an uninvited koan

Hafiz’s poem – my brilliant image – provides the perfect cue-in for a confession:

It all began with a killer migraine.  My skull felt like a firebomb about to explode; the pain was so intense I wanted it to.  I was retching and nothing would remain in my stomach.  Painkillers weren’t an option.  It was simply more than I could bear, and to my surprise (since I usually suffer in silence) I heard myself screaming, “Finish me off! I can’t stand it!”

It was instantaneous.  Behind my closed eyelids a shimmer of white light washed over the blackness.  Soft milky light – very different from the lights often associated with migraines.

The light brought instant calm, blissful relief from the panic.  The pain was still there but in some inexplicable way it simply wasn’t a problem.

But then these words were somehow ‘heard’:

 AND THIS LIGHT DOES KNOW ALL OTHER LIGHT AS ITS SHADOW

 

My hair stood on end.  Where did that come from?  What did it mean?

Those words were my koan for almost twenty years.

Those words led inevitably to the knowing of that “Astonishing Light” as my own Beingness.

 


my brilliant image

My Brilliant Image

One day the sun admitted,
I am just a shadow.
I wish I could show you
the Infinite Incandescence
that has cast my brilliant image!
I wish I could show you,
when you are lonely or in darkness,
the Astonishing Light
of your own Being

~ Hafiz

 


I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy
translated by Daniel Ladinsky