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Lit Only by Your Light

July 2, 2014

by Stephen Damon

Like many Zen Buddhists whom I know, I grew up as a Jew. While many of my friends have completely left their “home” religion, I have tried to use my Zen experience to find new expressions of the ancient truths of Judaism. So, this morning while reading a small collection of prayers attributed to the Hassidic master, Rabbi Nachman of Breslove, I remembered a couple of Zen chants that seemed to elucidate similar issues of the spiritual life. Rabbi Nachman said: we should not be “swayed by the approval or disapproval of others,” and Dongshan told us “Just don’t seek from others, or you’ll be far estranged from self….” Rabbi Nachman said, “To look nowhere but within to come to know my true self,” and Sekito Kisen in The Song of the Grass Hut says “Turn around the light to shine within, then just return.”

While all of these words rang true, I needed to find my own words to make their truths mine, which is another way of saying I needed to find the truth that is not theirs or mine; a truth that is not bounded by the personal pronouns often needed to convey the immediacy of an experience.

When I lose my way
Amidst the songs and
Sorrows of the night

When the moon and stars
Are hidden by clouds
I must depend only

On the truth that resides
In the depths of myself
A darkness of being

Lit only by your light.


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