by Rolf Sovik, Psy.D.
Republished from the Kumbha Mela Times
Throughout the night areas of the campus are bathed in light from bare fluorescent tubes mounted to tent poles and branches of trees along the pathways to bathrooms and meeting places. They have no fixtures around them, and because many are painted green, they give the odd impression that we live in a world of neon—shafts of colored light hanging haphazardly in space. This is the system used throughout the Mela grounds as well.
Sometimes the power drawn from the local power grid fails and we are plunged into darkness. Within moments whistles call out alerting our campus generator crew to start generators that will re-supply power until electricity comes back on line. It is startling to have the light fail so suddenly, because odd as it is, the light of these bulbs is reassuring. Without it life here would be far more complicated.
But despite this source of light, there are few here who have not also become keenly sensitive to the daily movement of the sun. Our encampment is perched above the river as it flows toward the southeast. The sun rises over low hills to the east and bathes our entire campus in its first rays. With this dramatic play of solar energy comes a rapid change in temperature. Temperatures that have dropped suddenly in the pre-dawn now begin to rise and layers of clothes are shed as the day begins.
Even before this solar drama is played out in the sky, participants have already gathered in the main lecture tent for a daily ritual of a different kind. Morning meditation begins with the recitation of prayers. The process is the same each morning—as we sit together we remember our relationship to the indwelling Self of all. The words used are in Sanskrit. They were written by the great sage Shankaracharya who lived in the 8th century AD. They do not so much express joy at seeing the sun but the joy that arises from a surge of Self-realization that is awakened by the dawn. Here are the words of the first verse:
“At dawn do I remember the light that radiates in my heart as the Self. That truth; that which is existence, consciousness, and bliss; that which is the goal of the great sages; that which is the transcendent reality. I am that Eternal Light, which is blemishless–and yet which knows the three states of dreaming, wakefulness, and deep sleep. I am that Indwelling Self, and not this aggregate of physical elements.”
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