Altars across religions and time

One of the things that is similar across many religions and spiritual movements is the use of altars.
Altars have been used since very early times. Especially in earlier polytheistic societies such as Mesopotamia, over 2000 deities could have an altar dedicated to them in urban areas.
In early Judaism, altars made of carved rock were to be found up mountains in places called sanctuaries or high places. These altars were used for sacrifice and seen as places where direct contact with the divine was possible. As such they became the centre of religious practice.

Early altars were mainly used for sacrifice and to leave gifts to the gods in order to gain their positive judgement, the use of fire was also very common. Symbols reflecting the attributes of specific deities an altar was dedicated to were often carved into altar stones.
An interesting addition to the altar in Mesoamerican times was the creation of sacred paper by a shaman or priest, which was cut in the shape of specific deities and lined up on the altar. Sacred paper was also used by the Chinese, who learned the art of paper making over 2000 years ago.

Soldiers that travelled often brought stones with them which were dedicated to specific deities. They would build shrines with these stones, which sometimes became permanent fixtures and a place of worship for pilgrims.
It wasn’t until monotheism caught ground that places of worship started featuring altars that only could be approached by people with a specific religious role. The consecration of altars became a very specific ritual, as well as dimension, relics, cloth, colour, etc.
To read further on modern day altars in different religions, I refer to this well written Wikipedia article.

Of course, altars have also had a place inside the family homestead for centuries. To commemorate ancestors and worship specific household deities.

I have altars in my home. They represent a sacred space in my home and carry items that express my connection to the divine. What is represented on these altars varies throughout the year.
When I am holding a specific person in my prayers, I often place an item gifted to me from the specific person on my altar, or might use a photograph of them in happy times.

On the picture you can see the altar I created in the past few days to help me hold space for a gathering of fellow ministers. I added:

  • 12 tealights, representing all ministers part of the group
  • Holly, celebrating king Holly who reigns the period between summer and winter solstice
  • A copper gong, copper carries the alchemy of the planet venus (sacred feminine)
  • A selenite wand to sound the gong, carrying the moon energy (acknowledgement of the oak moon and the sacred feminine in the moon)
  • Statues of Mother Mary and Quan Yin, representing the Christmas season and the divine mother energy in east and west.

Once I finish decorating my altar, I always use white sage, incense or sacred wood to clear the space around it. Also, I will ask for a blessing for all the people represented on the altar.
My blessing for this altar:
I ask the all-pervading source energy to bless this altar and all that are represented on it.
May we all walk on a path of light in these dark days.
May we walk our path in good health, may we feel loved.
May we see blessings in our every day, may we be ever grateful for what we receive.
In love and light (3x)

I would love to hear about the altars you connect to, if any! Do you have one in your home? Do you visit a place of worship with an altar? Please let me know in the comments.

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About Heaven

“I lifted up my eyes to see the Heaven.
I saw it not.
I closed my eyes to feel the Heaven.
I felt it not.
I thought of God.
To my widest surprise, God said that
I am not only the Heaven but His Heaven.”
~ Sri Chinmoy

Heaven, Nirvana, Walhalla, Utopia, Samsara, Shamayim, Jannah, Tian.
From a young age I was fascinated by the concept of heaven.
I remember as a child, trying to envision what heaven must look like. Let me take you for a spin in my childhood brain: All people that pass over live in the same town, in their best clothing, in lovely homes, everyone being really nice to each other all day every day. Of course, this would be problematic if someone was married to someone, who then passed over and then they married another person, would they all have to live in the same house? And what about all the animals? Do dogs go to heaven, and squirrels? How does God decide which squirrel goes to heaven?
It was no wonder I was often caught out staring out of the window ‘blankly’, as opposed to focusing on how to multiply 3×7.

Heaven, or the afterlife, plays a big part in most religions. And most religions teach us that life and suffering on this planet prepares us for the better place to come after our physical body dies.
Of course, depending on your belief, the afterlife promises you different things.
For Christianity it is clear cut, if you led a good life or before breathing your last breath ask for forgiveness for your sins, you go to heaven. The holy trinity lives in heaven according to all Christians: God, Jesus and the Holy spirit. After that it gets a bit fractured, some Christians belief Mary to be Queen of heaven, some Christians belief in 7 heavens with a strict hierarchy.

In several religions we see multiple heavens. Christianity has its 7 heavens, the Aztec have a heaven with 13 different spheres, Jainism divides the upper sphere ‘Urdhva Loka’ into 16 devalokas.
Important is to distinguish that the purpose of heaven is different in different religions.

In some religions heaven is a place where souls stay until the apocalypse happens and the whole world is reborn, in others it is a place for deities only, and then there are those religions like Hinduism and Buddhism that have different parts of heaven that prepare the soul for rebirth.
A very interesting idea of heaven comes from Ancient Egypt, where heaven was a place in outer space, far beyond the stars and realms visible from earth. The travel to heaven could be dangerous and many different beings could be encountered on the way. Once a soul had finally reached heaven, the most scary thing of all, your heart would be checked for its goodness. Fail the test and your heart would be eaten and that would be it.

42 years in this lifetime, I still often wonder about the concept of heaven.
For me, it feels that heaven wouldn’t be so much a place, but more a state of being.
I do believe in multiple lifetimes and in karma. I don’t however, belief that this heavenly state of being is sectioned off or has judgement in it. More like a pool of eternal bliss.
I am always curious to hear about what people think about the concept of heaven.
Is heaven a place? A state of being? Maybe earth in itself is a realm of heaven?
Let me know your thoughts.

Namaste

How do you become ‘Interfaith’?

I had a very brief conversation with someone last weekend, which kept me thinking all throughout this week. I met this very kind lady who gave me and a friend a lift to the train station. Earlier that day I had seen her perform in a choir, singing interfaith songs.
I assumed she was a fellow minister, and asked her when she was ordained. To my surprise she explained she is not a minister, but does consider herself interfaith.

This really made me think about my own spiritual journey. I remember starting the interfaith seminary and realizing ‘I am home’. Not home in the seminary, or the organization organizing the training for me, but I felt home spiritually.
From a young age I had been looking at different traditions and looked into whether specific traditions would suit me. Not 1 religion felt right to me though, mainly to do with the fact that I am a very liberated and outspoken woman that sees herself equal to any man. I saw in so many religions that the essence was beautiful, but it was being spoiled by people putting rules to it. Mainly rules that makes men and women unequal to each other or makes followers of a specific religion better than those that don’t follow it. I have a thing about inequality and about people that consider themselves better and more spiritual than others.
Long story short, I found Interfaith, signed up for the seminary and found my spiritual niche.

The question is: How does one ‘become’ interfaith without following an intensive course and being ordained as a minister?
It’s a question which is very hard to answer. Interfaith is not a religion. It does not have specific scripture or a prophet to follow. It doesn’t have congregations that gather every week in a temple of sorts. There is no baptism or ‘conversion’ to Interfaith. In fact, most ministers find being an Interfaith minister a very individual journey.

For me, there are a few things that define being ‘Interfaith’, and they are to be found in the ethics of the One Spirit organization.
I aim to keep my heart and mind open to everyone, celebrating difference but not separation.
For me this really is the foundation of my being. Accepting everyone for who they are, celebrating the fact that the world is a garden with many different things growing in it, each having its own purpose in our magnificent ecosystem.
I recognise that all paths emphasise the importance of honesty, love for the self and love for the other. Regardless of how certain individuals use religion and spirituality to gain power over the self and others, I recognise that this is not the essence of what religion teaches us. I am committed to find the true essence in spiritual paths.
I understand that my spiritual unfolding is an ongoing process, and dedicate myself to continually deepen my personal spiritual practice, understanding of different faith paths.
I dedicate for my service to be grounded in an authentic and evolving spiritual life.

One thing I care for personally is the interfaith dialogue. To create understanding and dialogue between those of different spiritual backgrounds. We are all just walking each other home.

Anyone who commits themselves to learn about different faith paths and who seeks understanding about their own spirituality, accepting themselves and others just as much in their difference as communality in my opinion is serving the Interfaith cause. Regardless of their spiritual background.

Of course, all of this is just my opinion.

Namaste!

The Ultimate Answer

Age is just a number, right?
Of course! Unless you turn 42 and are a big HHGTTG fan 😊
(Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, if you haven’t read it, please do!)

42 is a very special age. Obviously today I AM the answer to life, the universe and everything.
Besides playing a significant role in one of my favourite books of all time, 42 is a magical number in more cultures and religions. J. Boehme calls this number “the Sky, place of the divine desire”.

According to the Kabbalah not only did God use the number 42 to create the universe, everyone has forty-two “stops” to make on their way to personal spiritual completion, for which they were put here on the earth. What that forty-second level will look like for each person will be different, but it means the same thing for all of us: Spiritual completion. The completion that comes from the two becoming one, the completion of a mission of creation.

4 stands for the elements Fire, Water, Earth and Air, and 2 stands for Spirit and Matter.

In ancient Egypt it was said that once a spirit wanted to pass over, it had to face 42 different judgements before being able to reincarnate.
They were also expected to live by the 42 principles of Ma’at.
Which ones can you tick off?
42 Negative Confessions (Papyrus of Ani)

1. I have not committed sin.
2. I have not committed robbery with violence.
3. I have not stolen.
4. I have not slain men and women.
5. I have not stolen grain.
6. I have not purloined offerings.
7. I have not stolen the property of the gods.
8. I have not uttered lies.
9. I have not carried away food.
10. I have not uttered curses.
11. I have not committed adultery.
12. I have made none to weep.
13. I have not eaten the heart [i.e., I have not grieved uselessly, or felt remorse].
14. I have not attacked any man.
15. I am not a man of deceit.
16. I have not stolen cultivated land.
17. I have not been an eavesdropper.
18. I have slandered [no man].
19. I have not been angry without just cause.
20. I have not debauched the wife of any man.
21. I have not debauched the wife of [any] man. (repeats the previous affirmation but addressed to a different god).
22. I have not polluted myself.
23. I have terrorized none.
24. I have not transgressed [the Law].
25. I have not been wroth.
26. I have not shut my ears to the words of truth.
27. I have not blasphemed.
28. I am not a man of violence.
29. I am not a stirrer up of strife (or a disturber of the peace).
30. I have not acted (or judged) with undue haste.
31. I have not pried into matters.
32. I have not multiplied my words in speaking.
33. I have wronged none, I have done no evil.
34. I have not worked witchcraft against the King (or blasphemed against the King).
35. I have never stopped [the flow of] water.
36. I have never raised my voice (spoken arrogantly, or in anger).
37. I have not cursed (or blasphemed) God.
38. I have not acted with evil rage.
39. I have not stolen the bread of the gods.
40. I have not carried away the khenfu cakes from the spirits of the dead.
41. I have not snatched away the bread of the child, nor treated with contempt the god of my city.
42. I have not slain the cattle belonging to the god.

Or…as Douglas Adams said:
“The answer to this is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an
ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations,
base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk,
stared into the garden and thought ’42 will do’ I typed it out. End of story.”

Namaste

Do we not have enough religion to love each other?

“We have enough religion to hate, but not enough to love one another”
This Jonathan Swift quote is often used to make the point that religion is no good, as it is just spreading fear and because of that fear: hatred.

Another a quote by Jonathan Swift:
“If a man would register all his opinions upon love, politics, religion, learning, etc., beginning from his youth and so go on to old age, what a bundle of inconsistencies and contradictions would appear at last!”

Jonathan Swift was a dean of st. Patricks Cathedral in Dublin. Though these days people seem to assume that when he spoke about religion, he was speaking about all the different religions in the world.
Fact is that he wrote these words at the beginning of the 18th century. Chances are that he didn’t just logged off his social media and other outlets of clickbait news. The most likely interpretation of Swift’s ‘religion’ is that he was speaking about Christianity. There wasn’t really any other religion bar Christianity around in those days.
What he was saying is that many people he saw were outwardly presenting themselves to be religious (meaning: Christian), but they failed to act from the love that spirituality brings about inside. He wrote sermons on the topic of people turning up in church, just to fall asleep in the benches and not getting anything from the message Swift was trying to teach them.

In my opinion the statement that religion creates division and hatred as opposed to love is not fair on all those billions of good people that are part of a religion.
Around me I see many people that have food drives with their church, who go out and welcome refugees in their midst, and who always have coffee ready for anyone walking into their religious home.

Saying that religion spreads love is not a popular opinion. We collectively do not want to hear it.
We heard about the terrible things happening in the catholic church with regards to abuse of young people and unmarried mothers. We hear daily that Islam is nurturing people that want to kill thousands. In Myanmar Buddhists are even showing cruelty towards Muslims. Where does it all end?

I strongly feel that fear based decisions will only end if we finally connect to love.
How about we start telling each other about the great things that religion has brought us.
Many people will tell you about their personal journey in despair, until they we accepted into a particular faith. Mother Teresa and her sisters of mercy helped many poor. Today many religious buildings are open for anyone as a safe haven, to pray and be heard.
The kindest and most hopeful people I know are part of different organized religions.

Religion to me is a path to God. The path might look completely different for all religious people, but all crave to get closer to the divine. Not one religion at its heart tells its followers to hate, all of them include a message of love. Most people get the love bit, a few don’t. Let’s start focusing on the many instead of the few.

Namaste.

Are you a Villain?

Down in the sodden field,
A blind man is gathering his roots,
Guided and led by a girl;
Her gold hair blows in the wind,
When it is full to the brim,
He wheels it patiently, slow,
Something oppressive and grim
Clothing his figure, but she
Beautifully light at his side,
Touches his arm with her hand,
Ready to help or to guide:
Power and comfort at need
In the flex of her figure lurk,
The fire at the heart of the deed
The angel that watches o’er work.

This is her visible form,
Heartening the labor she loves,
Keeping the breath of it warm,
Warm as a nestling of doves.
Humble or high or sublime,
Hers no reward of degrees,
Ditching as precious as rhyme,
If only the spirit be true.

A beautiful poem, is it not?
Here is something written by the same author:
“It is observed with alarm that the holding of dances by the Indians on their reserves is on the increase, and that these practices tend to disorganize the efforts which the Department is putting forth to make them self-supporting,” “I have, therefore, to direct you to use your utmost endeavours to dissuade the Indians from excessive indulgence in the practice of dancing. You should suppress any dances which cause waste of time, interfere with the occupations of the Indians, unsettle them for serious work, injure their health or encourage them in sloth and idleness.”

Duncan Campbell Scott is the name of this villain. This blog is not written to sour his name, or that of any racist. Let’s be clear: under no circumstance is racism okay. The code of ethics of the One Spirit organisation states: We aim to keep our hearts and minds open to everyone, celebrating difference but not separation. We refuse to marginalise people on the basis of age, disability, state of health, race, gender, nationality, religion, sexuality, economic status or any other distinction.
I fully underwrite this.

This blog is about villains. We all love to hate them.
From very early days, and in nearly all religions and spiritual movements there is good and evil.
The good is called Light, God, Divine, Source energy. The bad is darkness, Devil, demon, negative energy. There are archangels vs. fallen angels. The material world is bad, the spiritual world is good.
Corporations are bad, charities are good.
This dualistic approach to life really makes things simple.

But are things always so clear cut? Of course not!
Duncan Campbell Scott is just 1 example of people that display the dualism that each of us carries inside us. When I first read the poem ‘Labor and the Angel’, I didn’t know anything about the man. In fact, I was going to publish the poem on my poetry blog and just wanted to know a little bit more about him. Since finding out about his actions, I am still loving the poem, but wish it would have been written by someone I can love for his actions.

We all carry good and bad inside ourselves. Yin and Yang and the Hermetic principle of Polarity are two examples where spirituality touches on this matter. Both say that we cannot simply separate good and bad, because they are two sides of the same coin. Where there’s the one, there’s bound to be the other.

It is very natural for any human to fear that part of the self which is not loving, kind and happy. The easiest thing to do is to deny that dark part inside ourselves and when something comes along that reminds us of it, to really make sure that everyone knows how much you hate that and how unacceptable it is. This process is called ‘projection’. We project that what we see as bad inside ourselves onto something external and fight it, so that we can avoid looking at this part of ourselves.

“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely,” Carl Jung said.
Yet, to move forward it is a necessity to look at all aspects of the self and learn to embrace them.
Embracing all aspects of the self will take away the need to seek an external source to kick against.
It will also take away the fear of evil, and as we all know: you can’t fight bad with more bad.
We are all born with free will. So, even with all those bad seeds inside us, we can live perfectly harmonious, kind and loving lives. Because we choose to do so.

So, the next time you are ready to call someone an absolute villain, take a long hard look at yourself and see if there is a part of you that could potentially become that villain would you let it.
If the answer is ‘No’, you’re not looking hard enough.

There is a most interesting Wikipedia page on the subject of good vs. evil, which I can highly recommend: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_and_evil

Namaste

Celebrant or Minister what’s the difference?

Nowadays there are many courses in Ireland that will teach you how to become a celebrant.
Some of them even give you the right to perform legal ceremonies.
So, what is the difference between becoming a celebrant and becoming an interfaith minister?
In this blog, I will try and explain the main differences from my perspective.

First, a celebrant signed up to perform ceremonies. A minister signed up to do ceremonies, provide spiritual support where needed, be a social activist and spiritual leader. As you see, the ceremony is just a part of all the work that a minister does. As opposed to our job being solely to create and perform ceremony, we promised to take on ministerial work. This work might well look different for every single interfaith minister out there (as do our ceremonies, that is the beauty of our community).

As per the code of ethics of the One Spirit interfaith foundation all ministers also agree to continue their spiritual development and have supervision.
There is a lot more to a minister than meets the eye!

What I described above is just the ‘visible’ part of being a minister. A lot of our work goes unnoticed, as not all ministers feel the need to shout of a mountaintop every time we give some love to our planet or our fellow human.

There is a big ‘invisible’ part of being an interfaith minister, and that is our vow.
My vow is my sacred promise, between myself and the divine.
Every interfaith minister lives with their own, unique, personal vow. This sacred promise is the foundation of all work that we do and the life that we live. Just like any vow, some days it is easier to fulfil than others, but it is always there.

So really, what I am saying is that being an interfaith minister is so much more than performing ceremony. Even though this is likely how you might encounter us first, know that there is a lot more to us than meets the eye.

If you would like to learn more about One Spirit interfaith, visit our website: https://www.interfaithfoundation.org/
Or, of course, you can ask me 😊

Namaste

Cogito Ergo Sum

Cogito Ergo Sum, Descartes said it, I can only be sure that I exists within my own thinking reality.
There is no proof anything else exists. From that perspective, atheists definitely have a point.
Being an avid philosopher and having a keen interest in psychology, my starting point towards my own spirituality will always be atheism.
I know how our brain likes to make faces out of things to make them recognisable, and how we like to think there must be a higher purpose to life. From that sobering perspective, it is hard to accept that part of me that feels there is a divine force that binds us all together. Believe me, the struggle is real! I am happy that within Interfaith we do not tell people what they should believe or that they should believe, we just allow the process to happen.

So yeah, I have a thing for atheists. At the same time though, I do feel that a lot of atheists call themselves just that because they have never thought past the existence of an Abrahamic interventional god. It seems some people call themselves ‘atheist’ because they feel they do not fit in to any of the major religions. Yet, often they do feel there is ‘something’, but, having rejected religion, it can be scary to think about what that ‘something’ is.
The world is not black and white, and I believe that neither is our spirituality.

I have been in many situations where people found out I am a reverend, and they throw at me ‘well, I don’t believe in anything.’ I would simply ask them if they are an atheist or would they consider being a humanist.
Humanists don’t believe in the existence of a divine force, but they do have a very powerful ethos.
I love the 2002 Amsterdam declaration, as it comes very close to my own beliefs.

The declaration talks about using science for the advancement of humanity, the importance of human rights, personal liberty, how the world would be better off without dogmatic religion, using ones creative thinking ability and truly addressing todays social challenges.
As a One Spirit Interfaith minister, I feel all these ethics are hugely beneficial to me own ministry.

So, why am I not a humanist? Good question!
Though part of me is the ever-questioning atheist, the other part of me really wants to believe there is a divine force. I have seen and felt things that have shown me that there is more to human life than us being a highly evolved species thinking we have it all figured out.

To quote another great philosopher, Spinoza: “By God, I mean a being absolutely infinite—that is, a substance consisting in infinite attributes, of which each expresses eternal and infinite essentiality.”
Though I can be critical of Spinoza’s thought process, proving the existence of God. I feel there is a force of absolute infinite holding all of us together, a force that holds us and binds us, making us one with everything in existence.

My work as a minister involves facilitating people’s thought process about God and the meaning of life, without providing the answers, and without judging the answers anyone can come up with.
In the end, no one knows what the absolute truth is, and that is what makes life so interesting.

If you have been teased into your own thinking about the question ‘does god exist?’, be blessed.
It can be a confronting journey, and I am here for you if you need to talk about it with someone.

Why choose a separation ceremony?

There are many reasons why relationships end. The person with whom you once shared ‘the happiest day of your life’, with whom you declared your love for each other in front of the people you hold dear, with whom you build a home and a life, that person might one day no longer be the person you want to spend your everyday life with. It has happened to many of us. It is a sad moment when, as a couple, you realize that no longer you want to go continue life together.
So, why on earth would you want to hold a ceremony around this sadness?

Sense of closure is an important reason to hold a divorce or separation ceremony.
Yes, there is some closure if you were married and the divorce gets granted and you have a piece of paper saying you are now officially divorced. That letter might not meet your emotional needs. Ending a long-term relationship comes with a grieving process.
Coming together as a couple for the last time, commemorating and honouring the time you spend together, and then leaving as a person free of the ties to the other brings closure.

Freeing of the ties brings up another very important point, vows.
A vow is quite a big thing, when speaking a vow you seal your sacred promise between yourself and the person is on the receiving end of that promise. If you say a vow in a religious ceremony, the vow exists between yourself, the other and the god of your understanding.
Sometimes people vow to take care of each other forever as opposed to ‘until death do us part’, which means you are carrying this sacred promise with your soul forever.
When you are going to walk away from that sacred promise and not take care of that person in sickness and health any longer, there is a need of rescinding the vow you made.
Part of a divorce ceremony is to release each other of the sacred promise that exists between you.

Ending a relationship often means you will still see each other after the relationship has ended.
Being in a long-term relationship means your life becomes intertwined with that of the other, on all levels. A separation ceremony can be a place where you create space for the transformation from being committed loving partners to being friends.

So far the reasons mentioned have only involved the couple. A couple of adults that can likely comprehend why they are splitting up and what the consequences are for their lives.
Many couples have children. For children, hearing that their parents will split up, can cause a lot of negative emotions, anxiety and even feelings of guilt.
Creating a ceremony which includes a ritual or sacred promise that involves your children, can help them to overcome these feelings. They can leave the sacred space created in the knowledge that both their parents still love them and are committed to them.

Marriage is a sacred bond in almost all cultures. To end a marriage in many religions means breaking up a holy matrimony. It can bring up big life questions around soul mates, the divine bringing people together and what it means when things do not work out even though you feel so strongly connected to someone. As an Interfaith Minister, I can help families to choose the appropriate setting and rituals to be part of the separation ceremony.
Also, as a family chaplain I can help facilitate the dialogue around separation and what this means to everyone involved.

The Perennial Philosophy

The Perennial Philosophy is a book written by Aldous Huxley, author of ‘Brave new World’, amongst other works. It was published shortly after WWII in 1946.
It’s one of the first modern ‘interfaith’ books. Aldous Huxley brings forward the point that all religions share the same metaphysical truth. This truth is more important to each of the individual religions than the form the religion takes. This idea takes root in Neoplatonism (of the Greek philosopher Plato), which is saying that the concept of God is beyond human rational, and is carried in the human soul or essence (this sentence really isn’t doing Neoplatonism enough favour, but it’s the best I can describe it).
In the Perennial Philosophy, Huxley takes excerpts from spiritual teachers such as Eckhart, William Law, Bhagavad-Gita, Jalal-uddin Rumi and many others, and shows that, in essence, they are saying the same thing. It is an excellent book to read, and surely stands the test of time.

One of my favourite stories in it is from the Chandogya Upanishad:

When Svetaketu was twelve years old he was sent to a teacher, with whom he studied until he was twenty-four. After learning all the Vedas, he returned home full of conceit in the belief that he was consummately well educated, and very censorious.
His father said to him, ‘Svetaketu, my child, you who are so full of your learning and so censorious, have you asked for that knowledge by which we hear the unhearable, by which we perceive what cannot be perceived and know what cannot be known?’
‘What is that knowledge, sir?’ asked Svetaketu.
His father replied, ‘As by knowing one lump of clay all that is made of clay is known, the difference being only in name, but the truth being that all is clay – so my child, is that knowledge, knowing which we know all.’
‘But surely these venerable teachers of mine are ignorant of this knowledge; for if they possessed it they would have imparted it to me. Do you, sir, therefore give me that knowledge.’
‘So be it,’ said the father. …And he said, ‘Bring me a fruit of the nyagrodha tree.’
‘Here is one, sir.’
‘Break it.’
‘It is broken, sir.’
‘What do you see there?’
‘Some seeds, sir, exceedingly small.’
‘Break one of these.’
‘It is broken, sir.’
‘What do you see there?’
‘Nothing at all.’
The father said, ‘My son, that subtle essence which you do not perceive there – in that very essence stand the being of the huge nyagrodha tree. In that which is the subtle essence all that exists has its self. That is the True, that is the Self, and thou, Svetaketu, art That.
‘Pray, sir,’ said the son, ‘tell me more.’
‘Be it so, my child, ‘the father replied; and he said, ‘Place this salt in water, and come to me tomorrow morning.’
The son did as he was told.
Next morning the father said, ‘Bring me the salt which you put in the water.’
The son looked for it, but could not find it; for the salt, of course, had dissolved.
The father said, ‘Taste some of the water from the surface of the vessel, how is it?’
‘Salty.’
‘Taste some from the middle. How is it?’
‘Salty.’
‘Taste some from the bottom. How is it?’
‘Salty.’
The father said, ‘Throw the water away and then come back to me again.’
The son did so; but the salt was not lost, for salt exists for ever.
Then the father said, ‘Here likewise in this body of yours, my son, you do not perceive the True; but there in fact it is. In that which is the subtle essence, all that exists has its self. That is the True, that is the Self, and thou, Svetaketu, art That.’

The essence in all of us is that which we cannot see, which words cannot express, and which few of us have ever truly felt. We can go into physics and say that it is the dark matter inside us.
We all know it’s there, but to make it tangible is a whole different story.
Yet our essence is what makes us all the same, regardless of what we do or don’t believe. It is not something we can change, it’s there. In all of us.

Namaste