About a month ago I posted a blog called The Thread of Life, about a chain of islands off the coast of Maine. I’d been in Maine visiting my sister Susan and her family there. Susan’s husband, my brother-in-law George, has the intuitions of a native about the coast of Maine, having spent his childhoods there swimming, sailing, canoeing and kayaking the coastal waters.
After George read my blog, he pointed out that I had forgotten to mention the Eye of the Needle. The Eye of the Needle is the only place in the middle of those islands where it’s possible for a boat or ship to navigate the passage through safely.
Only someone who knows where the safe passages are can help us navigate the treacherous waters of this world, which is compared to an ocean of birth and death.
There are so many mysteries in the depths of the ocean! There are so many mysteries in learning how to cross this vast ocean of repeated birth and death that, inevitably, we require an able captain, favorable winds, and a seaworthy vessel in order to cross to the other side.
In the Bhakti tradition, great holy teachers are compared to able captains; the wisdom books of the Vedas are compared to favorable winds; and a rare human birth is compared to a vessel capable of crossing such a dangerous ocean.
But then sometimes God’s Holy Names (which are innumerable and given in holy books of every culture) are also compared to such worthy ships. And the mystery of those ships is that although so many saints throughout history have used them to cross over the ocean of nescience, still they have left them on this side of the shore for us to use as well.
Those who are immersed in deep waters of wisdom can help us navigate our way to finding the eye of the needle in this long thread of our lives.