The Spirit of Kites

Kite Joy

With tuppence for paper and strings,
you can have your own set of wings.
With your feet on the ground,
You're a bird in flight!
With your fist holding tight,
to the string of your kite!

Let's go fly a kite
Up to the highest height
Let's go fly a kite
And send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let's go fly a kite!

When you send it flying up there,
all at once you're lighter than air!
You can dance on the breeze,
over houses and trees!
With your fist holding tight,
to the string your kite!

- Robert B. Sherman (from the film "Mary Poppins")

Not just a child's pastime, the history of kite flying traces back 3,000 years. Several different cultures are credited with the invention of the kite, including Malaysia, China and the South Sea Islands. With varied uses and purposes, kites embody significance in many ancient civilizations.

Credited as the first kites ever by some historians, South Sea Island kites were used as an aid in catching fish with bait and a web attached to the tail of the kite. In China, another possible birthplace of the kite, tales of kites being used to aid in military strategy date back as far as 200 BC.

In New Zealand, the Maori tribes associated divine meaning to kites. They believed that birds carried messages from men up to the Gods and they shaped their kites in the form of birds. Since kite flying was imbued with spiritual meaning, the Maori used the following ritual chant during a kite's ascent. Called the Turu Manu it translates as:

My bird, by power of charm ascending,
In the glance of an eye, like the sparrow hawk,
By this charm shall my bird arise,
My bird bestride the heavens.
Beyond the swirling waters,
Like the stars Atutahi and Rehua,
And there spread out they wings,
To the very clouds. Truly so.

In Bali, an aspect of the Hindu God Shiva is called Rare Angon and is the God of Wind and Kites. In Korea, kites are released into the sky to invoke prosperity and health when the first male child is born. In Thailand, kites were flown in the monsoon season as a way to send prayers to the monsoon gods. In several Asian countries, kites are commonly shaped in the form of Buddhist imagery - birds, turtles and dragons. In India, kings employed kite fliers and the Hindi language has over 100 words to connote the kite.

In addition to religious significance and symbolism, kites were important in scientific experiments and inventions. Kites played an important role in aviation history. They were used to launch thermometers and other meteorological devices to measure the atmosphere. Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Grahams Bell used kites in their scientific research.

Spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy employs the imagery of the kite in The Invocation, a song he considers to be his most sacred composition out of the thousands of songs he has written. The words are "My Breath Thy Vision's Kite". When asked to comment on the meaning of this line in the song, he answered:

"Breath is the eternal life. So 'my breath' means eternal life. God's ultimate, ever-transcending Dream or Vision is the eternal life. Kite symbolises divine glory. The kite is flying, which represents the revelation or manifestation of the divine glory. God existed as the Absolute unmanifested. He wanted to manifest Himself constantly on earth so He brought down the eternal life. We see only the earthly life, which lasts sixty, seventy or eighty years; but here on earth there is also the message of eternal life. That eternal life we can find inside the heart, for that is where the soul is.

The Supreme's highest Wisdom can be seen and felt only here. The physical heart is one thing; the spiritual heart is something else. The physical heart is a tiny muscle, but the spiritual heart embodies God's entire universe. When we think of our spiritual heart, we feel it is something very tiny in comparison to the universe. But this is wrong. When we concentrate on the divine heart and feel the real divine heart, we will see that inside it the entire universe exists, that the heart is vaster than the universe itself.

Although the spiritual heart is eternal, at times it does not feel that it is; so the Supreme first enters into the heart and makes the heart feel that it is eternal, that it has eternal life. Then the Supreme starts His journey. He is going to transcend at every moment His own transcendental Reality; and while He is transcending, He is proclaiming or revealing or manifesting His divine Glory in the form of a kite."
(Excerpt from Sri Chinmoy Speaks, Part 7 - by Sri Chinmoy)

When you fly a kite, see one in the air, or just ponder its image as you sing "The Invocation," may your spirit soar as you let out more line, watching the kite knock at Heaven's door.