“When habits are exhausted our original light appears, blazing through our skull.” – Hongzhi

When I first saw this quote from Hongzhi, the image of Hanuman sprang to mind. During our first retreat at Mount Madonna several years ago, I went to the shrine to pay my respects and had the experience of Hanuman’s eyes blazing through my skull. The impact was heightened by the fact that years of devotion had resulted in the features of Hanuman’s face being obliterated by the orange paint and purified butter applied has part of the devotional ceremony.

At first, it felt like the blazing light was emanating from Hanuman’s mirrored, almond eye, entering through my eyes and exiting through the back of my skull. But, as I returned each day, I noticed that I could not tell if the light was exiting through the back of my skull or entering through the back of my skull and the origin of the light felt less centered in Hanuman and more like it was emanating from everything.

The other image that sprang to mind when I saw Hongzhi’s verse, was a worn out shoe. The mind habits that get in the way of experiencing the moment arising, experience myself arising in the moment, seem to get worn out like a shoe. I was interested to see that Hongzhi said that the habits get exhausted not that we get exhausted, it reminded me that the thought that we are a self is one of the habits that gets exhausted.

Rather than framing the issue as having unhelpful habits, we are invited to explore the possibility that we are an unhelpful habit. The better attention I pay to the shoe/habit, the faster it wears out and the more quickly the original light blazes from everything.


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