Saturday, September 20, 2014

Fall 2014 Equinox : A Message of Faith

This evening, Saturday, September 20, 2014, I will share some words on the theme of the Fall Equinox. I write these notes as part of my preparation. My theme is faith.

I have long been struck by the subtle but tangible feeling of upliftment and general energy that surrounds the four points of the solar year which are the two equinoxes and two solstices. I had never noticed them before until 2001 when my wife Padma, inspired by the description in "Autobiography of a Yogi" (by Paramhansa Yogananda) of how his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, celebrated the equinox and solstices, proposed we start the tradition of holding these celebrations here as well (at Ananda in the greater Seattle, WA area).

At that first celebration, September 22, 2001, which took place at the Ananda Community in Lynnwood (a place very much off the beaten path and towards which many first-time visitors seem to get lost enroute), we were standing outside the meditation hall minutes before the celebration service was to begin and no one had arrived! So, a little deflated, we went inside to wait. By 6:10 p.m., the room was full! Ever since then we have found that these celebrations attract many people, often for the first time, or whom we never see throughout the year, otherwise.

In case you are unaware of it, these four points of the solar year represent the passing hours when the sun and earth hover in very specific relationships. Speaking of the northern hemisphere, the two solstices are the points when the sun is "highest" (June 21, summer) in the sky and the hours of daylight are at their height and the point (December 21, winter) when the sun is at its lowest point and daylight hours are the fewest. The Spring (March 21) and Fall (September 21) equinoxes are when the hours of day and night are equal.

On an energetic level and in respect to human consciousness, the summer solstice represents the height of our vitality and creative energies. We are filled with both energy and en-joy-ment as we work in hopeful expectation of "profitable" and "productive" results (come Fall). The Fall equinox, we are filled with gratitude for the harvest as we also introspect upon the fruits of our labor as to how to improve our efforts in the period to come. In the Fall, we know that the winter is coming and we must gather, store, and protect our harvest to sustain us through the dark months ahead. We draw upon our faith that by our efforts and by divine grace, we will be sustained as we endure challenges and difficulties.

The Winter solstice celebrates the fact that soon the sun will now begin its journey of return. In the darkness is born new life, in the darkness of the womb where the seed fertilizes the embryo, in the ground where seeds lie, seemingly infertile but awaiting the Spring, and in our hearts where, at the center of our trials and difficulties, there resides the light of truth and of love. It is in our hearts and in the midst of the darkness, that the Christ child of love and wisdom is reborn. In this universal love which is the essence of life, unseen and in the apparent darkness of non-material realities (consciousness, itself), we celebrate our fellowship, our families, and our kinship in God.

The Spring equinox is a celebration of hope in the most obvious way. The new buds of growth, the beautiful and fresh flowers, and the birth of new life offers to us the promise of redemption, rebirth, and hope for lasting happiness. Life is reborn for those who have planted seeds of hope, faith and goodness and who have nourished those seeds with the sunlight of wisdom and the water of love.

Each of these four celebrations affirms our kinship as children of God. Whether recumbent or active, whether hopeful or retiring, sensitive souls rejoice in the fellowship of all life which has sprung from the unseen but intuited divine presence which resides in all.

I intend to share a little of a remarkable life, that of Louis Zamperini. The book and soon-to-be released movie of the same name, "Unbroken," chronicles a life of great struggle which, endured with faith, hope and vitality, proved victorious. Louis, born in 1917, and against great odds, became an Olympic runner and met Adolph Hitler in 1936 at the Berlin Olympics. In World War II, his bomber crashed in the Pacific and he endured 47 days at sea, harassed constantly by sharks and strafed by Japanese warplanes, floating without food or water. Picked up near the Marshall Islands by the Japanese, he endured torture, beatings, starvation and indignities beyond imagination until the conclusion of that war. Hailed a hero upon his return to California, the toll of indignity and torture held him captive until, hearing Billy Graham one day in Los Angeles, the dark night of his prayers in captivity blossomed into flowers of forgiveness.

In October, 1950, he went to Japan to meet, once again, his (now imprisoned) tormentors and to offer forgiveness. He spent the rest of his life in service to others. In 1981, he carried the Olympic torch in Japan (quite near his former POW camp). He died last July 2, 2014. A movie, directed by Angelina Jolie, will be released this December.

Our lives are lives of privilege, compared to what Louie endured and that of many millions throughout world today. Our privilege grants us the opportunity to transcend comfort and to seek the "truth that shall make you free." I've often wondered how and why some people, "," Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, "out of a thousand," turn within, look up and seek God in truth and in right action. I think it is because the seed of faith has been planted in our hearts, nourished in our bosom, often silently, most likely in past lives, and then begins to sprout when conditions are right.

Jesus told the story that "in a field two are working, one is taken and the other left behind." By this he means, that among people, otherwise identical outwardly in appearance or activity, perhaps one will find his faith awakened and will "leave" the field (meaning leave his mundane existence, if not in actuality, then in spirit). We never know the time or the place when God, "like a thief in the night," will call us from within.

Fall is an excellent time to go on retreat; to take personal and private seclusion: even, if, just for day when no one else is around. Take the time to reflect upon the harvest of your life, the seeds you have planted in this life: what blossoms and fruits will they bear? Is this fruit what you seek? Pray for the inspiration to be guided and the strength to be lead by faith from within.

Perhaps I see you this evening!