~ Happy Solstice ~
May the Sun’s Light Illumine the Gifts in your Heart
Let’s chant the Gayatri Mantra as the sun returns to gradually lengthen these blustery winter days! Over the ages, the sun has been revered as the source of all light and life. The planets in our Solar System revolve around it, reflecting its light. As the source of light and life, the Sun has been central to a cosmic spirituality that is both ancient and timeless, which have served as the basis of many of the world’s religions—unbeknownst even to many of their adherents. For some this reverence continues today, as people around the world celebrate winter holidays including the Solstice. The candles and light found in many traditions honor this creative source of inspiration and light: the Sun. The Gayatri Mantra, a Hindu Chant that honors the sun as the source of light externally as well as internally, can also be used to guide one from darkness toward more light during the long months of winter as well as any time one could use such support.
The sun has many names, all of them presumably pre-historic in their origins. The ancient Greeks called it Helios and the ancient Romans called it Sol, both of which derive from the same Proto-Indo-European term. The Latin word Sol developed into Sole in Italian, Sol in Portuguese and Spanish, and Soleil in French. Modern English word Sun evolved from the same Proto-Germanic form that today is Sonne in German and Zon in Dutch, related to Sonne and Sunne in Old and Middle English, with similar forms found in other ancient Germanic languages such as Old Norse, Old Saxon, Old High German and Gothic (1).
Many ancient cultures, including the Essenes, Hindus, Sumerians, Egyptians, Native Americans, Inca, Maya and Chinese referred to themselves as the “Children of the Sun” or “Children of Light.” Not only did they honor the sun historically as the source of all life, they feared the times when the sun did not shine brightly and devised rituals to keep it shining. Celebrations were created to honor its transit across the sky. Unfortunately, it seems that the deeper meanings inherent with this time of year elude many in modern society.
The journey of the sun through the sky (or rather our planet’s journey around it) can be marked at four distinct points in time and space which mark the movements of the earth around the sun and the sun’s varying influence over light and darkness, day and night, and the passage of the seasons. These include the spring and fall equinox (when the lightness of day and the darkness of night are equal in length), and the summer and winter solstice (a time at noon when the sun is at its highest (summer) or lowest (winter) altitude above the earth’s horizon). Historically, marking these dates provided helpful guidelines for livestock breeding, as well as the planting and harvesting of crops in many agricultural cultures. For those in northern countries where winter was long, dark, and very cold, the Solstice provided an uplifting marker halfway through this challenging season. Today, many consider the Solstice as a form of sun or agricultural worship or write it off as a simple pagan celebration related to the seasons.
One might wonder, however, what caused tribes to construct elaborate structures in more ancient times- that apparently reflect the pattern of our planet in orbit around this life giving ball of gas known as the Sun? It is estimated that there are hundreds (if not thousands) of stone circles, temples, and secret inner rooms that aligned with the sun at its four major annual stages. These huge structures can be found across Europe and Britain, in Egypt, North and South America, Easter Island, Australia, Asia, and many other parts of the world. Some of these sites have endured as the most enigmatic and mystical places in the world, and remain some of the most advanced sites astronomically, mathematically, architecturally, and spiritually in history. Still today, in a modern world that can seem quite distanced from natural and cosmic principles, these sites echo a Golden Age of knowledge and spirituality dawning from the depths of our pre-history. (2).
A story in ancient Hindu texts depicts the Sun’s movement through the Celestial Realms as a chariot drawn by seven horses. These seven horses are said to represent the seven spectrums of visible light. Seven is also found in the movement of matter from space to earth, which is of seven densities; the notes of the musical scale; the ancient belief that the solar system floats amidst the seven Lokas, or planes of consciousness; the seven days in our solar calendar representing the seven planets of the Solar system; and the seven tissues that comprise the human body, according to Ayurveda, the Hindu Science of Life.
According to Vedic Astrologers, “The Sun is the self that is connected to God, the Soul. The Sun is described as the Soul of the universe, representing the life-force on earth which sustains everything. Thus, every heartbeat, thought, inspiration, act of photosynthesis or anything else real or imagined on Earth is considered to be fueled by the Sun's power. From this comes the energy of confidence and power, consistency and inspiration as well as our inherent capacity for truth and transformation. As the main source of light, other planets merely reflect the Sun's Light. It is the ONE that connects all things - the ocean of life that is our true nature. As such, it illuminates the path of truth, giving the strength to sacrifice our smaller desires so that we may purify and reclaim our Self as the highest truth.
The solar ray is linked with the innermost essence of the human individual, our Soul. The Sun is the "Silent Watcher" of every human being. It is vitally concerned with the well-being of the soul, never interfering in its activities but always ready to assist when we are willing to receive its guidance.”( 3). This is why the Gayatri Mantra, which invokes the healing and transformative powers of the sun, is considered to be one of the most auspicious Hindu chants, suitable for chanting with any planetary shift or cycle, according to my Yoga Nidra teacher, Sreedevi Bringhi.
The word Gayatri (which represents the primordial aspect of the Mother Goddess) means to go beyond, to transcend the three gunas (Tamas, Rajas and Sattva – discussed in an upcoming blog) or aspects of our personality. When one chants the Gayatri Mantra he or she is asking to be guided and inspired by something which is beyond the intellect – by spirit, good will, love, or God depending on your views of what that might be. Honoring the Sun as the source of both that outer and inner illumination, the Gayatri is considered to be the power that can overcome and destroy all sins and sorrows, so chanting the mantra supports one in overcoming adversity.
The Gayatri Mantra tells us that:
1) There is energy present everywhere – in everything and inside oneself.
2) One can channel this energy to gain pure, enlightened intelligence.
3) One is and always will be a part of this powerful energy and should therefore try to take advantage of it.
It is a chant of surrender, asking that the light of the sun, which is inside of us and all around us, purify us and be used for the greatest good.
Regardless of religious heritage, this light is a symbol of the eternal quest for knowledge and truth, and can be used to support us as we attempt to rise up from the darkness of ignorance which has led to countless wars and other troubles over the years to a place of more light and more love. Just as a Menorah or Christmas Tree brighten the homes of many during the darkest months of the year, you too, regardless of heritage can visualize the returning light heralded by the Winter Solstice to be a light from above spreading out over each of us, over the entire earth, acknowledging that “as above, so below” as you chant the mantra to enhance it.
My hope for all of us is that we can surrender into this eternal light, allowing ourselves to be filled with it, and letting it shine out in everything we do, every thought we have, every action we take. May this light fill our hearts and illumine the gifts of our soul. That is my wish for this holiday season, which for some began with Hanukkah in November this year, for others begins with the Winter Solstice and extends through Christmas into the New Year.
Namaste: The Light in Me Recognizes and Honors The Light In You.
2. The Path of the Spiritual Sun by Belsebuub and Andrea Pritchard