Meditating with The Radiance Sutras
Have you ever seen something so beautiful that you just wanted to fall down?
That puppy was so cute I had to kneel down and grab him.
We hiked through the forest and came upon a lake so breathtaking I had to sit down.
She looked so marvelous that I wanted to throw myself at her feet.
I wanted to drop to my knees in gratitude.
If you know this experience, you already know that beauty is a gateway to divine perception. It’s unmistakable. Undeniable. In the love song of The Radiance Sutras, Shiva sings to his beloved, Shakti:
Find something so enchanting to behold
That you are transfixed—ravished.
Allow yourself to be captivated.
Gaze upon its form
With the eyes of wonder.
Attend to details—
its shape, texture, these colors . . .
How can something so beautiful possibly exist?
With a steady gaze, melt into
The field of space embracing that form.
Be at one with the Creator, who is
Looking through your eyes, loving creation.
Constructing a glossary, we see that these thirty-two syllables of Sanskrit contain vast meaning:
Sthula – Massive, huge, dense, tangible, material.
Rupa – Outward appearance, color, grace, beauty, splendor. Character, peculiarity, reflection, a single specimen, a show, a play.
Bhava – Becoming, being. Transition into. True condition. Passion, emotion, love, attachment. The seat of the feelings or affections – heart, soul, mind. Wanton sport, dalliance. The world, universe. An organ of sense. The Supreme Being. Meditation.
Stabdha – Firmly fixed, supported, stiff, rigid, immovable, paralyzed, senseless.
Drishti – Seeing, viewing, beholding, also with the mental eye. Sight, the faculty of seeing. The mind’s eye, wisdom, intelligence.
Nipat – To fly down, settle down, descend on, alight. To rush upon. To fall down, fall upon, fall into, to throw one’s self at a person’s feet. To be lost. To enter, be inserted, get a place. To direct the eyes towards.
Ca – And
Achirena – Brief. Instantaneous. Speedily.
Niradhara – Without a receptacle or support. (Dhara – holding, supporting, containing.)
Manas – Mind in its widest sense, as applied to all the mental powers – intellect, intelligence, understanding, perception, sense, conscience, will. The internal organ of perception, the faculty or instrument by which objects of sense affect the soul. Thought, imagination, invention, reflection, intention, desire, mood, temper, spirit.
Kritva – Creating, making.
Shiva – “In whom all things lie.” Auspicious, gracious, favorable, benign, kind, benevolent, friendly, fortunate. Happiness. Liberation. One of the names of Shiva is “The Lord of Sight,” Drishti-guru, (d???iguru – “sight-lord”).
Vrajet – Achieve, attains. Vraj – to go, walk, travel, wander, move. To go to a woman, have sexual intercourse with.
There are so many meanings suggested in the Sanskrit. The heart is an organ of sense. The eye is an instrument of wisdom. The mind is the way the outer world touches the soul. The yoga practice pointed to here is an instantaneous practice, for, as they say, “Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.” In the blink of an eye we can go from beholding the beauty out there, to the inner experience of falling down, into a deep place inside.
Informally we could say, find what makes you swoon. Explore your experience of being in the presence of overpowering beauty, and let this inform your path of yoga. Let your meditation attune your senses and your heart so that you are ready to perceive the divine beauty in the world. The beauty you are perceiving transcends that person or thing—an aspect of divinity is shining through, and you catch a glimpse of the Creator’s design. There is a sense of wooing here: be alert to being courted by the divine shining through the embodied, and the embodied flirting with the Divine.
James Joyce termed this experience “aesthetic arrest.” When we behold beauty, the mind goes quiet in awe as our senses come alive. We could be watching a dance or a movie, or see something while we are out walking, and be captured by the loveliness. We are held in rapture and there is a suspension of time. The expression of this feeling is individual—you may feel your heart skip a beat, or you may feel as though you die and are reborn in an instant. You might sense quiet wonder and delight. For a moment you fall in love, and this can feel like physically falling. This experience is to be savored, and worked through as athletes do in training or competition. When you find yourself falling, turn toward the direction of the fall and dive.
One of the movements of attention in meditation is from outer to inner. Awareness is enticed to the beauty that is there on the surface, and then travels to explore the subtle inner splendor, and then onward to the spacious vibrancy that is the source of all. In meditation we are invited to engage with the most beautiful images (rupa), sounds (mantra), and movements (mudra), that have ever been discovered, and allow ourselves to be delighted and carried away, so that we rest in our essence. One of the things that makes meditation fascinating is the unpredictability—you can be sitting there thinking that breath is not very interesting, and then suddenly you realize, “Oh my God, a small part of the ocean of air surrounding Planet Earth just entered my lungs and is part of my bloodstream, giving me life right now.” This is always a stunning realization, and why it is a mistake to try to get the mind to go silent in meditation, a misunderstanding of how things work.
Whenever we pay attention to the outer or inner world in such a way that we are thrilled and filled with awe, we are on a journey of discovery—a journey with our relationship to the eternal. Being able to perceive beauty makes you wealthy, a tangible richness of experience. The blessing goes both ways. You are receiving darshan (a glimpse of the Divine) from the person or object, and they are blessed by being seen in truth.