What follows is an origin myth. A myth is a story that is absolutely true, even if everything that happens in it is fictional. Myths invite us to participate in the mystery of life. In a myth, there is no author and no reader. There is only a reminder of the miraculous.
A calm settled over the valley as the Sun began to sink. Pinks and reds and oranges danced across the sky and onto the hillside, ushering out vibrant green to make way for solemn blue. Brahma, our frazzled creator, could hardly follow the colors with his paintbrush. Far beneath his celestial dome, men and women scurried about with problems of their own.
Somewhere in-between, we find the Hermit.
“In these lonesome hills I have made my home,” says the Hermit. “Far from the wearying grind of mankind.”
The Hermit ventures from his cave at the crack between night and day. He uses this time to forage a measley meal. His nights are spent in quiet contemplation and his days are filled with indecipherable dreams.
“Once I lived in the world of men. I had a family, and my dreams, and my future.”
Who can say what drove the Hermit from his home? The call of solitude is ancient and mysterious.
“I would quit the world of form. This mirage holds no more charm for me.”
Though his body has grown emaciated and lean, and though his mind travels tirelessly along well-worn paths, his spirit remains ever bound to the grand illusion of life.
Nothing in the world goes unnoticed, but who is reading our Hermit’s strange tale? The birds and trees and other forest creatures are too busy with one another to notice one solitary man. The rocks are old and time passes differently for them. In their eyes, the vast arc of a human life has all the meaning of a fly’s erratic flight.
And yet, there is one who is captivated by the Hermit, as He is captivated by each of us. He is the Sun, who sets as the Hermit rises, and in this brief interlude lies the space for an exchange.
“Do you not grow weary of rising?” asks the Hermit. “Is it not a burden to lift yourself into the sky only to fall, time and time again, beyond the distant hills?”
The Sun answers every question with a smile. “It is not I who is rising and falling, my friend, it is you who are spinning. As for me, I drift without aim through immeasurable space.”
The concept seems strange to the Hermit, but he accepts it as true.
“Would that I could cease spinning,” he mutters.
The Hermit dwells on the injustices of life. A sparrow snatching up a mouse, an innocent man overcome by thieves…
“Why do you shine your light on these tragedies? Are you a willing participant of every crime? Or do you remain aloof and indifferent to the suffering of others?”
“I am not without compassion,” responds the Sun. “But who am I to interfere? I can hardly fathom the strands of future and past that weave to form these happenings. Between the Stars and Mother Earth, a plan is hatched—but as for me, I must watch and wonder.”
“Surely you can tell good from evil!” cries our indignant Hermit.
“What I see I cannot say. I provide a stage but not the commentary.”
‘This must be some hypocrisy,’ thinks the Hermit, ‘and yet, he seems sincere.’
The words of the Sun trouble the Hermit. He begins to doubt the path he has taken. He wonders if he isn’t missing something.
For the countless creatures, life goes on. The Sun bathes them all in light and warmth, asking nothing in return. He watches over them as a loving parent. And though He does not play favorites, from time to time it so happens that a special relationship is formed. Mother Earth gives her blessing, and for those with keen and subtle eyes, twilight lasts just a bit longer than usual.
“Life is suffering,” declares the Hermit. “The Great Sage has uttered this truth. The life of animals is driven by hunger and fear. The ‘greater glory’ of man is to suffer loneliness, despair, doubt and madness as well. You sit at the center of creation in your stupid bliss! Why not close Your shining eye and put an end to it all?”
“It is the bird’s joy to fly, and man’s joy to live and love. It is my joy to shine. The truths of the sages are varied—for every ray of light there is a new way to perceive the world. And what are the words of the Great Sage but the light of another Sun?”
In pensive silence, the Hermit returns to his cave. His meditation is unclear; his concentration is broken. Frustrated and confused, he chooses to sleep.
That night, the Hermit dreams of a dazzling light. A little girl whispers, “it’s coming right inside of you!”
For the first time in years, the Hermit emerges from his cave at daybreak. The sight of the World being born again stirs something long since dormant. Shades of joy and sorrow threaten the calibrated detachment of his mind. Everywhere he looks he sees the Sun. His friend invites him outward to taste the inexhaustible richness of life.
He wanders through the hills in a kind of stupor. The singing of the birds reverberates in the caverns of his mind. His intensified gaze pierces the veil of reality. As he studies a flower, the past and future bleed into the present. He sees birth, maturation and death, each contained within the other. All of life flows on like a river, but as he floats higher and higher a new image emerges. He traces all rivers back to a single source existing as a perpetual blossoming. At the heart of this divine lotus he meets an old friend—the Sun.
Suddenly, he understands the language of the birds, and the waves, and the flowers. It is a song which says only, “I am.” For a while, this is all he hears. The entire Universe singing in perfect harmony.
Slowly, words and distinctions re-appear, like clouds passing in front of the Sun. And yet, a light remains.
The Sun Hermit has been born.