Saturday, January 2, 2010

Faith in the Play of Life

I have long since wrestled with the Hindu notion of "lila" (play) as a description of divine action in the world. The idea of Shiva sporadically indwelling in human-like form to playfully and teasingly court a devotee, before unexpectedly disappearing back into the divine realm, both intrigues and troubles me. In some ways, the description seems apt. Despite our rigorous attempts at taming and controlling the natural world, humanity remains a helpless bystander of raging hurricanes and shifting teutonic plates. The awe-fulness of the Holy never fails to stunt our feeble efforts at domesticating nature's raw force - Kali, the Dark Mother, always slips through our clasped fists. At the same time, I want to believe that we as humans participate in, from time to time even co-direct, this game. Much as Radha's love for Krishna sustains the deity's existence, so too we are the hands of God. Is there not a certain reciprocity, a mutual dependence, an intimate relationality?

One of my favorite verses in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib reads: "Naked we come, and naked we go; in between, we put on a show" (1238). Life exhibits a playful quality - if you watch humanity long enough, you have to laugh at our bizarre eccentricities, our foolishnesses, our absurdities. And yet, life also contains a sense of spectacle. Moments of grace that take our breath away. Moments of disgust at the violence and hatred and bigotry.

In today's shabad, we are exhorted to witness and praise the "wondrous play of the Lord" (SGGS 407). I am inclined to suggest that faith, that audacious act of fides, rests precisely on our trusting in such divine lila.

Print this post

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Winter Chalice Lighting

Again the earth shifts;
Again the nights grow long and the days short;
Again snows lace the frigid earth with blankets of chalk
And waves crash under the soft glow of darkening skies.
In this season of flickering shadows and cooling breezes
People all over the world celebrate the faithfulness of God
To distill creation out of chaos
Month after month,
Season after season,
Year after year.
Let this fragile flame be our prayer of boundless gratitude.

Print this post