March 19, 2014

Chanting for Light at the Spring Equinox: Ostara Asatoma.

'Horizon rising/ Up to meet the purple dawn'

My meditation practice at the moment is equinoctial.

Because of the timing of my morning meditation and the timing of the light, I open my eyes after prayer at the exact moment the Sun breaches the far mountains and trees to the East of my house.

From that instant, the exaltation of light is only a matter of time: the light rises like sap in the tree trunks, a force ineluctable, unstoppable, like enlightenment when it comes.

As I go into yoga practice, sunlight fills the room, like water pouring from a faucet into a basin. The room brims with light. I imagine fluidic light spilling out over the windowsills like water, pouring down the sides of the house, saturating the lawn, flooding the streets, rushing down to the river where it swells the banks, and surges South toward the ocean, to become a delta and estuary of light, spreading out into the sea.

I feel like I am at the heart of everything.

What takes my breath away when I behold the dawn sun at this time of year, is that in the veiled darkness just before I open my eyes, I am chanting the great guru mantra that is the calling of the light, the Asatoma. It is an affirmation and a summoning, but a summoning of what is already in the heart:


Asatoma sat gamaya

Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya

Mrityor ma amritam gamaya


From untruth to truth, lead me

From darkness to light, lead me

From death to immortality, lead me 

I wish I could photograph the bore of light pouring over my altar for you, the sun rising above the miniature sun that is my burning candle, that has had the responsibility of holding flame and hope in place over a long dark Winter.

I share with you an Asatoma by my friend Stephanie Starnes so that you can hear it sung; my version is far more workaday chant-y but hers is stunningly ethereal and worthy of a high day like an Equinox! Imagine the Sun coming in at the end of it.

We translate the word ‘sat’ in Sanskrit as ‘truth,’ but it also means ‘reality.’ It is the True Real, beyond subjectivity, beyond point-of-view. It is what things ARE. Lead me from untruth to Truth. Lead me from the unreal to the Real. Lead me out of darkness into light.

In nature, darkness is not a negative value: darkness is necessary for rest, regeneration, the roots of plants, gestation in wombs, for all animals who live their lives and do their part in darkness of deep water or within the land. But in our soul’s life, being kept in the dark or being in willful darkness is not healthy for us. We must grow, and the time comes for open eyes and free movement, which is why the Spring celebrates  the liberation of the Israelites from enslavement by the Egyptians in Passover, and Jesus rising restored from the imprisonment of his mortal body and from the cold tomb in Easter. No matter the mythological interface, it’s the same story. Lead me from death to immortality.

Yearning for freedom and growth, March bucks like an animal trying to throw Winter off its back, dashes back and forth restlessly and stormily between yearning for the promise of Spring and feeling dragged back into the chilly lockdown. Sometimes enlightenment comes in stages. Sometimes the roughness is necessary to shake off the scales. That is part of Nature, too:

There might be snow or ice on the ground, there might be harsh winds. The entire world is purifying itself, cleansing away the dead and dirty and moving toward balance. Shouldn’t we do the same? 

~ The Lunar Tao

At the Spring Equinox, balance always tips from dark to light. It cycles, and winter will come again, as well as something we do not know, but all of the cycles of our lives and the yugas which are the life ages of the Earth move in a spiral, always evolving. We gain wisdom and are called continually to greater and greater light: to the flood of Truth.

From the darkness of Winter we are called to the light of Spring. May our entire life tip toward that side of the balance!

Blessed be, Blessed Equinox and Love!


Follow Stephanie Starnes’s electronic sacred mantra at Chandrabala, Crystaltina, and her creative performance collaborations with her sister Sarah at The Starnes Sisters.


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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: courtesy of the author

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