Be The Light

poem true self

You may be familiar with the poem that Amanda Gorman wrote for the inauguration, “The Hill We Climb.” The poem inspired many people. I have been seeing the last 3 lines of her poem all over social media. When I first heard these lines, it reminded me of a poem in the Zen tradition I practice in. Here are the last lines of Amanda’s poem:

For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it

These lines couldn’t be more true. Here is a poem that Zen Master Seung Sahn wrote:

Your true self is always shining and free.
Human beings make something and enter the ocean of suffering.
Only without thinking can you return to your true self.
The high mountain is always blue, white clouds coming and going. 

There is always a light shining. Each one of us already has this light that is always shining. The problem is, we rarely see this light. “Human beings make something and enter the ocean of suffering.” What is it we are making? We start by creating and believing in this concept of “I”. This “I” separates the entire world into opposites. If there is an “I” then there is a “you”. Then we make us and them, good and bad, like and dislike, right and wrong, it is endless. This opposites thinking creates a filter in which we view the world. Sometimes we may think our view is the truth. This is how fear, anger, and grasping appear in our lives. This naturally creates dissatisfaction for ourselves and those around us.

“Only without thinking can you return to your true self.” Descartes once said, “I think, therefore I am.” Zen Master Seung Sahn once said, “then if you are not thinking, then what?” That is very interesting. That means, if we let go of right and wrong, like and dislike, good and bad, us and them, I and you, then what is left? This is where we can see the light. This is where we can perceive the world as it is. “The high mountain is always blue, white clouds coming and going.”

if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it

In the Zen tradition, we call it courage. It takes courage to investigate ourselves. We have spent an entire lifetime building this concept of ourselves and this world. Our happiness, security, comfort, and strength depend on this concept and it doesn’t even exist. How crazy is that? It almost seems that if we discover the truth about ourselves, then everything that we have built up, all the happiness, security, comfort, and strength will disappear. If it all disappears, then what? Who are we? What are we? 

if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it

It takes courage to look inside with openness and sincerity. It takes courage to see through our concept of ourselves and this world. It takes courage to stand up and respond to this world. Many of us live in our own little bubble. We are only concerned with my life, or my family, or the people I like. We have our judgments, strong views, the holding of our opinions that affect everyone and everything around us. If we can truly perceive and let go of our own judgments, our strong views, all the things we are holding or pushing away, then the light appears by itself. This light is something we already have. No one can give it to you, and no one can ever take it away. It can shine to your family, your friends, your co-workers, your city, your state, your country, this entire world. This is not about religion, Zen, spirituality, or philosophy. It is about being human. Understanding our original human nature and doing something to help this world. 

Thank you, Amanda Gorman for your words. I hope it will inspire all of us to take action. To look inside and see this light that we already have. Then shine it to this world that is in desperate need. 


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