Tuesday, July 21, 2009
A Wisdom Song from Long Ago Today
Do you remember the 70's television series called "Kung Fu"? David Carradine played a young Shaolin priest named Caine who travelled across the States teaching all kinds of people a way of peace and unity? Well when I was ten years old this show mesmerized me completely. Every Wednesday night my mom and I would be glued with abandon to the television set. There is one episode that I remember to this day: One of the Masters was standing with the young Monk, Caine, by a goldfish pond and telling him that there are as many worlds as there are fish in that pond and then add the two worlds of they themselves standing there watching those fish. It was a puzzling statement to hear at the time. I did not realize then that I would spend many years contemplating that very idea in my adulthood.
Accepting the idea that Narayan was preparing to leave this world seemed impossible to me until shortly before the moment arrived. I identified his life with his body, with his physical and emotional presence in my life. Where would he go? The distance seemed unbearable to bear. Riding through the ebb and flow of my loss afterwards, a song by an ancient and powerful poet would soothe my aching heart. Past logic, past attachment and ignorance, the words carried me into another existence of Oneness. Eventually with a few guitar chords, it became a personal experience that I would repeat over and over. Listen to the words:
“The river and the waves are one surf:
Where is the difference between the rivers and the waves?
When the wave rises, it is water;
And when it falls, it is the same water again.
Tell me Sir, what is the distinction?
Because it has been named as wave,
shall it no longer be considered as water?
Within the Supreme Brahma
the worlds are being told like beads:
Look upon that rosary with the eyes of wisdom.” – Kabir
(translated by Rabindranath Tagore)
In our eager attempt to understand this world, we define and cut it up into little fragments of knowledge over and over until we actually believe them all to be separate. In the process we lose our sense of wholeness. Everything becomes my god, your god. My country. Your country. My money. Your money. My life. My death. Your birth. Your death. No wonder the fear of leaving this world has us so paralysed. When we can set the intention to go beyond this fear we take a great step towards reconnecting with the heart of life. We discover our true relationship with the Universe.
Kabir invites us to embrace the wholeness again. Water is still water as it flows in the kitchen sink. When it pours down from the clouds, we call it rain. As it freezes in a vast ocean, we call it an iceberg. As it flows through our body, we call it blood. As it pours forth from our eyes, we feel our tears. Are these not all still water? Kabir examines this question through the metaphor of water. As long as these definitions of the same substance continue to seperate our thinking, we will lose the great presence of water itself.
So often in that excruciating pain of separation, my urge to pick up Narayan's guitar came again and again. Kabir would invite me to let go and feel my unity with everything again. Water rushed through my imagination with waves rising and falling until everything was water. Everything hard and painful became fluid and revitalizing. Even my emotions softened and became watery tears running down my cheeks. Always in these moments I remember the words of my Teacher : "You are the drop of the Ocean and all the Ocean is in the drop of the Ocean."
I Am the drop of the Ocean and all the Ocean is in the drop of the Ocean.
A great poet who lived 700 years ago still offers so much joy. He still reaches out in profound words to show us all the way home.