Chapter Nine: The Divine Spark
Behold the words of the Qur'an: "We are closer to you than you are yourself." Comprehend your relationship with God! He is closer to us than our own selves. Yet through ignorance we search for Him, wandering from door to door.
- A Sufi poem
Remember the clear light, the pure clear white light from which everything in the universe comes, to which everything in the universe returns; the original nature of your own mind. The natural state of the universe unmanifest. Let go into the clear light, trust it, merge with it. It is your own true nature, it is home.
- Tibetan Book of the Dead
This chapter presents scriptural descriptions of the Divine Spark within us all. The six scriptures examined in this book teach that the all-powerful Ultimate Divine is present everywhere, yet hidden from conventional senses. These traditions also direct their followers to a common path of compassionate action and control of material desire. Although it is difficult to achieve perfection, the key to overcoming the challenges in this world is always at hand. Every person has the ability to harness the Divine within him or her self to great effect and at any time by genuinely seeking to act in awareness of the Eternal and living a life of good conduct. We can improve our world simply by improving ourselves. The teachings about the Divine Spark are found throughout all six holy books, and constitute yet another example of their common purpose and fundamental truth.
Verse thirty of chapter seven of the Analects provides an excellent starting point for the discussion on the Divine Spark. Despite his assertions that it is difficult to fully love and embrace virtue, Confucius says:
Is virtue a thing remote? I wish to be virtuous, and lo! virtue is at hand.
Access to perfection is always available. To seek the Virtue is to find the Virtue. This may seem to be contradictory to the passage in the Analects quoted in the previous chapter. However, this is not the case. Confucius had condemned humanity for failing to live up to our potentials, but he clearly believed that these latent potentials can be unlocked. The difficulty faced by individuals in harnessing their inherent virtue stems from our natural imperfections and sensory distractions. It is very trying to let go of one's base desires and selflessly serve other human beings. However, such a way of life is possible through sincere effort. Virtue is within each person, and can be embraced at any moment.
If we are able to attune ourselves to the Way of Heaven and fully commune with the Timeless Virtue, then we will benefit immensely. The positive results of tapping into the innate Divine Spark within all sentient beings are mentioned in chapter twelve, verse eighteen of the Analects:
Chî K'ang, distressed about the number of thieves in the state, inquired of Confucius how to do away with them. Confucius said, 'If you, sir, were not covetous, although you should reward them to do it, they would not steal.'
All human beings can change the universe simply by changing themselves. This is the crucial evidence of the Spark of the Omnipotent within all people. Confucius asserts that it is the base materialism of Chî K'ang which encouraged the outbreak of theft in his realm. If Chî K'ang were to rule through compassionate love, and lead his people by example, then the crimes in his domain would cease. We all have the creative and transformative power of the Divine within. Individuals simply need to harness this unstoppable force. Once one masters his or her base thoughts and actions, the beneficent results will be inexorable. When we empty ourselves of imperfections, only the everlasting Virtue will remain. This encouraging teaching is found throughout the holy books of the various world religions. If we wish to change our circumstances, we first need to change ourselves. Fully embracing the inner Perfection within allows a person to radically improve his or her society, and the world.
Jesus promised his followers tremendous results if they were able to fully harness the Divine within themselves. For a Biblical account of the Divine Spark, we now examine chapter seventeen, verse six of the Book of Luke:
And the Lord said, "If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you."
To posses an iota of true faith allows for incredible powers. Jesus is speaking of the omnipotent nature of the Divine Spark. Of course, it is very difficult to fully utilize this Essence within our material bodies. Just as Confucius advised Chî K'ang to change the actions of his subjects through self-mastery, Jesus informs us that we can change our universe through unrestrained, illuminated knowledge of and belief in the ever-present Divine. This ability is mentioned again by Jesus in chapter eleven, verse twenty-three of the Gospel of Mark:
For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
The necessarily-limited powers of this transient realm can be overcome by harnessing the Perfect Essence within each sentient being. Great abilities are granted to those to do not doubt in their own innate Divine capabilities; one who attunes his or her consciousness with that of the Eternal Knower can work miracles. But how does one go about taping into this omnipotent potential? Again, just as in the Analects, the instruction in the Bible for harnessing the Divine Spark relies simply on legitimate seeking. As verse nine of chapter eleven of the Book of John tells us:
And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
In the spiritual quest, the struggle is the victory, and the journey is the goal. An individual can embrace the Divine realities around and within himself or herself through unwavering faith and earnest effort. Such a radical transformation is possible for all people because of our inner nature, but most of humanity fails in this regard due to the temptations and illusions of the outside world. However, for those who genuinely and constantly seek the Divine, the quest can never fail. The omnipotent, although hidden from the senses, is always within reach.
The Qur'an focuses its teachings not on (what may seem like) supernatural abilities, but rather the positive effects of genuine faith in the personal, societal and spiritual spheres. Nevertheless, numerous passages of the Qur'an refer to the realities of the Divine Spark, such as verse sixteen of sura fifty:
It was We Who created man, and We know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.
The Qur’an, which of all the holy scriptures compared in this book makes the strictest distinction between human beings and the Ultimate Divine, nevertheless confirms the common teachings on the Divine Spark found in all religions. All human beings carry within themselves the Breath of The Eternal. The Supreme Being is fully aware of our lustful imperfections. However, the ever-present Divine key to conquering our base thoughts is always at hand. By trusting in and seeking this Divine essence which is within all humanity, our limitations can be overcome. Our actions and thoughts help to create the world around us. The key to overcoming the sufferings of this world is always present within us; for the Eternal Refuge is nearer to our true selves than our own material bodies.
The Qur'an further enumerates on the power of the consciousness within us in sura forty-two, verse thirty:
Whatever misfortune happens to you, is because on the things your hands have wrought, and for many He grants forgiveness.
Here is a description of the omnipotent Divine Spark in a negative sense - it is our own misguided actions and attitudes that produce the trails in life. Every individual helps to create the world around us. Suffering and trials stem from our dualistic nature as flawed material beings which nevertheless have the Imprint of the Divine within. Our imperfections should not discourage us from seeking union with the Ultimate Divine, because Allah is both compassionate and merciful. The universal teachings on the Divine Spark are meant to inspire faith and hope.
The teachings of Buddha place great emphasis on overcoming our base natures in order to enter Nirvana. Chapter eight, verses four and five of the Dhammapada gives a Vedic account of taping into the Divine Spark:
Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand people in battle, yet one indeed is the noblest victor who conquers oneself.
Self-conquest is far better than the conquest of others. Not even a deity, an angel, Mara [the Buddhist personification of temptation] or Brahma can turn into defeat the victory of such a person who is self-subdued and ever restrained in conduct.
The Imperishable and Omnipotent is within the reach of our own consciousnesses. Humans must overcome their inner imperfections, and then the entire world of illusion is vanquished. When one truly conquers his or her desires, he or she perfectly attunes his or her self to the Divine order. Once one has overcome the material illusion, the everlasting victory is at hand. This triumph is irreversible.
In chapter twenty, verses five through seven of the Dhammapada, the perfection of self-conquest is equated with perfect knowledge (a further element of the omnipresent Divine Spark):
'All conditioned things are impermanent'--when one sees this with wisdom one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification.
'All conditioned things are unsatisfactory' --when one sees this with wisdom one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification. 'All things are not self'--when one sees this with wisdom one turns away from suffering.
Realization of the impermanence of the material world, and its inability to provide true satisfaction, provide the knowledge that enables ultimate liberation. We should not see our possessions, or even our physical bodies, as ourselves. Such created objects will pass away, but morality and knowledge are eternal, and these constitute the aspects of our nature which allow us to reenter the Divine Sanctuary. Our Perfect Nature resides within our bodies, but is also separate from them. "Things" are not "self", despite what marketing agencies may wish you to believe. The true core of the perfect attributes of our souls (often referred to as "Buddha Nature" in Buddhist theology) is our eternal Spark. One who seeks and is able to realize this non-material essence is freed from the sufferings inherent in this earthly realm. The parallels of this passage with the other sacred verses examined in this chapter are readily apparent to an unbiased reader. The Divine is within, and to commune with the Undying we must overcome the transient sufferings inherent in this human life through self-purification.
The harnessing of the ever-present Tao within all people is a theme found throughout the teachings of Lao Tzu. Section thirty-seven of the Tao te Ching provides an overview of the promises of harnessing this Divine power:
The way never acts, yet nothing is left undone.
Should lords and princes be able to hold fast to it,
The myriad creatures will be transformed of their own accord.
After they are transformed, should desire raise its head,
I shall press it down with the weight of the nameless uncarved block.
The nameless uncarved block
Is but freedom from desire,
And if I cease to desire and remain still,
The empire will be at peace of its own accord.
This section explains the complete power of the Way in a uniquely Taoist formula. Because of Its freedom of ulterior or selfish motives, the Ultimate Divine is able to do all things. This passage promises the radical transformation of our world when a human harnesses his or her Divine Spark. Stressed again in this passage are the benefits of becoming free from desire in order to emulate the Ultimate Divine. That which is all-powerful and all-knowing, would by the very nature of these attributes be free from material lusts. In order employ the Divine Spark within us, we must reverse the equation. Human beings are invited to let go of base instincts and cravings in order to tap into the ever-present Way. If we can achieve such perfection, we will see manifested a sublime transformation of the world around us.
Section fifty-four of the Tao te Ching further elaborates on the beneficent results of harnessing the inner Divine Essence:
Cultivate it in your person
And its virtue will be genuine;
Cultivate it in the family
And its virtue will be more than sufficient;
Cultivate it in the hamlet
And its virtue will endure;
Cultivate it in the state
And its virtue will abound;
Cultivate it in the empire
And its virtue will be pervasive.
The Omnipotence of the Tao ensures great results to those who attune their thoughts and actions to the Divine Will. To conquer base desires is to unleash the Divine within oneself. Such a victory will bring about immense benefits to the individual, the family, and society at large. Human beings can truly live up to the promises of their innate potentials by harnessing the Eternal Way within themselves. We can vastly transform our own lives, our societies, our countries, and indeed, the entire world by listening to the Spark within. Civilization can be improved by following the eternal commands of knowledge and morality. These words of Lao Tzu are but a reflection of the truths found in common throughout this chapter. The key to making a better world is present within every individual.
The Bhagavad Gita contains an account of the promises of the Divine Spark which confirms and reinforces these universal realities enumerated in other religious teachings. In chapter three, verses forty-two and forty-three, Krishna provides a description of the Eternal Essence:
The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and he [the soul] is even higher than the intelligence.
Thus knowing oneself to be transcendental to the material senses, mind and intelligence, O mighty-armed Arjuna, one should steady the mind by deliberate spiritual intelligence and thus -- by spiritual strength -- conquer this insatiable enemy known as lust.
True knowledge of one’s Unchanging nature is the means to victory over material uncertainties. This Spark of pure consciousness is but an elemental piece of the Ultimate Divine - the “breath of God” in Abrahamaic terms, the fundamental essence of one’s true self. We must use our minds to seek this inner perfection. Material distractions, suffering, and uncertainties can be overcome by attuning oneself to the primary, Eternal nature.
The Gita again describes the Divine Spark in verses sixty-one and sixty-two of chapter eighteen:
The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.
O scion of Bharata (Arjuna), surrender unto Him utterly. By His grace you will attain transcendental peace and the supreme and eternal abode.
The desire to achieve perfection, honestly sought, will never fail. We see once more that the journey is the goal, the striving is the victory. Once one fully commits to harnessing the perfect Spark within oneself, and seeks the path of reentering the Ultimate Divine, then the objective is in reach. We need to realize that the “material energy” of our bodies is not our true selves. The Gita invites one to surrender to the Ultimate Divine (interestingly, this passage mirrors the literal Arabic meaning of the world “Islam”). Evil and imperfections are powerless, both in this world and the next, for those who engage in worship through correct actions. To reach the unassailable refuge, one must let go of base cravings and live with complete beneficence towards all creatures. The common teachings on the Divine Spark's power, and the instruction for harnessing this internal Essence through sincere, wholehearted effort and unbiased knowledge, are found in the Gita, just like all the other holy texts which have been gifted to humanity. Their common descriptions of the Divine Spark, and the instructions for harnessing the ever-present potential are mutually-supportive, and are a vital element of the universal spiritual message.
All of the six foundational religious books teach that earnestly and honestly seeking the Divine within is the path to ultimate liberation and union with the Eternal. We must be in constant awareness of the All-Knowing and All-Powerful inside of and around oneself, and we must recognize our own non-material nature. Furthermore, each person must act in a way that testifies to their faith in the unseen and just order of the universe. In such consciousness, the sufferings of our transient world can be left behind, and all things will be possible.