Parables and stories have the power to reveal the deepest wisdom in life and the need for awareness to transform our lives. They speak directly to our heart. They are first lived — individually and collectively – and then told and retold.
I came across a recent book, A Dewdrop in the Ocean: Wisdom Stories for Turbulent Time, by Francis J Padinjarekara. It contains life-transforming wisdom capsules for contemporary men and women.
Here are some selected gems: “Suffering transforms human beings,” commented the sage…“Ultimately it is not what happens to us but what happens in us that counts.” “Judgements are most inefficient,” the sage stated. “And a major waste of energy.”… Intelligence involves appropriate response to situations — like calling attention to being unduly delayed or a decision to let something be… Or you can be judgemental, get angry, create distance or start a fight.”
“Among the sage’s friends and acquaintances were celebrities, business tycoons and other wealthy people. However, his life was very simple and none of the glitter has entered his home or life. When someone asked him why his lifestyle remained unaffected, a disciple spoke: “When a rose is set beside a diamond necklace, the rose doesn’t shine, but the necklace may recei-ve some of the perfume.”
The insights offered are meditational, and even transformational. No book can save us unless we allow its insights to touch us. This book enables perceptive readers to have an “expansive sense of wonder” that one experiences when life’s truths are disclosed. Each message is different from the other yet so beautifully linked because of its deep comprehension into the nature of life and reality.
Following the tradition of great spiritual masters such as Rajneesh or Anthony de Mello, the author attempts to spread transforming spiritual experiences in a non-invasive and welcoming manner. The wisdom in this book — like in a classic of any tradition — is subtle, yielding only to sustained inquiry. The relevance of topics and the utter simplicity with which profound truths are conveyed are masterly.
“The foundation and the basic test of any spirituality is not just how beautiful and uplifting it appears but how practical it is and how it enables us to live our lives and find our happiness in the world.” In this sense, the author urges the practitioners to have both inner freedom and external commitment. Freed from the compulsions of ego, a healthy spirituality reaches out to others in joy and service. In such a process, the divine is encountered and awakening happens. Awakening just is. It is not the result of persistent planning and hard work.
Perceived thus, human life can very well be understood and appreciated as a “dew drop in the ocean.” I am not the ocean. I do not have control over everything, including myself. Yet, in my never-ending quest for the unfolding truth, I am a puny little dew that makes up the ocean. I am aware of it and am part of it. Precisely therein lies my greatness.
Such an awareness opens me to see the ordinary things in my life in an
extraordinary manner. Contemplation of such existence enables me to see the world in a grain of sand and eternity in an hour, As poet William Blake has immortalised in his “Auguries of Innocence.” Blake reminds us further: “A Robin Red breast in a Cage/ Puts all Heaven in a Rage/ A dog starv’d at his Master’s Gate/ Predicts the ruin of the State.”
Kuruvilla Pandikattu SJ The writer is professor of science and religion and director of Jnanam, Pune