The winter solstice is near – a time when the sun is “reborn”, so to speak. We reach the shortest day of the year, and from that point on, the daylight lengthens and intensifies. This is the season of the rebirth of the Divine Light.
It’s no coincidence that the birth of the “Son of God”, in Christian tradition, is proximal with this “rebirth of the sun”. Historical evidence is unclear about the time of year that Jesus was born. Around 3 BCE, the church aligned the celebration to the European pagan tradition of Yule at the winter solstice, and began to associate the Nativity with December 25th. The jury is still out on exactly when Jesus was born; but it’s clear that the return of the Divine Light, however you want to view it, has been honored at this time of year for millennia.
The Jewish tradition also honors this spiritual illumination through Hanukkah, but recognition of this Divine Light was not limited to the western world. Turning towards the East, the Hindu tradition also honors the sun. There are some festivals that recognize the importance of the winter solstice, such as Pongal in the South of India. But more commonly, there is a daily ritual of respect towards the sun: Surya Namaskara.
Most of us who practice yoga are intimately familiar with Surya Namaskara, or Salutation to the Sun. Although the exact sequence and style of the poses varies slightly from tradition to tradition, it’s a recognizable series of postures that connect one to the other and is practiced with the rising sun.
Many don’t know that along with those poses are traditional mantras, or chants, that carry symbolism of the spiritual qualities of our home star. The winter solstice is a powerful and moving time of year to work with these mantras and reflect on that Divine Light that the sun so potently represents.
The meaning of these mantras reflect to us the qualities of this Divine Light, which is our Essence or True Nature within. As we approach the winter solstice (also know as Yule) on December 22nd, it’s worth meditating on this light of our Spirit and what it represents. Here are some reflections on these qualities of our Divine Light, inspired from the 12 mantras to the sun.
The Source of All
The Divine Light is within everything, including you and me. It is the Infinite Source of Life. Like the life-giving sun, it blesses us with birth into this lifetime and sustaining us through our journey. The Sun, as symbolic of that Light, is said to be a friend to all, giving every being warmth, life, light, and energy.
The Divine Light shines. It’s natural radiance is seen with our inner eye. Just as our sun beams in all directions, without judgment or discrimination, so does that inner effulgence. As we align ourselves with our Divine inner light and allow it to flow through and as us, it, too, shines everywhere as love, kindness, and peace. The more we open to receive and embody this Divine Light within us, the more we can touch others’ lives in a positive way by allowing the light to shine.
The Supreme Consciousness
Our True Nature, represented by this Divine Light, is Consciousness itself. Consciousness is oneness, infinite and everywhere present. It is our awareness of everything, most of all the Reality beyond what we experience in form. This Consciousness motivates us to expand beyond our limited perceptions and understand the nature of ultimate Reality.
Remover of Darkness
Light repels darkness. And so the Divine Light reveals the truth and dispels illusion, just as we are able to see what is in a dark room by igniting a candle. The Sanskrit word guru, referring to the spiritual teacher, embodies this quality, meaning “remover of darkness/ignorance.” For all of us, we have this inner guru in the form of the Divine Light.
Understanding of Time
The symbol of the Divine Light, the sun, is the source of our experience of time. We measure time the sunrise and sunset; we measure the seasons from the shift of the sun’s angle due to the tilt of our planet’s axis. This outer light creates the experience of time, while our Inner Light reveals timelessness.
Giver of Strength and Nourishment
As physical beings, we receive our strength and nourishment from the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. Yet all of these, in some way, are related to the gifts of the sun. Plants (and animals, since they eat plants or other animals that do) are dependent on the energy from the sun via photosynthesis. All matter on this planet, including water and air, come from the same matter that composes the stars.
Our Essence, however, derives its strength and nourishment from that inner Divine Light. The more we connect with it through meditation, opening our hearts, and deep contemplation, the stronger in spirit we become.
The Principle of Creation
We have heard of the “big bang” theory, but what exactly is it pointing to? The ancient Hindus saw our creation as emanating from one creative principle, symbolized by a golden egg. Out of this, all in existence was created.
Our Divine Light within is this one creative Consciousness. We, as beings, are both created by that consciousness and manifest with that creative principle the more we awaken.
The Rays of Discernment
Through connection with our Divine Light within, we are given the ability to distinguish between what is Real and what is Unreal. The rays of light (whether from the sun or a lamp) can be directed by our attention to reveal the true nature of things. We begin to understand what matters and what isn’t really important through this power of discernment.
These rays remind us of who we truly are and reveal the false beliefs we have about ourselves. It is also said that these rays of light, whether from the sun or our Inner Light, are the destroyers of disease. Our greatest spiritual dis-ease is ignorance of our Divine nature, and these inner beams of Light dispel that.
That Divine Light is our Sacred Mother/Father. As it is said, each of us is a spark of the flame of God. Said another way, we are facets of the sacred jewel of Consciousness; one with that Source, yet each of us reflecting something unique as the facets reflect light from different directions. We are the Divine Children of the Divine Source.
The Divine Light embodies the power to stimulate, motivate, and inspire us. We are both spurred into action as well as aroused from sleep from the light of the sun. That Inner Light, however, moves us in deeper ways; it impells us on the path of spiritual growth, as well as bringing the light to others.
Our Vital and Sacred Energy
We all know that the sun is the source of our energy on the planet. Without it, our world would become frozen and barren. It gives us physical energy, but represents our vital energy as well.
We are all energetic beings, composed of atoms that are no more than fluctuations of energy and information. This energy we are made of extends beyond our physical body into what is known as the aura, or energetic field around us. All that exists in the universe vibrates with this energy. It is the Divine Light, manifest through the physical realm.
The Path to Enlightenment
I see enlightenment as a continuous journey of ever-expanding awareness and potentiality. We have infinite capacity to awaken to greater and greater consciousness, although some traditions believe there is an endpoint of “liberation.” Perhaps there is. But I perceive life as a path of unfolding joy and aliveness. The Divine Light is both the path itself and that which shines on it so that we can see our way forward. It is inspiring us to become ever greater expressions of spiritual Truth.
Time for Deep Reflection
Those are the qualities of the Divine Light. And now, through the solstice and into the winter season of quiet stillness, it is time to reflect on that Light within you. If you’ve dropped your meditation practice – or have long wished to start one – now is the time. Even if just for a couple minutes a day, sit, feel, and open to the revelations of your inner Light. You are like the lotus flower. As it rises from the mud of darkness and breaks through the surface of the pond of illusion, the Divine Light of the sun will open your petals to realization of your True Self.
For further reading: Surya Namaskara, by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
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