This Little Light
“This very you, standing distinctly before me, without any form, shining alone ~ just this can expound the dharma and listen to it!”
~ The Record of Linji, Discourses X
Light, or the lack of it, seems to be an abiding theme in my life these last weeks. Speaking with a friend about the upcoming solar eclipse, which will stretch from sea to shining sea for the first time in a century, I was intrigued that even in the “path of totality”, in the moon’s full shadow, a bit of light will shine with the corona.
A couple of nights ago, in a nearby town, I joined a group of 300 people gathered on short notice and with little organization. We marched several blocks to the small-town City Hall, as we all chanted “Love, not hate, is what makes America great!” When we reached our destination, people stood in a wide circle, singing old protest and gospel songs.
One song we sang, “This Little Light of Mine”, is an African slave spiritual, comprising of only a few lines: “This little light, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.” The song is thought to have been inspired by a quote from the Bible: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
As we sang, holding candles, there was a palpable, warm light emanating from the crowd. The few spoken words and clever arguments did not add to the light. And when, after half an hour, the crowd broke up, it quickly blended back into the neighborhood of coffee shops and office buildings. It was just this little light expounding the dharma that night.