For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Dharmakaya Light


I've been stimulated recently by Loren Webster's discussion of Robert M. Pirsig and the Buddhist concept of Dharmakaya Light.

I interpret it as a kind of ecstasy of illumination which may be reached, for example, through meditation, sexual union, deep sleep, a near-death experience, and other paths. (Or photography, Loren!) According to Buddhist teaching the 4 main characteristics of this sublime state are: a Bright Image; Cessation of Thought; a pervasive feeling of Oneness not Duality; Slowness or even Cessation of Breath. I'm not sure how this differs from Nirvana - but it seems to be in its particular emphasis on Light as the gateway. In a wider context I think there are connections here with all kinds of "peak experiences" - from the epiphanies of Joyce to the insights of early Christian mystics such as Meister Eckhart - and even the transformative jazz riff heard in the café by Roquentin in Sartre's Nausea.

I was reminded of a poem I wrote years ago on this very subject. Whatever its merits or demerits - I now think it's too self-conscious, too literal, not metaphorical enough, though I still like the ending - it's perhaps interesting in its attempt to define some sort of mystical experience, to capture an instance of Dharmakaya Light:

Light Shines

The days go by
unnoticed as breathing

- weeks, months, maybe years -

and then perhaps at the end
of a dark avenue of leafless trees

- just when you were not specially
looking, thinking or expecting -

you come across a simple church
- rough, stone-hewed -

and witness a rush of winter sun
spotlighting dark ivied corners

of the graveyard, fragile symmetries
of spider webs now dewbright filigree.

This sudden, unsought
gleam of understanding

renders you breathless,
altered in some way

just for an instant,
clarifying for a moment

what you'd half thought
or dimly felt one time

- on the road to Damascus
or to Egypt in flight -

that you're an unknowing pilgrim
at an altar of pure light.

4 comments:

am said...

I like your poem, solitary walker. Thanks for posting it.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for that. It's difficult to appraise one's own poems. Now I reread it, the blend of literal and metaphorical/symbolic seems more pleasing.

Loren said...

The commentary and poem certainly add another depth to what I wrote on my blog, SW.

Thanks.

cbb said...

"...that you're an unknowing pilgrim
at an altar of pure light" - simply beautiful.