A Vedic Prayer for Peace
Rig Veda 10.37.8-10; Raimundo Panikkar, The Vedic Experience: Mantramanjari
(Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1977) pp. 294-95.

Introduction by Eric Baylin

As the first sliver of the sun’s orb lifts gradually over the horizon, an ocean of light begins to fill the world. A sea-wash of golden air spills across the land, gilding everything in sight: clouds, trees, rooftops. In the presence of such a splendid sunrise, one can easily understand why the authors of the Rig Veda, the earliest scriptural compositions of India, address our luminous star with words like these:
O farseeing Sun, the bearer of light…

In the ancient verses on this webpage, Sun is personified, deified. In India, Sun is often worshipped as Lord Surya, and is revered so on the Siddha Yoga path. Such veneration is easy to understand. In every sort of way, the sun supports and sustains us. With each new morning, it unfolds the world anew. Its life-giving rays warm us and nourish the plants that feed us. Its all-encompassing presence in our lives inspires us through the reliable rhythms of its coming and going, through its uncompromising generosity and steady brilliance.

On our planet’s annual journey circling the sun, there are two specific moments that particularly inspire reflection and celebration—the solstices of June and December. Given the way the earth tilts, there is an exact moment in December when the South Pole comes closest to the sun, signaling the advent of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Conversely, when the North Pole comes closest to the sun in June, the advent of summer and winter is experienced in the opposite way in each hemisphere.

In the northern half of the globe, we are approaching the Winter Solstice on December 21. The days have been getting shorter and shorter as night encroaches on daylight ever earlier in the afternoon. In the moment of the solstice’s perfect alignment of planet and sun, a reversal takes place. The days begin to lengthen again—indeed, a cause for celebration.

The word solstice from its Latin origin gives us insight into how this moment has been perceived through the ages. In the Latin, sol means “sun” and the root stit means “standing,” suggesting that in these moments the sun seems to be standing still.

It’s as if the earth were breathing in consonance with the sun, and this pause of the solstice is not unlike the sacred pause between the in-breath and the out-breath—that moment when our mind settles in meditation and we find entranceway into the experience of the light of the supreme Self.

The occasion of a solstice can inspire us to reflect on our own moments of perfect alignment in sadhana, when the shadowed awareness of our limited mind gives way to the light of the Self, when we experience the inward-flowing grace of the Guru.

I invite you to take this solstice as an opportunity to revel in these verses from the sacred Rig Veda as a way to honor the glorious radiance that is the physical sun—divine Sun—and also to honor the sunrise within yourself, the dawn that emerges with our recognition of the Self, the great sustaining light that ever nurtures and inspires us.

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