Flash of Lightning

Storm clouds have been gathering all afternoon and now they speak in thunder. Wind is whipping all things moveable as plants, tree limbs, awnings, and my shirt are batted about in a rhythmic dance. Birds are flying erratically, frantically seeking a safe place to roost. The unmistakable smell of summer rain wafts in the air as my senses are besieged by untamed energy coming from all directions.

The power of a thunderstorm commands attention through sound and movement—but it is lightning that sets it apart from all other weather phenomena. This particular storm exhibits something I have never seen before. On a background of dark clouds, I can see arcs of electricity through the translucent colors of a double rainbow. Fingers of light seem to intertwine inside and around the iridescent arches. I am overwhelmed by the unexpected display.

In a weird twist of perception, I experience love acting through the terrifying power of the storm. Maybe it is precisely because I am blown away by its beauty. My sense of separateness momentarily disappears inside the storm’s intent. This wild weather has no anger in its wrath. It simply stirs, rearranges, and cleanses the atmosphere while offering some moisture to a parched earth.

The thunderstorm evokes a sense of wonder and respect for nature’s fierce benevolence. In The Way of the Bodhisattva, the call to compassion is referred to as a “flash of lightning in the dark of night.” I did not know when I first read the phrase that Shantideva could be speaking both symbolically and literally. It seems awareness of compassion arises wherever and whenever a flash of insight occurs.

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