An Ocean in a Drop

An Ocean in a Drop

Here are 2 translations from a poem of the weaver Kabir.

All know that the drop merges into the ocean, but few know that the ocean merges into the drop.

A drop
Melting into the sea,
Everyone can see.
But the sea
In a drop —
A rare one
can follow!

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  1. Uli

    “I don’t believe that we are a drop of water that is separated from the ocean and goes back in the ocean and melts back in the ocean. I used to believe that. I used to believe that a part of us would melt back in to the ocean – but another part really remains forever. We do not loose this part. This part is your unique soul, your unique identity, your unique self. This unique being that is you is different from me. Each one of us is a very unique being. Even though we are all made of the ocean, we remain unique. A different coloured fish in the ocean. And most of the spiritual paths, they overlook the fish. And they try to go over to the ocean.
    …From the world to the absolute, yes, and they leave in between the essential domain and the essential self. In the room of essence where all these qualities exist there is also a self, an identity. Some people call it the soul, some people call it the higher self, some people call it the spirit – many, names for it.
    There is a being, an individual being, that is uniquely you, that is not going to be repeated and is not going to be lost. When you get enlightened, this being does not dissolve. What dissolves is your limitation of the mind, the limitation of the false personality. But the essential personality remains and shines and gets more and more enlightened and more and more mature and you become really human adults. It remains forever and ever. None of us die, we only change robes.
    If we are the ocean, there is no identity of the ocean – the ocean is the ocean. The absolute is the absolute. The absolute never say, “I”, there is no “I-ness” in the absolute. There is a individual being, but no identity. No individuality. The sense of identity comes because we have a unique self; we have a unique soul.”

    – Faisal Muqaddam

    1. Hi Uli
      Some people do experience it like merging into the ocean in a very literal way. It can even be visual or felt. And some do experience the ocean flowing back into the drop. This is why there is language like Kabir’s and some other traditions. Even Donovan sung about it.

      There is also a very literal ocean from which our universe arises. It’s movement is described as the primordial sound.

      The point of the quote was observing the second step, the embodiment we might say.

      I would not consider soul and higher Self to be equivalent. Atman is the self of universal consciousness. It is the stuff of the ocean. The soul is the point value, the unique perspective that is the origin of this particular form. Knowing both together is the foundation of full enlightenment.

      So the point here is living wholeness, and then Totality through the soul. That goes beyond what your quote describes where the absolute is also here. There isn’t two. If there is two, the second step has not yet begun.

  2. michael

    Hi David!

    Love the quote from Faisal and love your answer to it. It is beautiful putting both texts together!!!
    Something that is not much talked about (at least from a direct experience) is what some traditions call oversoul (this is not atman). From direct expierence i can say that makes the whole “puzzle” even more fascinating 🙂

    All the best

  3. Uli

    Thank you, David!
    I’m more and more interested in what the Kabbalah calls the zelem “which is not identical with any of the parts of the soul [. . . but] is the principle of individuality with which every single human being is endowed, the spiritual configuration or essence that is unique to him and to him alone” (Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah)

    Feeling that this is missing in the present conversations about spirituality…

    1. Hi Uli
      That sounds to be what the Vedas call Ahamkara, the individuating principle. The word is often translated as ego but that can be misleading.

      A lot of current dialogue dismisses or even demonizes the person. And yet it clearly continues. In fact, I’ve noted the very awake often become more unique as their fetters fall away.

      Part of the issue is most of the dialogue is focused on awakening, on surrendering the ego. But as more and more people are moving past that, there is more talk of embodiment and a more sensible householders approach to living.

      1. It’s worth noting that in the broader sense, we’re all made of the same stuff and at the same time. The difference is only in the emphasis, the more dominant laws of nature that make one smarter, another faster, another into plants, etc etc.

        1. Hi Gayanee
          No, the ishta devata is ones chosen form of God. The form of God we most relate to.

          In a sense, we might see this as the embodiment of the higher self, but this is a more universal one rather our local individuality.

          It’s also something we may “outgrow” if we merge in God Realization. Then there isn’t a need for form for a relationship with the divine.

  4. Uli

    Your comments…?:

    The sacred is often imaged as an “ocean” while the individual is a “drop” whose destiny is to return to or merge with the ocean. A drop, though, can do things that an ocean cannot. An ocean, for example, cannot become a teardrop shape. If one says that the individual seek the Unity the way drops seek the ocean, it could equally be said that through evaporation, the ocean seeks to become drops and the Unity seeks to become individual. Which is the true destination or destiny? One could imagine a Monthy Python type rendition of this, a la “Life of Brian”, in which one faction seeks to follow the drop while the other seeks to follow the ocean! In my own experience, neither “drop” nor “ocean” fully capture the Mystery of the Sacred, nor for that matter the Mystery of Self. Mystery is accessible from both the “drop” state and the “ocean” state… One is not choosing between the drop or the ocean, the self or the no-self, the particle or the wave, the personal or the transpersonal. Each needs to be honored and seen in paradoxical partnership in order to attune to what is neither drop nor ocean, but rather the Mystery behind both…

    David Spangler

    1. Hi Uli
      The sacred can also be experienced as an ocean, the individual as a drop or orb. But yes, these are just various perspectives or ways of seeing. It is not the compete “truth”.

      The way I’d put it, consciousness is aware of itself both globally and at every point within itself. (ocean and drops) The point of the second is total knowledge can only be found from both – global and many unique perspectives.

      Each of us brings a unique perspective of the whole, adding that to the totality of knowing/ being. Without any one of us, there would not be totality.

      So yes, it’s both together. It is uniting while still having a unique take, a unique unfoldment.

      I’m also disinclined to use the word Mystery as it implies there are things that cannot be known. I see there are simply things that are not yet known. (and the limitations of what one point can unfold in a lifetime (laughs)) But it’s all knowable because we can become it.

  5. gayanee

    David, you really have a way of expressing from totality even someone that may not be in Brahman Consciousness can understand.

    I have been having revelations on the nested infinities. A few days ago while driving all of a sudden the drop and the ocean became one. One was not or couldn’t possibly be different from the other. How could one infinity be different from another were the words that came out of the mouth. Could you please comments on that?

    1. Hi Gayanee
      Thanks. Just keep in mind that any concepts we might gain should be held lightly. Concepts never meet the direct experience (as your example illustrates for you).

      Sounds beautiful. You may have had an experience (taste) or the beginning of a larger process. In that case, you’ll find the experience expands to become progressively more inclusive. Time will tell.

      Thanks for sharing.

      1. Gayanee

        Thanks! Yes all drops are slowly being included in the experience in various ways without each drop losing their individuality. The recognition and the experience that the ocean and the drops have no difference whatsoever has been just so wonderful to the being here. 🙂
        And thank you for the reminder about concepts!

    1. Sure. In the Vedic canon are what is called the 6 darshanas or systems of philosophy. One is Samkhya, pertaining to number. It describes the stages of expression arising from the interaction of nature and spirit, prakriti and purusha.

      From a universal place there is a threefold individuation: mahat, ahamkara, and manas. The intellect (mahat) gives direction and discriminates. It discriminates self from other, creating the basic ego sense, ahamkara (which means ‘I am maker’) and that gives rise to what we might call local mind. And thence the idea of my thoughts, my emotions, etc.

      This is a philosophy driven by a non-awake perspective. Later stages considerably adjust how we relate to these aspects but it remains a decent starting point.

      Hope that makes sense.

  6. Uli

    Hi David,
    Reading this quote from Aurobindo struck a chord with the Kabir quote…your thoughts…?

    The divine soul will be aware of the three grades of the supramental existence, not as we are mentally compelled to regard them, not as grades, but as a triune fact of the self-manifestation of Sachchidananda. It will be able to embrace them in one and the same comprehensive self-realisation, — for a vast comprehensiveness is the foundation of the truth-conscious supermind. It will be able divinely to conceive, perceive and sense all things as the Self, its own self, one self of all, one Self-being and Self-becoming, but not divided in its becomings which have no existence apart from its own self-consciousness.
    It will be able divinely to conceive, perceive and sense all existences as soul-forms of the One which have each its own being in the One, its own standpoint in the One, its own relations with all the other existences that people the infinite unity, but all dependent on the One, conscious form of Him in His own infinity. It will be able divinely to conceive, perceive and sense all these existences in their individuality, in their separate standpoint living as the individual Divine, each with the One and Supreme dwelling in it and each therefore not altogether a form or eidolon, not really an illusory part of a real whole, a mere foaming wave on the surface of an immobile Ocean, — for these are after all no more than inadequate mental images, — but a whole in the whole, a truth that repeats the infinite Truth, a wave that is all the sea, a relative that proves to be the Absolute itself when we look behind form and see it in its completeness.

    – Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine

    1. Hi Uli
      Right, only here the analogy is more wave and ocean rather than drop. (Which can be experienced very literally too)

      He’s also talking about an unfolding. Starting with Self Realization (CC) which matures as satchitananda (absolute bliss consciousness), perceives the world becoming (GC), and then recognizes it all as my Self (Unity). With both Unity and refined perception, the understanding of the second part unfolds naturally.

      Some however miss the perception part at first and recognize Oneness in consciousness alone, only later coming to see that on the surface as well. And some perceive some of the above (less the oneness) prior to awakening. They would then have the full value described when they do wake up.

  7. Uli

    One more…

    Meher Baba: When we think of the individual, we at once grasp it as something limited, so it cannot be identical with the unlimited whole. You are right in saying that the individual must lose himself in the whole, but the matter does not rest there.

    We may compare the individual to the drop, and the whole to the ocean. The drop is separate from the ocean, and again merges into it. What then is the purpose of its being separated if it is merely to merge itself again in the way it was originally merged? Evolution would be fruitless if we end where we started. The individual has to retain his individuality and realise his unity with the whole consciously. Thus Christ realises God as Christ. You realise God as yourself. It is a personal realisation.

    December 1937, Nagpur

    1. Yes, exactly.
      There is a distinction between experiencing as the ocean and experiencing as the drop. A different perspective. The drop is able to bring our nuances and details that the ocean alone cannot.

      Many drops increase the ocean…

  8. Uli

    Hi David,

    This, from Hameed Ali..thoughts…?

    “So the individual and Living Being are not two things and, at the same time, they are not one thing. Reality is more mysterious than simply saying that everything is one. Seeing this opens up a new appreciation of the individual. Not only is the individual necessary for any form of realization—including the nondual, which says that the individual is a delusion or an ephemeral form—but also the individual has an intrinsic significance that is fundamentally mysterious. There is a dialectic interaction between the individual—the practitioner or the experiencer—and Being, in its manifestation and in its wholeness. Understanding this dynamic interaction—between individual and whole, between practice and grace, between dual and nondual—begins to reveal a deeper understanding of how things really happen. Reality is far more nonlinear and indeterminate than the boundlessness or the nonduality that true nature reveals. The indeterminacy of true nature allows realization to behold reality in many ways. Yet that perception always happens through the individual consciousness—a consciousness that is always present, whether explicitly or implicitly, in any condition of realization.”

    A. H. Almaas, Runaway Realization

    1. Hi Uli

      On this, I take the perspective of high Unity. From there we see consciousness (Atman) as aware of itself globally or totally while simultaneously being aware of itself from every point.

      In other words, everything is experienced as one in 2 different ways. A single wholeness and from every perspective within that wholeness.

      Kind of like Google Maps, then switching to Street View. They are both simultaneously true.

      So yes, the point value has the advantage of specificity. A unique perspective of the whole that brings out the detail and the process. Unfolding the detail is experienced as a life and brings out detailed nuances of what is here.

      Awakening is a process of the point becoming aware of it’s wholeness, then the wholeness becoming awake in the point.

      I’m not sure I’d describe reality as indeterminate, but yes, we have to keep in mind that we’re always experiencing through the filter of this form and this point. The blend of laws of nature that structure this vehicle of experience have a big impact on how the details unfold.

      This means unique in perspective but also unique in process as our own balance of laws is distinct. This is like DNA – the physical variations between us are all in slight variations of a minor % of the overall DNA.

      But yes, very much non-linear. Time or process can be experienced quite a few different ways, including all of the past and future in a simultaneous now.

      I don’t see consciousness as “individual” but more as points in the whole. Non-separate but distinctive, like waves on an ocean.

      1. Uli

        the old meaning of “individual”: “non-separate”…

        individual (adj.) Look up individual at
        early 15c., “one and indivisible, inseparable” (with reference to the Trinity), from Medieval Latin individualis, from Latin individuus “indivisible,” from in- “not, opposite of” (see in- (1)) + dividuus “divisible,” from dividere “divide” (see divide (v.)). Original sense now obsolete; the word was not common before c. 1600 and the 15c. example might be an outlier. Sense of “single, separate, of but one person or thing” is from 1610s; meaning “intended for one person” is from 1889.

        I’ve heard it said “the false identification with the bodymind”…maybe it would be more nuanced to say “the false exclusive identification with the bodymind”

        I notice a tendency to minimize or juggle with words to hide away the fact the boundaries the Universe does. A distinction does not mean separation. Throwing a line on the sand does not separate the beach…

        “It becomes apparent that if certain facts about our common experience of perception, or what we might call the inside world, can be revealed by an extended study of what we call, in contrast, the outside world, then an equally extended study of this inside world will reveal, in turn, the facts first met with in the world outside: for what we approach, in either case, from one side or the other, is the common boundary between them.” (Spencer-Brown, Laws of Form):

        Put simply, this is simply a recapitulation of the central tenet of alchemy, “As Above, so Below; as Below, so Above”. Steiner clearly indicates that if you want to know yourself, you need to look into the world, and if you want to know the world, look into yourself. Know the world to know yourself; know yourself to know the world. What GSB usefully adds to this principle, which is often overlooked in esoteric circles, is that the link between this inner and outer takes the functional form of a shared boundary. It is not the case in a simple way that what is inner is outer; it’s just not very useful to say inner=outer. The point is that there is a boundary between inner and outer, but that this boundary is where all the interesting bits happen, because it is the domain of action by virtue of which inner and outer become so. Or more seriously, is the place upon which, and through which, one must work if one is to transform, because this is what transformation means: to cross the boundary (which is coincident with creating the boundary, as we will see momentarily). For anyone that has read ‘Laws of Form’, you know that this language of “crossing” is quite deliberate; the activity of crossing changes what is crossed.

        Seth Miller, An Esoteric Guide to Spencer Brown’s Laws of Form #1

        1. Hi Uli
          It is interesting to explore word roots and the evolution of meaning. Quite often, broader meaning shifts to a more limited, egoic sense as here. There are nuanced differences in the experience of “individuality” that English doesn’t cover well. Even identification can be said to be a spectrum.

          I’d disagree on “false exclusive identification.” For one thing, identification itself isn’t false. It could be described as a mistake of the intellect creating false ideas but is not in itself false. It simply is or isn’t.

          In the same way, it’s not exclusive but can lead to a sense of exclusivity.

          What can confuse things is that identification has a core but also has layers. We identify with the idea of a me, with its felt sense, and with its core energy, as well as with various stories and feelings around it. This is what we wind down after the core falls out with awakening.

          To me, there is a point value of the whole, the drop in the ocean. If we mistake ourselves as only (exclusively) the point, it leads to various misperceptions about ourselves and the world.

          On the other hand, this mistake is a natural consequence of losing our sense of wholeness. Without that larger picture, we grasp at what is here for security and become identified with the me.

          But if we connect with source within, we restore our sense of wholeness and the identification with the me falls away. There can be the tendency to then identify with the cosmic sense of Self. But that too will fall away as things go deeper.

          The quote is interesting but is conceptual. You can only go so far in exploring our experience conceptually. But if you expand the container of experience, then you can shift the context and move out of the old box/ limitations.

          If you experience an inner and an outer, then that is real for you. Denying your experience does not help you move beyond it.

          The recommended approach in the east is to discover who you are within first as its easier to discover source within than it is to recognize it directly in the world. One that is established, then that same source within can be recognized in the world.

          For some, post-Self Realization is a useful time to explore the nature of their outer experience and the world. This can help with refined perception and with correcting the “mistake of the intellect” which is a barrier to Unity. When source is also recognized in the world, the inner-outer distinction falls away (not “crossed”) and one directly (not with the mind) recognizes the oneness of all things.

          This shift flips the intellect. Where previously it looked out and distinguished differences, now it looks to source and recognizes commonality, oneness. Thus, we progressively experience and recognize that as myself also. Big topic.

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