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Look At The Ocean And Not At The Wave – Understanding This Teaching Of Swami Vivekananda

One way of practicing ‘reverence for life’ is by taking to heart Swami Vivekananda’s teaching: ‘Look at the “ocean” and not at the “wave”.’ (Complete Works, 7.7). He explains that ‘although we appear as little waves, the whole sea is at our back, and we are one with it. No wave can exist of itself’. Further, he declares: ‘This whole universe is my body; all health, all happiness is mine, because all is in the universe. Say, “I am the universe”)’.

Amidst all the diversity we come across in life, we will see — if we look deeply enough — unity at different levels. Waves are diverse, the ocean is one. Where we look and what we notice is our choice. It is possible to see the diverse objects in the material world as waves, and it is also possible to see the world collectively as one huge ocean of matter. Similarly, every mind in the world is a wave: I can either focus on these waves or see the one huge ocean of subtle matter, the repository of all ideas, thoughts, and emotions.

The same is true of the consciousness apparently defined by and limited to a single body and a single mind, which is really a wave in the infinite ocean of undivided Consciousness, unfettered by any physical or mental limitation.

Where does this ocean/wave insight lead us? It tells each one of us that our own physical and mental being is a wave in the cosmic ocean. Everyone else too is a wave in the ocean. Just as each wave differs from every other wave only in name and form, being essentially the same water, our bodies and minds differ only in name and form but are really made from the same elements, which also constitute everything else in the world. The wave is essentially the same as the ocean. The wave freed from its name and form is the ocean. The ocean limited by a name and a form is the wave. The one infinite Being appears as diverse and finite due only to name and form which, in themselves, are unsubstantial.