I collect sunrises. Some very special places have hosted my habit – the Alhambra, a rooftop in Delphi, the Roman Coliseum at Arles, the rocky shore of Maine, the high Sierras, and, in this photo, the southern tip of Baja California. Not limiting myself to the notables, I look for the east wherever I am.

The quiet of the dawn, the solitude, and the sense of anticipation as sunrise nears heighten a sense of aliveness and amazement. Magic seems to happen. Mist rises, birds sing, fish leap, cares drop, and heart opens to a wondrous world. The day begins afresh.

Pir Vilayat’s hearty expositions and meditations on beauty, splendor, and nostalgia awakened in a sunrise gave depth and clarity to what had been a private prayer. In contemplating the subject matter for this first blog post, synchronously on this year’s Easter morning, “sunrise” seemed a natural choice. Perhaps his words, which follow, will spark a greater joy and understanding in your sunrise experiences, and bring more light into the reach of your days.


The beauty we are so moved by gives a clue about the heavens we ascribe as elsewhere because we are so used to thinking geographically. The Sufis prefer to say that the physical world is made of clues, called ayat, that give some sense of the reality that is trying to transpire through it. Wherever there is a touch of beauty, our mind seems to engage in what the Sufis call tawil, that is to proceed from the actual experience to the attempt to attune oneself to, or grasp, that splendor which can never be grasped and which is beyond any attunement in its infinite regress. Yet there is a capacity in the human being to imagine that one can reach beyond what one has been able to encompass thus far. This longing is expressed, in the words of Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan as “a passion for the unattainable.”

This nostalgia is based upon bewonderment, the wonderment of the sky at sunrise or sunset, or sharing in the miracle of people coming together in search of their ideal. Bewonderment of what is coming through. The universe is, as scientists say, not just intelligent but elegant. An ascetic value arouses our emotion. We are bewondered by the intelligence, but even more so by the elegance with which this intelligence is adorned. It awakens in ourselves a kind of innate sense of beauty.

Remember this: In order to bring out the light that is within you, or to discover splendor within each of us, we need to experience it. Therefore, we are seeking for it in some kind of concrete expression in a person, or in a beautiful sunrise. First encounter light from outside. Then discover that when you look at a beautiful dawn, this is your own being. It makes your light burn more brightly.

If it could be attained! You know that is what we are doing all the time. We are trying to attain things. But this is like the horizon. The further you advance the further it recedes. So it’s not as though you can say I’ve got it now, I’m an illuminated being. Now I’ve got illumination! I put it in my pocket! No, it’s always beyond.

The Sufi’s use the words consternation of intelligence. There is no way the mind can make sense of it. So bewondering becomes glorification. One can’t account for it in one’s understanding. Ibn ’Arabi says it well: Knowledge is veil on the known.

These words of Pir Vilayat were extracted from retreats led by him on March 16, 1995 and March 7, 1999 and edited by Amida Cary.

Sunrise Meditation

Experience a sunrise in nature or recall one in your imagination. Create a gesture to greet the sun as it rises. Be very careful not to look directly into the sun, for it can damage your eyes. Regard the beauty, the majesty of the sunrise, the whole scene. Give vent to your emotion, to bewonderment.

The Sufis call the sun Prince Hurakhsh, Archangel of Light. What qualities do you find in the sun? Can you feel a resonance to those qualities in yourself, and a sense of being “home” in a world of light?

Allow yourself to be flooded with light. Sense the way the pores of your body, the scope of your mind and the feelings in your heart open, and your capacity for accommodating light increases. 

Can you feel the body’s cells jiggling, sparkling, full of life? 

Notice the natural rhythm of your breath. Encourage a link with the sun. As you exhale reach out toward the light of the sun. As you inhale allow light to wash over and through you. A natural response of radiance ensues. 

Recall that our bodies are made of sunlight, the sun itself born from cosmic unfoldment. We exist in a world of light. Revel in the wonderment and beauty dawning upon, within and around you. One could say we discover our solar inheritance. 

Contemplate how, in thoughts, words and deeds, qualities of light and life, encourage and illuminate people and situations: transparency clarifies the dynamics of an encounter; warmth, energy and joy nurture a relationship; a genuine smile brightens the heart of a loved one, friend or passer-by.

How might we, as Pir Vilayat encouraged us, “Bring light and life wherever we go?”

Become aware of your position before the sun. Sense your feet on the ground. With open eyes, notice the life and light around you. Select a way to bring your realization and attunement into the day. Make a closing gesture of gratitude to the sun.

On Prince Hurakhsh

From the writings of Shihab ud-Din Yahya Suhrawardi:

The venerable Prince Hurakhsh, the most sublime of those who have assumed a body, invested with the divine countenance, sparkles rapture in the sphere of Hurqalya. Sometimes he appears in human form, sometimes as the sun, sometimes as a constellation, sometimes as a work of art or an icon. It is he who confers light upon those who meditate upon the celestial spheres.

Hail to the pilgrims knocking at the gates of the high naves of the great halls of light, with righteousness and resolve, for behold the angels hasten to meet you, greeting you with the salutations of the celestial realm, and guiding you toward the Orient of Light.

(Khan, Pir Vilayat Inayat. In Search of the Hidden Treasure. New York:Tarcher/Putnam. 2003. p. 179)