Unit VIII.  Divine Light


1.  Radiance
2.  Logos
3.  Symbolism of Light
4.  Healing with Light
5.  Transfiguration

Materials needed: Journal

Books needed:

* Living from the heart
* Shambhala: The sacred path of the warrior
Great eastern sun (optional)
* The Holy Bible
* Cutting through spiritual materialism
The Divine Light invocation
* Like a thousand suns
* The Gospel according to Thomas (optional, out of print)

Exercises and practices:

The fire breath
Great Eastern Sun
The Divine Light Invocation

* You may already have these books


As in all of the other chakra symbols, there is a circle in the anahata chakra ( Fig.4-1 ) which symbolizes wholeness.  However, here the circle is red and is called the surya mandalawhich means "region or plane of the sun." Surya is sun.  Woodroffe (1973) says that the surya mandala is in the pericarp of this chakra, "The filaments which surround and adorn its pericarp, illumined by the solar region, charm. . .The rays of the sun beautify the filaments and not the space within the pericarp" (p. 380).  It is a distinctive feature of the heart chakra.  And it is this illumination that is the radiance of light we now think of as Divine Light.

Throughout the ages humanity has worshipped the sun.  It is not only remote and inaccessible, but it is responsible for the continuation of life on earth.  It gives warmth and light, two essentials for our continuing existence.  So it has been seen as the higher power and called god from the time that humans first  could think of a divine being.  Now we feel we are too sophisticated to worship the sun.  Still, we are rather inclined to use Light as a universal symbol of the Divine Being.  We can see this in every house of worship, most often in the presence of candles.

The filaments Woodroffe speaks of are extremely fine threadlike energies that can be seen by clairvoyants around all beings as well as around the earth. Alex Grey [www.alex.grey.com]  has drawn them as he sees them around and in human beings, and they are available as paintings or posters.  Barbara Brennan (1988) has drawn her perceptions of them as templates that support the construction of the body.  You can see colored plates of her drawings in Hands of Light (between pages 44 and 45.  Jose Arguelles (1984) has done a similar thing for the earth in his book, Earth Ascending in which he brings  together the forms in the Mayan calendar, DNA, the I Ching and geomancy to show us the presence of an holonomic equation he calls the psi bank.  There you can find support for the sacredness of earth in the binary system which all of the diverse patterns have in common.  Holonomics refers to the law or principle  governing whole systems; so, in this context, it refers to the universe as an interconnecting, dynamic web each level of which reflects the order inherent in the whole system.  You can refer to your physics for more recent support of this thesis.  The point here is that the earth is also surrounded by fine filaments of electromagnetic force.  It may be the sun's reflection from these filaments that causes the earth to light up so magnificently in the dark skies of space.

The divine light is in us as well, but it is veiled by the many layers of physical and psychological matter within which we have shielded ourselves.  You may have noticed the halos that are drawn around the heads of saints in old paintings.  These are part of the light body that is within us.  As a person continues to refine the senses and clarify the bodymind; these veils drop away, and the light becomes more  visible.  You may have met someone whose face literally shines with light.  Such a person probably is near or has achieved enlightenment, a fitting name for the state of being we are talking about.

Exercise and practice: The fire breath

In Living from the heart, begin to work with chapter 13, "The Fire Element."  This will help you develop light in your heart.  You will also learn how to focus the light outward  to reach others and the world.  Work with this chapter throughout this unit taking your time to master each of the practices.

The Great Eastern Sun

In Buddhism, there is a concept of the Great Eastern Sun which represents our basic goodness or Buddha nature.We are seen as perfect just as we are and only need to overcome our fearfulness and neurotic tendencies in order to be able to go out and help the world.  When we discover our basic goodness, we realize that we can work directly with reality while maintaining our sense of humor and common sense.  We learn that the world is not a threat, and that most other people are in touch with at least some aspects of their basic goodness.  The tool for discovering our basic goodness is meditation, and the path is that of warriorship.  We met that path in Book III of Return to Spirit.

When we get in touch with the Great Eastern Sun within, we awaken our hearts (bodhicitta) and find that there is a well of sadness or longing in us in response to the condition of the world and our fellow beings.  This is a kind of tenderheart-edness which becomes a basis for fearlessness.  Fearlessness means being able to relate to the world with accuracy and directness from a stance of personal dignity and decency.  The Great Eastern Sun is the sum of human dignity and human power.  Its rising signals the beginning of warriorship.

Trungpa (1999) says that the setting sun mentality is what is destroying us and our planet.  It is the result of our having become immersed in physical, mental and spiritual materialism that  has caused us to lose our wakefulness.  The Great Eastern sun is ". . a natural source of radiance and brilliance in this world - which is the innate wakefulness of human beings" (Trungpa, 1984, p. 55).  He then goes on to discuss renunciation, discrimination and letting go, concepts already familiar to us from previous units.  However, he has a different take on these old practices that you might want to savor.

Exercise: Great Eastern Sun

Review chapters 6-8 in Shambhala: The sacred path of the warrioror choose several chapters in Great Eastern Sun: The wisdom of Shambhala.  Compare Trungpa's views of the necessary practices on the journey with those we have recently discussed.  What differences do you notice as a function of the attitude that we are basically good and ready to go (Buddhism) versus the attitude that we are sinful and separated from God (Christianity, Judaism).  How would you bring these divergent approaches together in your mind?  How do you feel about the lack of a deity in Buddhism?  What do Buddhists replace it with?


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.  (John, 1:1-5)

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. (and we beheld his glory,
the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth.  (John 1:14)

You may recognize this as part of the first chapter of St. John in the Holy Bible.  Here the word "Logos" is translated as "Word" which is consonant with the Hindu idea that the world was created by sound.  Iyer (1983) says this about the passage above, "In the beginning was the Word, the Verbum, the shabdabrahman, the eternalradiance (bold mine) that is like a veil upon the attributeless Absolute.  If all things derive, as St. John explains, from that One Source, then all beings and all the sons of men are forever included " (p. 53).

In another passage from "The Gospel According to Thomas" (Iyer, 1983),  Jesus says, "If you are asked your origins, answer: 'We have come out of the Light where the Light came of itself.  It rested, appearing in their Image'" (p. 29).  And this, "I am the Light that is above them all.  I am the All.  The All came from me, and the All has returned to me.  Split wood and I am there.  Raise a stone and you will find me" (p. 36).

What are we to make of all this?  Traditionally, the "Word" is said to be Jesus or the Christ.  Yet many other sources equate Logos with primordial, creative sound.  And others, quoted in Iyer above, say He and we came out of Light.  It seems to me that the one idea that joins all this is that both Logos and Light refer to essential vibration that is the Dynamic Ground of everything that is subsequently created or manifested.  See Washburn (1995) for a psychologist's view of the dynamic ground.   If we are conceiving of the vibration in the audio realms, we have sound; whereas, if we are thinking of it in visual realms, we have radiance or Light.  Fred Alan Wolf describes it from a physicist's point of view in The Compassionate Universe.  It makes most sense to me to translate it as "essence."  You might want to play with these ideas making your own substitutions to see what works for you.  After all, meaning is intrinsically personal.  And meaning is what we are dealing with here.

Jesus came into a body to fulfill a purpose.  He incarnated, as we all have, for some reason.  His life differs from ours only in its purity and perfection.  We all come from and return to the same Source.  What we are able to accomplish in our lives depends upon how well we are able to remove the veils that hide our divinity from us.  Jesus was the "Light of the world" which means that he was able to show us how the Beloved can manifest in life given a clear vessel that allows the Light to shine through it.  "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (John 9:4-5).  And "I am the light of the world; he that followth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12).  And, not only was he the light of the world, but we are meant to be also: "Ye are the light of the world.  A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid" (Matthew 5: 14).  And this: "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8).  "But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light; for whatsoever doth make manifest is light" (Ephesians 5:13).  It is kind of hard to avoid the message that we are Divine Light.  What are we going to do about that?

Symbolism of Light

Throughout spiritual traditions, light stands for many different things.  We have seen how it stands for original goodness in Buddhism and purity in Christianity.  It also means truth in all its pristine goodness.  It is sometimes equated with innocence like that of a newborn child.  Light is usually seen as beautiful unlike darkness which has connotations of evil, lostness and confusion.  I think that is too bad as the beauty of the night has its own values.  These assignations of value are an example of our dualistic ways of thinking.  Light can stand in for joy and delight as well as for the rapture and bliss associated with enlightenment.  Angels usually appear clothed in light.  And the Holy Spirit is symbolized by light as in the Pentacostal bestowal of the Paraclete.

Healing with Light

It is not so unusual, nowadays, for someone to wrap themselves in Divine Light when they feel threatened or find themselves embroiled in negativities.  This is a form of protection.  It does seem possible to invoke Divine Light through a visualization process and to use it this way.  But before we learn how to use the Divine Light, let us look at some of the findings of modern medicine with respect to light.

Light as medicine

Jacob Liberman (1991) wrote a book called Light: Medicine of the future in which he spells out for us a great deal of information about the physical properties of light.  Then he goes into how it is being used for healing.  Liberman begins with the electromagnetic properties of light and how it affects living things.  Then he discusses vision including neurolinguistic programming.  He says the pineal gland in the head enables us to bond with the universe.  It also serves as the body's light meter helping us to stay tuned into nature and thus be able to adjust to seasonal changes.  He calls it the "seat of the soul" (p. 29).  Liberman then deals with color and its influence on physiological systems.  He presents John Ott's work with the influence of light on cellular changes and his gift to us of full spectrum lighting which helps to relieve seasonal affective depression syndrome.  Liberman then goes on to discuss the effects of treatments with light upon vision, learning, cancer, longevity, viruses, dentistry, premenstrual tension, sexual dysfunctions, jet lag, and the immune system.  He takes up the subject of ultraviolet light and talks about its beneficial and destructive effects.

Most interesting is Liberman's discussion of the way the body emits light.  Remember the aura?  Well, here is the scientific information to support it.  His passages on biological receptivity tell us what happens when our bodies block the free flow of energies and how that can make us sick.  He deplores artificial light, excessive use of sunglasses and traumas that can cause some sensors to close down and upset the natural balances in the body.  He says,

 The human body is like a sieve; it is built to allow energy (light) to flow through
it.  If our receptivity to certain aspects of vibrational experience has been reduced,
then the sieve becomes clogged, impeding the flow of energy through the body
and preventing the reawakening of the original experience that caused that portion
of our being to close down.  (Liberman, 1991, p. 177)

This problem can be relieved by treatment with the portion of the spectrum that is blocked.  He thinks maybe enlightenment means bringing light into the areas of our being we have kept in the dark [i.e., repression].  Does this sound familiar?  I recommend this book to anyone who would like to get caught up on the research on light and to find out how it relates to the spiritual journey.

Exercise: Tantra

Read the chapter on Tantra, pages 217-243, in Cutting through spiritual materialism.  We are dealing here with the last stage of the Bodhisattva path, the death of sunyata and the birth into "luminosity."  Please notice that tantra is not the psychology of sexuality as many current  books on enhancing sexuality with tantric practices would lead us to believe.  Tantra is learning how to work with energy.  Energy is described by Buddhists as

. . that which abides in the heart of all beings, self-existing simplicity, that
which sustains wisdom.  This indestructible essence is the energy of great joy;
it is all-pervasive, like space.  This is the dharma body of non-dwelling. . . It
is the driving force of emotion and thought in the confused state, and of com-
passion and wisdom in the enlightened state" (Trungpa, 1973, p. 218, quoting
from the Kriyayoga Tantra of Vajramala).
Tantra is the science of transmutation which means to change to form or substance of something.  Tantra shows us how to transmute ego so that basic intelligence can  come through.  Incidently, Trungpa talks about the mandala principle which is a circle that revolves around a center.  That means everything around you becomes part of your awareness.  The whole sphere represents the reality of life.  Think about this with respect to the surya mandala.

The Divine Light Invocation

Swami Sivananda Radha, now deceased, was a powerful influence in my life as I spent two years living at her ashram in Kootenay Bay, B.C.  She was a huge  presence in spite of her rather small physical size, and she brooked no nonsense.  While we got our ego lessons every day, and often painfully, there was always the Light to comfort and heal us.

Swami Radha was given the Divine Light Invocation by the eternal Babaji shortly after her initiation into sannyas by Swami Sivananda.  She brought it back to the west and has freely given it to everyone as they need it.  It is a method for invoking Divine Light, for our protection and also for the blessing of others and projects that are  important.  There is also a provision for calling down light upon those unknown others who may need it too.  I have many happy memories of doing the Divine Light Invocation to begin a class or satsang, to begin the day in the kitchen or to bless the garden in spring planting time.  Swami Radha also used it for healing, and so can you.  I would like to share it with you.

Practice: The Divine Light Invocation

Study the little booklet The Divine Light Invocation by Swami Radha (1987) and do the practices until you feel comfortable with them.  Please take note of her cautions in the use of it.  If you like, you could get a group together to practice it.  Yasodhara Ashram gives regular classes and workshops on The Divine Light Invocation both at the ashram and at the satellite yoga centers called Radha Houses.  You can get more information and probably also order the book at www.yasodhara.org .  You might want to order The rose ceremony at the same time as we will be using it in the next unit.


. . . and he was transfigured before their eyes.  His clothes shone, and became white like snow, in such a manner that men on earth cannot make white. . . and there was a cloud overshadowing them, and a voice out of the cloud said, This is my beloved son; hear him.  (Mark 9: 2-3, 7)

Transfiguration means to be able to see.  It also means to change the form of something or someone.  We speak of Jesus' transfiguration: "And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them; and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light" (Matthew 17: 1-2).  Here Jesus is bathed in white light from an unearthly source.  We are not told whether there was an increase of light over Jesus' normal appearance or whether the eyes of the disciples were suddenly opened to perceive it.  Probably the latter.

I remember one night at the ashram during satsang.  Swami Radha was giving a talk on love.  Suddenly the room was filled with golden light, and I could see  golden luminescence  coming out of her and out of the heads of the people seated in the rows in front of me.  I was awed, and so I asked at the end of the service if my mentor had also seen it.  He graciously avoided answering me.  Was the light there only for me?  There is no question in my mind that it was a real experience, for it is one of my most vivid, recurring memories.  I believe my eyes were opened because of the intensive spiritual practice I had been doing, and that I perceived something that was always present around Swami Radha and her disciples.  In that situation, it may have been more focused because of the nature of the talk.   Perhaps it is present around you and me as well.

On another occasion, I was at the Himalayan Institute in Pennslyvania attending a talk given by a visiting monk named Swami Prem.  He sat cross-legged on a large square platform, and he radiated light in the same manner as Swami Radha except that, as he spoke, I saw flares of light issue from his mouth.  It was a stunning experience.  All time stops and nothing else can enter consciousness because it is so compelling.

This is what happens when the veils are removed.  The natural light of Spirit flows out of us in every direction like the radiance of a sun, indeed.  The body becomes luminous with love light.  The experience is always associated with the energies of love.  It is as if the person becomes suffused with love in encounter with the Divine One, and it just explodes out of them.  They literally become a body of light.  So, we are Divine Light.  We just need to take off our psychological and mental clothes and expose ourselves. . . as Jesus did.  It is said that the tragedy of his life was that his disciples did not comprehend his messages until after he was gone.  It is true warriorship to be able to expose our tender, raw hearts to an unfeeling world without concern for the personal suffering that may entail.  But out of that grows the gift of compassion.

Exercise: Transfiguration

1.  If you have a copy of The Gospel according to Thomas, read the chapters "Gnostic Theogony" and "Treatise on the Resurrection."  This book is out of print, but perhaps Interlibrary Loan can secure a copy for you to read.

2.  Do the practices in the "Radiating Light" section of Living from the heart.  Journal what happens and, when you reach a good stopping place, write up a paper on what you have learned about the Light in your life.  You might include any Light experiences you may have had during your lifetime.  Consider what they meant to you at the time and what they mean to you now.  Do not be concerned if you have not had such an experience.  It happens when it happens, a product of grace.

We have been exploring the meaning of light in life and looking at some of its manifestations.  Please remember that you are Divine Light, and therefore you are responsible for what it does in the world as it comes through you.


Arguelles, J. A. (1984). Earth ascending: An illustrated treatise on the law  governing whole systems.  Boulder: Shambhala.

Bair, P. (1998).  Living from the heart: Heart rhythm meditation for energy, clarity, peace, joy and inner power.  New York:  Three Rivers Press.

Brennan, B. A. (1988).  Hands of light: A guide to healing through the human  energy field.  New York: Bantam Books.

The Holy Bible: King James or authorized version.  Philadelphia:  John C. Winston Co.

Iyer, R. (Ed.) (1983).  The Gospel according to Thomas with complementary texts.  New York: Concord Grove Press.

Liberman, J. (1991).  Light medicine of the future: How we can use it to heal ourselves NOW.  Santa Fe: Bear & Co.

Radha, Swami S. (1987).  The Divine Light invocation.  Spokane, WA: Timeless Books.

Trungpa, C.  (1973).  Cutting through spiritual materialism.  Boulder: Shambhala. [quotation reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc.,    Boston, ©1973, www.shambhala.com]

Trungpa, C.  (1984).  Shambhala: The sacred path of the warrior.  Boulder: Shambhala.

Trungpa, C.  (1999).  Great eastern sun: The wisdom of Shambhala.  Boston: Shambhala.

Underhill, E. (1961).  Mysticism: A study in the nature and development of man's spiritual consciousness.  New York: Dutton.

Washburn, M.  (1995).  The ego and the dynamic ground: A transpersonal theory of human development.  Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Woodroffe, Sir J. (1973). The serpent power: Being the Sat-cakra-nirupana and     Paduka-pancaka.  Madras, India: Ganesh & Co., distributed by Vedanta    Press, Hollywood.

In this Unit VIII, we have looked at the role of Divine Light on the spiritual journey.  In Unit IX. Illuminationwe will see how meeting the Beloved coincides with the stage of illumination on the mystical journey.

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