Incredible rain, thunder and lightning storms visited Colorado this past summer 2009. After passing over the mountains they would sweep out to the Great Plains, blooming tornadoes. Against the ominous, dark sky left behind by the storm as it traveled eastward, a rainbow (or two) would appear, cast by the afternoon sun emerging from the clouds. The vividness of the rainbow’s glow was arresting, vibrating purple outward to red against the backdrop of a bruised violet, storm-enraged sky.
What do you think of, feel, suddenly contemplate when you see a rainbow? Does it stop you in your tracks? Do your eyes trace to see where the “end” of the rainbow lies? Or do you get caught up in the richness of the color spectrum from its original source? Do you ever wonder how it is that this thing of “beauty” that has so inspired human creativity, arts and sciences, is the touch of rain and sunlight made visible?
Rain and sunlight – sampled symbolically across cultures, time, and personal universes – each is an element of “Nature” that is as good and bad, problematic and beneficial as the other. But when they come together, they produce something more than each other – birth an idea before it has a chance to become “ideal,” a vision before it is labeled “visionary,” a flicker of conscience before one can be called “conscientious.” In this blog, “When Rain and Sunlight Touch,” I seek to build a perspective that goes beyond harmful and socially implicit ideas of “separation” – be it between humans, animals, Nature, god, cosmos, creation – to see what happens when oppositional elements touch, before the dialectical forms the discursive, when our minds, hearts and bodies can only be touched and not yet touch back. What complex and urgent picture of coexistence are we missing when we when we insist the rain remain separate from the sunlight? Where might your rainbow body manifest?
In Tibet, rainbows are believed to appear when a great human being dies. The “rainbow body” phenomenon has been relayed to me in Buddhist teachings like WORDS OF MY PERFECT TEACHER by Patrul Rinpoche, and through stories from Tibetans I have met over the years across the globe. But I cannot help but think that the poignancy of this legend comes from being so place-based in Tibet, land of big skies, storms, sunlight and rainbows as so illuminated by contemporary photographers like Galen Rowel. I am personally struck by the idea of a “rainbow body” because, according to Tibetan Buddhism, it signals that the “greatness” of the human being has been his/her attainment of enlightenment, ultimate liberation from earthly suffering. The auspiciousness of the appearance of rainbows is often only credited to high, realized Buddhist leaders – lamas, rinpoches, geshes, tulkus, bodhisattvas – but, according to teachings such as Patrul Rinpoche’s, the chance to die enlightened does not discriminate along social or spiritual ranks as long as one’s intentions are of pure, selfless virtue. Thus, a poor boatman’s assistant who jumps in the river to save the boat from sinking and others from drowning will himself perish in a hue of rainbows as a promise that he has been lifted out of the cycle of rebirth and suffering. (I suddenly think of the Christian reading of the rainbow as a sign of God’s promise to never flood the earth again…)
“When Rain and Sunlight Touch” is a writing project of rimo Productions based in Boulder, Colorado. rimo Productions births films, exhibitions, performances and publications for the rebirth of human ideas, experiences, culture and consciousness.
Peace be with you.