There’s a popular Zen joke: A monk goes to a chaat stand and asks for bhel. When the seller asks about his preferences, the monk replies, ‘Make me one with all’.
How does one become ‘one with all’? This question has often kept me thinking for hours. Whenever I look around, I see the world of objects and beings, so phenomenally different from me. How can I – a thirty-year-old brown woman – be the same as a mosquito, or a peepal tree or a dog or a blue whale? Everything is so starkly distinct in its form, shape and name. We all behave according to our species and exhibit characteristics defined by the stage of evolution we are at. Then how can we all be the same?
I recently read an interesting take on this by the Japanese agriculturist and author, Masanobu Fukuoka. Trained as a chemical engineer, and later drafted into the Japanese army, Fukuoka gave up on all his activities and chose to become a farmer to live closer to Nature. While his thoughts and writings seem like insights into agriculture and Nature, they are sprinkled with liberal doses of philosophy. I think of him as a modern-day saint. Anyway, this was the takeaway from his passage on Oneness –
‘When we look at Japan from afar, it is a group of individual islands – from Hokkaido in the North to Kyushu in the South. Each island has its independent identity and they all float in the Sea of Japan. But when we look at it as a whole, it is the country of Japan. Moreover, we do not know how the islands are connected beneath the waters. Where land ends and other aquatic organisms begin, the whole ocean floor may be embedded with such organisms. So who is to say where one mass ends and the other begins? We only label distinctly the islands that emerge and float, but what about the entire mass that is unseen to the eye? Isn’t it all one’.
I was stunned to say the least. He later goes on to say how our DNAs begin with the same nucleic acids. But that is not visible to the naked eye. What we see is the different shapes and forms which we label as different species, sub-species and so on.
This flips the world view that we are bodies with a soul. We are, in fact, the same soul with different bodies. This is so evidently told by Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. ‘Like the string which ties together the pearls’, so too is the divinity which connects us all. Despite the differences in our appearances, habits, culture and what not, there’s one invisible spark that says we are all the same.
Going back to the example of how the ocean and the Sea of Japan hold together the archipelago, there must be something, someOne who contains us all? Could this be the very Creator, in whose warm embrace everything thrives, distinctly but harmoniously? Think about it. Whatever consciousness enlivens you and me, should also be the same life essence in a dog, in a plant, in an insect. Why the mosquito and the blue whale are definitely the same divine self then!
It positively excites me to think of the possibility when one day the whole world could realise this Truth and live harmoniously. The absence of duality promises freedom from fear, anger, jealousy, hatred, and every other kind of divisive tendency. A vision of Oneness comes with the promise of unconditional love and definite evolution. With daily reminders like the archipelago or the bhel, I am sure we can all inch closer towards seeing ‘All in One’ and ‘One in All’.