Born with the Dawn of Every Day

By Rev. Wanika K. Stephens

April 2015

Presented at the CHI Spring 2015 Ordination Ceremony

“Feel that you are born with the dawn of every day;
that you nestle in the lap of death when your eyes close in sleep.
For, what happens in deep sleep?
The body, the senses, the mind, the intelligence—
all is negated and there is no trace of awareness of the world.
Know that waking from sleep is but birth and going into sleep is death.”
—Sathya Sai Baba

Rev. Wanika K. Stephens

When we talk about a new life, it’s easy for most of us to see the opportunity and blessing in such a gift.

But when we talk about death, the gift wrapped inside this reality is often times received with tremendous difficulty especially when it is someone that we love.

But also when we talk about death, we realize that death manifests itself in many different ways.

There is of course the death of the physical body, the death of a period in time, or even the death of an idea.

Sathya Sai Baba suggests that we look at what happens when we are in deep sleep, and that there is, “No trace of awareness of the world.” Our consciousness has now somehow moved beyond the confines of the material, and now finds itself in the unrestricted and glorious territory of spirit.

Within the spiritual realm there is also death. And for those of us who seek greater life, we understand the relevance and meaning of what it is to die daily.

But the death that is referred to here is not a death of the physical life, but rather it is the death of those things that separate us from a true connection with God.

It is the death of those things that keep us bound to the things of the world.

To be in the world but not of this world is to be truly alive.

At the time in which we are born, we each receive what we know to be the gift of life. Our life is for us an opportunity—a chance to understand life’s most valued truth, that God is all, and without the Divine we are nothing. When this truth fills our cup of awareness to its brim, only then can we say that we have truly lived.

Each day as we grow in the knowledge of God, we begin to perceive our need for and total dependence upon the mother spirit, that which sustains us and nurtures our soul. Each waking opportunity becomes for us another chance to say goodbye: goodbye to self, goodbye to the ego.

Beloved of God, we are gathered here today in the presence of all that is holy to bury the old man, to bury the old woman. We are here to gather up those fragile bits that remain after the crucifixion of the false self. Right now, at this very moment, we place into the ceremonial fire our false pride, our ego, our attachment to the world, our lust for false power, and our arrogance. We offer all of our illusions in oblation upon the flame at the feet of Lord Shiva as He dances. 

Rev. Wanika K. Stephens is an interfaith minister and Pastor of St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church, in San Francisco, CA.