of all the things that the Creator might have first formed – mountains, waterfalls, stars, flowers, fruited plains, lions and lambs, leviathans and whirlwinds, single-celled creatures and man – He made light. First of all the Holy One fashioned consciousness.
Let us retell the story of this light which is a metaphor for spiritual awareness:
A light with which the Holy One began the creation. Let there be light and there was light.
In the Zohar we read further of creation. Some kind of dark flame – blinding flash – issued forth from the innermost hiddenness – from the mystery of the Ayn-Sof, the Infinite One….
A light that was so dazzling that by it…man could gaze from one end of the universe to the other. A light so powerful that is shattered earthly vessels. A light that if it fell into the hands of the wicked could return creation itself back to primordial chaos. A light that therefore had to be hidden away. And God made a separation.
A light that was set aside for the Tsadikim [the righteous ones].
Light is sown for the righteous…
A light whose appearance initiates creation. But it is a creation only able to withstand a tiny bit of light. Therefore the light had to be concealed. And so it is that darkness and incompletion and separation are the price of this world. While light initiates existence, existence conceals light.
For with the appearance of the light being began,
But with the concealment of the light
all manner of individuated existence was created…
Just this is the mystery of the work of creation;
And one who is able to understand will understand.
A light imprisoned in the shards of this created world, waiting for us to free it. Returning itself and us to the Creator.
A light so awesome that even a fraction of its splendor – just so much as a ray the thinness of a needle is all any of us need for unimaginable illumination.
Here’s a clip of this week’s chanting. I tried a different microphone placement, hoping to pick up less harmonium, more voices. Alas, I ended up with more harmonium. The call is quite clear, but I’m sorry to say the response is barely audible.
Finally, here’s a clip of the dharana I gave before gliding into silent meditation:
And when the topic is light, the last word goes to Devi, the Shining. This quote is found in the frontpiece of Ajit Mookerjee’s book, Kali, the Feminine Force. He cites Bhairava Yamala as the source text. I’ve never been able to find this text or any verse resembling the quote. A google search brings up nothing definitive. So I’m going to assume that Mookerjee had access to an unpublished text fragment and made this very beautiful translation. Wherever it comes from, whatever its source, it pulsates with sweetness, luminosity, and supreme bliss:
She is Light itself and transcendent.
Emanating from Her body are rays in thousands —
two thousand, a hundred thousand, tens of millions,
a hundred million —
there is no counting their numbers.
It is by and through Her that all things moving
and motionless shine. It is by the light of this
Devi that all things become manifest.