Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lesson of the Waterwheel

“Stay together, friends. Don’t scatter and sleep.
Our friendship is made of being awake.
The waterwheel accepts water and turns and gives it away, weeping.
That way it stays in the garden, whereas another roundness rolls
through a dry riverbed looking for what it thinks it wants.
Stay here, quivering with each moment like a drop of mercury.”……
“The Waterwheel” by Rumi

When I read this poem of Rumi my thoughts went to the scene at the garden of Gethsemane where the three Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke describe the scene of Yeshua asking his chosen three apostles to be awake and vigilant lest they fall into temptation. What is Yeshua trying to communicate? True discipleship is a constant effort to be fully awake. The word Buddha means being awake. This is the reason that true teaching of the Gautama was for everyone to attain his or her Buddha nature. The act of sleeping here refers to the tamasic nature of ignorance and not realizing the true nature that one needs to realize through the association with the spiritual master.

The next part of Rumi’s poem exposes a profound truth through an easy to understand representation. The usefulness of the waterwheel is in its ability to receive and to give without holding back thus nurturing the entire garden and performing useful work through mechanical power. The place of the waterwheel in the garden is then justified by the role it plays. Every creation has a role to play. Especially the human creation, as the most evolved consciousness, has as its purpose to receive and give without holding back so that entire creation can be nurtured. We should not be like the dry grass, detached from its roots and rolling on the riverbed, with no specific aim in life and be subject to the whims and fancies of the wind. The two natures of propulsion are clearly brought out in these words. The first nature is the rooted purpose-oriented existence and the second is the purposeless and random movement which does not establish any good for itself or its environs of existence. This is the temptation which Yeshua talks of, a temptation to give into external influences which does not aid in any transcending action.

Finally Rumi admonishes; “Stay here, quivering with each moment like a drop of mercury”.
The meaning of these few words is immense. The quality of a drop of Mercury is fascinating. There are three attributes that a drop mercury exhibits. First it’s high capacity for division and unification (mental development through analysis and synthesis), second its non-attachment (ethical conduct) and third its high potency in alchemical transformation(wisdom). These are three broad characteristics which are essential for any spiritual seeker and which form the broad classification of the Noble Eightfold Path.
Rumi beautifully explains the nature of existence of a true disciple by saying that one should be “quivering with each moment”. This is the mode of being always in the present with high level of awareness. When Yeshua’s says “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” he is not talking about a physical death because he clearly says that his soul is overwhelmed. The relationship between Yeshua and his chosen disciples is at the consciousness level. So he wants his chosen individuals to be a witness to his own transcending nature but they were not yet ready as they slept and scattered. Only the power of the Holy Spirit or Christ consciousness, bestowed on them later, could give them a new insight of wakefulness. This is the reason Rumi pleads;

"Stay together, friends. Don’t scatter and sleep.
Our friendship is made of being awake."

Love to you


  1. awed at the depth and ingenuity of human soul. .crave that we come together and stay awake to the present panimayam

  2. Quivering like mercury is very rightly explained by you.The alchemy of transformation towards wisdom is needed in every one's life.
    Thank you

  3. Thanks Pani! yes we all yearn for the stillness that comes from the state of being fully awake.

  4. Thanks SS! Vibrant as always.........

  5. Sir,
    My understanding to share ...
    Rumi being a Sufi, also indicates here to actually "Die Daily" meaning, through continued spiritual practice be with Him after going through the 3rd Eye. Also "Stay here, quivering ..." indicates to the process of washing away our Karmas which would happen automatically in His presence. And when we have no Karmas left to give away - weeping (since only longing for Him, and going to Him washes our Karmas), we become part of Him.