The whole in everything

Paulo Coelho
When Ketu turned twelve years old he was sent to a master, with whom he studied until he was twenty-four. Upon finishing his training, he came back home filled with pride.
His father asked him:
“How can we know what we can’t see? How can we know that God the Almighty is everywhere?”
The young man began to recite the sacred scriptures, but his father interrupted him:
“That’s all too complicated. Isn’t there an easier way for us to learn about the existence of God?”
“Not that I know of, my father. Today I am a learned man and I need this knowledge to explain the mysteries of divine wisdom.”
“I have wasted my time and money sending my son to the monastery,” complained the father.
And taking Ketu by the hand, he led him to the kitchen. There he filled a basin with water and poured in a little salt. Then they went for a stroll in the city.
When they came back home, the father told Ketu:
“Bring the salt that I put in the basin.”
Ketu looked for the salt but did not find it because it had already dissolved in the water.
“So you can’t see the salt any more?” asked the father.
“No, the salt’s invisible.”
“Then taste a little of the water that’s on the surface of the basin. How does it taste?”
“Try a little of the water in the middle: how does it taste?”
“As salty as on the surface.”
“Now taste the water at the bottom of the basin and tell me what it tastes like.”
Ketu tried it and it had the same taste as he had felt before.
“You have studied for many years and can’t explain simply how Invisible God is in all parts,” said the father. “Using a basin of water, and calling God “salt”, I could make any peasant understand that. Please, dear son, forget the wisdom that moves us away from men and look again for the Inspiration that draws us closer.”

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  1. Tomás says:

    munrocea, my opinion is the same as Nancy’s. Don’t be too hard on yourself. I’m sure you came out learning plenty from university studies. It’s just that university studies teach you to think with your mind, and causes us to forget how to think and feel with our heart. But it’s something ingrained within each one of us – it just takes practice :)

  2. Alexandra says:

    I love the simple way to describe such complicated things .

  3. Vasundhara M says:

    isnt it wonderful what experience can do to us? infact we are all creatures of experience,as opposed to Ketu’s rendition of his ‘learning’ and as Savita Vega pointed out – the difference between mysticism and theology. My experiences in this regard have been myriad.i never consciously seeked god.I could say back then, god seeked me as i had my personal dialogue and commitment with god. i had never grown up to feel scared of god. infact i used to think of him as a friend, one that i would talk to all the time! since then i understood that i was a seeker of the truth – and stopped believing whatever the world was telling me. i wanted to find out for myself. i’d say that my views have not remained static. it wasnt like a discovery which revealed itself as an absolute truth and stayed as it is. i havent been that lucky – to have found the meaning! infact, i later went on to wonder about my obsession with god. i questioned it both ways (am the kind who has more questions than answers). neways, life got really hectic after that as i went through my experiences of career, love and marriage. i cant really say that i believe in a god per se. i feel that humans have created god and not the other way round.even manifestations of god in all his forms as all religions know him was infact humanity’s own way of telling humans that god is human. and anyone who decides to follow their own truth, their quest and be true to themselves has reached what we call god, as exemplified by the chist and other believed incarnations of god on earth – only to prove that godliness exists in the limits u can cross to hold on to your own!
    i do pray occasionally, and do believe that there are forces outside our control. the rest is matter. and ‘knowing’. whatever u truly ‘know’. dont ever let neone else tell u otherwise. nothing is more sacred and frankly, its the only treasure we have. it could change with time. but then thats how we live ourselves out truly in that moment.i dont think anything matters more.

  4. Mirela Baron says:

    Beautiful story! It`s remember me the spoke”Solva et coagula” in latin(dissolved and coagulated) ,which remained print into my mind since school time,and explaned a universal secret in such short form.

    Mirela(the woman in elevator)

  5. Savita Vega,

    I really like what you wrote and I think you are right…

    It is a mystery, and for mystics, the magic lies in having belief and faith.

  6. Jenovia says:

    To Sarita Vega:

    I have been to Paris many times and have a home there…but I wouldn’t say I ‘know’ Paris. I have met Paulo Coelho, looked into his eyes, and had conversations with him, but I could never say I ‘know’ Paulo Coelho. The definition of ‘Knowing’ is different for everyone.

    I loved your post. So very true. Bravo.

  7. Irina Black says:

    “Gratitude to the Unknown Instractors.What they undertook to do they brought to pass;All things hang like a drop of dew upon a blade of grass.”W.B.Yeats

  8. Nancy says:

    Savita Vega, I enjoyed reading your comment this Monday it is a nice way to start the week.
    munrocea, do not be hard on yourself. Your knowledge from University pleases the facts and figures people who fill the world. I think God has the rest of you.

  9. Dear Paulo,

    -I like the way, Savita Vega has given the comment about this story. There is always a barrier between “knowing” something and “experiencing” something.

    -Your story is nice, father is teaching son that god is invisible. (let me know if I misunderstood it)

    -Let us assume, God is not invisible and he is in all of us. How about this?

    -Maybe long time back before the creation of the universe such as planets earth, stars and all the entity. There was only one single person who was very powerful. He thought, well being alone is difficult thing and I need to get multiplied. He himself got multiplied into two. Then, he can now, talk with the other person who was just him.

    -This time he was confused, the other man and him was look alike, exactly same. The single object/human/god/whatever that was, thought again, let me make him little different then myself. Therefore, he then changed his face, his body then his thinking capabilities and gave him a new look with everything different.

    -Now, he is bored again.., Well, there is only two of us. Let me try to make more. He then created double of two=four of them totally different than each other.

    -They all had equal power and they all could do what he was capable to do.., so there came a “FEAR” in the creator, He thought well if everybody could do what he can do, then nobody would recognize that it was me, who created them all. (ego, proudness, greed…,)

    -Now, he was again bored- he was tired to mulitiply them and wanted some worker who will help him on this regard. Slowly, there came a idea in him mind. Why not to have a human producing another human ? (Just like machine of today)

    -He created a complete extemly beautiful and power of lust, love, emotions and strange behavior in totally worthful creation. He himself was confused to name this human being, he named it as “wify”, slowly it became “wife of men” then later it changed to “wife” and today it is known as, “women” (different stages of women maybe called, girl, lady, women, ….)

    -Now he seemed to be happy and he is most happiest man because he knows that everybody “wants” him, he also knows, “why?” and he is only one who is “fully satisfied”. He will be…,

    -Then, the humanity came into existence- so called society was build up, then tribals, community was developed, power game strated, politics started, countries were divided, people and culture were different, language they communicated wad different.., all of us share differences and sometimes we reach of compromises…so on and so forth…,

    How do I know this?

    Since I have no background knowledge of “Theology” or “Philosohpy” neither “Religion” nor “Any literature”.

    You can guess, who could be me or who is inside me…, (Laugh.., Smile…, and …,)

    Your comments ?

    God bless you all !

  10. munrocea says:

    If I could return to the place where I had to leave my own ‘known’ world and follow the path of university to ‘learn about the world’…
    I would turn around that time and go along a different route …
    university probably taught me how not to think and feel at the same time; and it has taken almost twice as long to recapture that intuitive response that I had learned in childhood.

  11. Pablo says:

    Beautiful story. Thanks Paulo.

  12. Savita Vega says:

    Philosophy + religion = theology. Theology is one way of knowing about God. But knowing “about” something or someone is very different from “knowing” something or someone. I know “about” Paris, but I have never been there, so cannot say that I “know” Paris. In fact, I could spend the rest of my life reading and studying about Paris – about its architecture, its people, its culture, and so on – but at the end of it all, I still would only know “about” Paris. Its true essence would escape me and remain a mystery to me. Similarly, I know “about” Paulo Coelho. And maybe, just maybe, I have seen a door open that lets in to a view of his soul. And yet I have not met him, have not conversed with him face-to-face, have not shared with him a spontaneous and immediate dialogue, and so, I cannot say that I “know” Paulo Coelho.

    The same is true of God. There is the knowing “about” God. And then there is the immediate “knowledge” of God. The former is theology. The latter is mysticism. The theologian studies about God, much in the way that one might study about Paris, without the need of ever having visited there. Similarly, a dedicated theologian might deem themselves an “expert” on the subject of God, just as an ardent student of Parisian studies might deem themselves an “expert” on Paris. But is this true knowledge? It is limited – it only goes just so deep, and no further. To gain a true knowledge of Paris, one must go there, (if not born Parisian) one must be a traveller. In the same sense, the mystic is a spiritual traveller – one who goes out to meet God, face-to-face, who engages in and maintains an immediate and spontaneous dialogue with the Divine, in whatever form. And in this way, the mystic is the genuine “expert” on God, not the theologian (unless, of course, he too is a mystic at heart).

    Theology is dogmatic – it leads us to an understanding of God that is static, a set of rules and norms that is cut and dried, tightly defined and unchanging. Mysticism, on the other hand, is continuously revelatory – it is a process whereby we invite God into our individual lives and ask him/her to guide us on our path, to order the steps that we take on a daily basis. In theology, we can memorize “the rules;” in mysticism, we must learn them and relearn them as we go along. In mysticism there is no set code of “should” and “should nots.” Just as life throws at us new and unfounded, complex scenarios on a daily basis, the “dos” and “dont’s” of a mystic’s understanding of “right” and “wrong,” “good”and “bad,” morph and change, grow and evolve. If theology is a waltz, with tightly numbered steps, mysticism is an improve piece where God calls out the steps as the music flows and the dancer follows.

    The theological understanding of God is highly limited in another way, as Paulo points out in this post: theology is primarily for the learned. Because it requires a basic foundation in philosophical concepts as well as an extensive knowledge of the body of religious rhetoric stretching back into history, theology is for those who are educated. Furthermore, the only way that theology can be passed on from the educated to the uneducated is by rote memorization, a dry and lifeless form of comprehension that has no spirit in it. So, are we to declare or assume that knowledge of God is for the learned only, the exclusive right of the educated? The knowledge of God is for all, even those who cannot read or write, even for those who have no “religious” foundation, even for those who have never seen or set foot in a church, a temple, or a mosque. The guidance of God in the form of mysticism – the immediate and spontaneous dialogue with and knowledge of God – is for all who seek it, for all who have ears to hear when God speaks directly to their hearts.

    Mysticism, unlike theology, cannot be passed on in any academic manner, not by mere study and memorization. One mystic can invite another mystic to explore and thereby come to know the Divine, but that knowledge is ever personal, ever individual. It can never be codified or set in stone. It requires that one commit one’s whole heart and whole soul and whole spirit to discovering and comprehending the great mystery that is God. All one mystic can ever do for another aspiring mystic is point, but the answers are not written on the tip of his finger, as they are in theology – the aspirant, urged on by this gesture, must go forth and seek and find the answers himself. We can lecture all day long about the molecular structure of water and salt, of the contents of that sink – and theologians do – but to truly know God (not just know “of” God) one must plunge one’s hand in and take a drink. Anyone can do that, educated or uneducated, literate or illiterate, young or old, genius or not.

  13. sido66 says:

    I enjoyed the flavour of the love of the man;
    I enjoyed the flavour of the soul of the world;
    I enjoyed the flavour of God’s Amur