The Floating Twig
Creation in unison screams,
“There is no one but the One.”
The worldly clever is busy trying to
determine where he can cash in.
The ocean’s bosom heaves in Love,
the floating twig takes the waves personally.
Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir, Nobody Son of Nobody as rendered by Vraje Abramian
Maharaj Charan Singh often tried to tell us that we look at the Lord’s love, grace, and mercy from a very limited perspective. Baba Ji has said we need to open up our parameters. To hear the way most of us talk about grace, we sound as if our parameters are about as narrow as the twig’s in Abu-Saeed’s poem.
For example, if something good happens, we say it is his grace. Maybe I got a promotion, maybe the weather is lovely, or maybe in the crowded streets a parking place opens up. We say this is his grace and mercy on me. And the words, “Thank you, Master” escape our lips.
If our perspective becomes a little bit broader, we begin to notice “blessings in disguise”. Something terrible happens – maybe we are in a car accident, maybe we lose our job. We’re very unhappy for a while. Then something good comes our way, and we realize that this good thing never could have happened except for the loss and misery we suffered. So now we say the tragedy was his grace; it was a blessing in disguise. And we say, “Thank you, Master” for the very thing we were earlier cursing.
If we mature spiritually just a bit further, we might begin to see his grace in disaster itself. We lose our job, our money, our health; we lose everything, and in our desperation we turn to prayer and meditation like never before. And now we say that all these painful things that happened were his grace because they forced us to turn to him.
Our parameters are opening up. But we are still trying to map his grace against events and circumstances – things we can observe and feel and judge. We are trying to use the finite to measure the infinite. As Hafiz puts it, we are trying to sound the depth of the ocean with a six-foot pole. There we are, poking and jabbing down into the ocean with our six-foot pole of an intellect, hoping to find the ocean floor.
We form concepts about what is utterly beyond our understanding. We’re like the young ocean fish who swims over to another fish.
“Excuse me”, says the young fish, “you are older and wiser than I. Can you tell me: where is this thing they call the ocean?”
“The ocean”, says the older fish, “is what you’re swimming in right now.”
“This?” says the young fish. “But this is just water.” And he swims away, disappointed.
What are our concepts about grace? Do we think he sends his grace to us when we are good and withholds it when we are bad? Do we think his grace is for some and not for others? The Tao Te Ching describes beautifully how the sage gives and gives without condition:
The Sage is like Heaven and Earth
To him none are especially dear
nor is there anyone he disfavors
He gives and gives without condition
offering his treasure to everyone.
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching as translated by Jonathon Star
In another verse it says:
He sees everything as his own self
He loves everyone as his own child
All people are drawn to him
every eye and ear is turned toward him.
Maybe we don’t know what his grace looks like, what it feels like. Most importantly, we don’t know what it is supposed to feel like. We have no way to judge what’s going on. Maybe all we can say about his grace and compassion – if we’re going to say anything – is that it is vast, unfathomable and utterly beyond our ability to measure or judge.
Is it possible that his grace and mercy surround us in abundance without let or hindrance, all the time? In that case, if our hearts actually were open to his grace, then every breath, every step would be filled with a silent, wordless, joyful “thank you” welling up inside us. Could it be that all the ever-shifting circumstances of our lives, the ups, the downs – all those movements – are nothing but his grace? As Abu-Saeed puts it, “The ocean’s bosom heaves in Love”.
And what of the twig riding those ocean swells? What does the twig know but that it is supported? Deep currents and vast forces beyond the twig’s paltry imagination move the waters. Resting on the ocean’s bosom, the twig can let go and enjoy the rising and falling motion. The wave supporting it will certainly carry the twig wherever the wave is going.
We, too, are supported. The ocean of Oneness swells and forms a wave. And perhaps the “wave” that is the perfect Master takes shape simply because “the ocean’s bosom heaves in Love”. We can’t comprehend the oceanic movement that raises us up, then drops away beneath us, the ever-fluid motion that tosses us. But we can know that we are supported, and that the Master, like a wave on that incompre-hensible ocean, will carry us wherever he is going.