My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
- William Wordsworth (1803)
Perhaps you’ve heard of the appellation ‘storm-chaser’ or ‘tornado-chaser’ but have you ever considered that someone might chase rainbows with a similar zeal? If the weather conditions are favorable for rainbows, don’t stand in my way because I make haste to grab an umbrella and rush outside to look for rainbows in the sky. Sun and rain together are fairly uncommon in my region so their appearance elicits full alert! When indoors, I walk around looking out the windows in all directions. If I’m at work, I cross my fingers that my boss will tolerate a little break from my desk to step outside and walk around the perimeter of the building as I look in every corner of the sky for a rainbow. If I’m at home, I put my camera around my neck and pop open my umbrella to walk up and down the street peering intently skyward for some telltale colour. If behind the wheel of an automobile, don’t be surprised if I crane my neck this way and that or just decide to pull off the road for a better look.
Scientifically speaking, a rainbow is simply the reflection of sunlight on drops of water. Sunlight is composed of many colours, which appear as white to our eyes. If the light refracts through water droplets, the myriad colours then appear. The sun will always be behind you when you view a rainbow in the sky and the rain will be in the direction of the rainbow. This play of colour can occur in the mist of waterfalls, the spray of a garden hose or even at night if a full or nearly full moon casts bright enough moonlight while still low on the horizon (Lunar rainbows, or moonbows as they are sometimes called, usually appear as a rainbow of white light or, if the moonlight is bright enough, as muted colours).
The magic of a rainbow can hardly be contained in the scientific equations that explain its creation. The Scottish author and novelist Sir Walter Scott asks:
What skilful limner e’er would choose
To paint the rainbow’s varying hues,
Unless to mortal it were given
To dip his brush in dyes of heaven?
- Marmion: The Tale of Flodden Field (1806)
Indeed rainbows herald nature’s glory at her finest. As Sir Walter Scott describes, they whisper to us of heavenly realities as we journey on terra firma. For a rainbow beckons to us to hope and dream of visionary vistas with its ethereal beauty in the midst of dark storm clouds.
Another type of rainbow visionary vista dawned one day for me on an inner horizon. While in Xiamen, China, in December of 2004, I took part in a silent meditation session amidst the landscape of China’s ageless wisdom. The Indian spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy led us, his students from all over the world, in the meditation. As he shared his own spiritual wisdom with us through the vehicle of silence, we prayerfully walked across the room, returning one-by-one to our seats with a hush in our hearts.
As I quietly sat during this shared sacred moment, years of spiritual inquiry under his guidance led me to contemplate on God’s vision of perfection for humanity. Spontaneously, my love of rainbows came forward and I suddenly was lost in the profundity of all the individuals surrounding me as beings of light that together shone with a beauty far surpassing that of a rainbow. As each seeker received Sri Chinmoy’s blessingful darshan (vision), the experience anchored itself more and more deeply inside me. Immersed in the conviction that Godviews each human being as a radiant expression of the divine source, I imagined that from God’svantage point the prayerful group passing before us were the individual rays of a rainbow creating infinite colours and beauty. As this vision of a spiritual rainbow felt increasingly real, the room filled up with white light and this light emanated brilliantly from each and every person present.
I felt humbled by this vision and marveled to imagine that perhaps one defining quality of God is seeing the promise of perfection that is invisible to the naked eye. I tried to consider how different my life might be if I could see the world around me at every moment through this visionary lens. If a gathering of individuals could reflect light in a unity more beautiful than a rainbow, what other inner vistas might await to be discovered replete with similar grandeur? I do still resonate to Wordsworth’s declaration that my heart will leap up at the sight of a rainbow throughout the passage of my life. However after this gift of rainbow vision during a China meditation with Sri Chinmoy, an earthly rainbow will now inspire me to reflect on an inner divine beauty – namely the spiritual rainbow called mankind.
Article by: Sharani Robins
Sharani is a member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre on the East Coast of America.
This article was originally posted on the Sri Chinmoy Centre site – “Inspiration Letters”
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