Who understands and knows this method:
Drops in the ocean, ocean in the drops.
You observe the playful creation,
You recognize its essence. 1.
Few reflect on such Wisdom:
Freedom and final state of existence is through the One. 1. Reflect.
Night in the day, Sun in the night,
Same method in summer and winter.
Nobody knows movement-measurement of the One,
Without Guru, there is no understanding. 2
The knower of Supreme Cosmic understands:
Male is in female, female is in male.
Sound is in contemplation, contemplation is in Knowing,
Indescribable narrative comes through Guru-orientation. 3.
Mind is in Light, Light is in mind,
Five senses unite as Gur-siblings.
Nanak always adores
those whose consciousness is linked to One Sabad¹ 4.
- Guru Nanak Sahib in Rag Ramkali | Guru Granth Sahib 878
Transcreation: Inni Kaur & Harinder Singh
Growing up I always heard the “drop in the ocean” metaphor — usually in the context of someone explaining what it is that happens to us after we leave the earth, or what the ultimate goal is for all of us (to merge with the Divine like a drop in the ocean).
And I think on some level most of us understand that concept, maybe in an abstract way: that we are not separate from that from which we came. That in the end, the greatest and most final exhale we take is the one that comes from relief at being united with the Big What in its Big Whatness (vastness?)
But what about the idea that the ocean is in the drop? What about the idea that the Divine is sitting right in the middle of all of our little beating hearts? What about the idea that there is something Divine about every person we know (even the ones we can’t stand), every creature that exists, every tree and every flower sitting out in the yard? Can I look outside, can I look into the hearts of the people I don’t particularly care for, can I look myself in the mirror every morning and really understand that in a way that is not abstract?
I think it is hard to be kind. I think it is hard to be kind to people you don’t agree with, people who might be kind of awful in a lot of ways, and I think it is even harder to be kind to yourself on days when you would rather be anyone else, wearing anyone else’s skin, living anyone else’s life. And when I think about Ik Oankar, about the One Force pervading all of creation, a lot of times, I leave myself out of it. And I am not sure it is a conscious thing, where I sit down and I say, “Ok, Ik Oankar is this energy coursing through all that exists, well, all of creation except me.”
I think it is a subconscious unkindness that I have towards myself. Insecurities day to day about how I look or what I am doing or not doing with my life — all of the ways I am not enough.
ਗਿਆਨ ~ Gian
This sabad made me start to think about what it looks like to really understand that gian in practice, instead of in an abstract way that separates me from the idea, that pushes it to the back of my subconscious to be referred to only in the context of presentations and conversations.
I thought first about how to be kinder to myself, to honor the Light from which I come. I thought about how a couple of months ago, I had a dream I was sleeping and the window broke, that I was surrounded by angels who thought I was sleeping, that the angel on my left pushed into my arm so much it hurt, took out all of my memories, sent pain waves through my bones with each one she extracted, put me through all of this aching as she evaluated the life I have lived thus far. The angel on my right blew a gust of wind into my ear, and the thoughts in my brain flew across the room and landed on the wall in front of me. Most of them said I love you I love you I love you and some of them didn’t. She pulled up my chart with my name and the lessons I am supposed to be learning in this life, like kindness and patience and compassion and love and she pulled up all of the thoughts I have that don’t do me any good. And I woke up with a memory of the way it hurt but I also woke up feeling so light.
Maybe all of that is a small hint my subconscious delivered to me. I keep thinking now about how pulling out all of the things in our brains and putting them up on the wall to be seen can hurt a whole lot, especially the parts that don’t do us any good, and how listening to the things we say in our heads repeated back to us can be painful, but maybe in the morning it means we wake up being a little kinder to ourselves, and a little more willing to let the light in.
And what about all of the things that are bigger than me, all of these ideas about Divine Play, and the mysteries of all this existing, the way it all ebbs and flows?
How do I recognize the constantly moving pieces and the mysteries they carry with them, the way the darkness of the night hides in the daylight, the way the sun hides under the blanket of darkness that covers us each night? What would it mean to see the things around me that seem small and insignificant and begin to get a sense of the layers of meaning they hold?
Islamic philosopher Al-Kindi explains the passage in the Qur’an which says that the heavens and the trees prostrate themselves before the Divine, how the shadows that move across the earth as the sun rises and sets are shadows bowing to the Creator. He believed souls go to the stars when they leave their bodies, that the stars must be alive because they exist in perfection. He thought they moved in circles around the earth, that their perfect circular motions must be the result of all of the souls contained in them moving in obedience to the command of the Divine.
Guru Nanak Sahib in Kirtan Sohila says that the sky and the stars that scatter across it, the ocean that swells with the moon, the flowers that bend with the wind — they are all bowing down in awe of the thing that made them. That everything we see, and everything we don’t, exists in constant devotion to the Divine.
I read a reddit thread where people who gained the ability to hear later in life wrote what sound they were most surprised by. Some people said they thought the sunlight would have a gentle roar to it, constant and comforting, like the sound of a waterfall in the distance.
The roaring of sunlight, can you imagine?
I have been thinking lately about the idea that maybe it does have a constant roaring and the white noise has faded to the back, just the way the rain can stop sounding like much of anything after a while. Let’s imagine that it does. Let’s imagine that same quiet and gentle roaring of light is inside of us. Maybe it has been so constant in its roaring that we have forgotten it is there because we think we cannot hear it anymore. And maybe we forget that the light is always honoring the Light from which it came — that we, like the things all around us, are existing in constant awe and devotion to the Big What.
I’ve been thinking of everyday things lately, the way the light hits my mom’s face when she is drinking cha at the kitchen table, the way Papa Ji’s forehead wrinkles make shapes I have memorized, the way my dad walks into the house whistling after a day of work, the way Mummi ji smiles when she remembers things she thought she had forgotten, the way the deer in my yard all huddle under the same tree around the same time every day, the way I have seen poems made of birds, the way the moon looks every night, the way the sun makes colors in the sky just by deciding to get up every morning (I can only hope to rise so beautifully one day). I’ve been thinking about all of these everyday things as small miracles and trying to make sure that I have my feet firmly planted on this earth, that I am fully present and able to see all the tiny miracles happening right in front of me.
So here is what I will take from this sabad, as I think about being kinder to myself, and about the small miracles I might have missed all of the other days I have existed. May I remember the gentle roaring inside of my heart and the light that causes the roaring, may I remain bowed and bowled over in devotion, may I look up in awe, may I never stop hearing and being silenced by the sound that runs through me, through you, through all of it.
¹ Literally “The Word.” Popularly refers to the hymns in the Guru Granth Sahib.