Many Asian spiritual traditions use the analogy of a “dewdrop slipping into the shining sea” to describe the ultimate meditative experience of merging into the divine. The Buddha was an exception though later Buddhist traditions evince variants of this “drop merging into the ocean” metaphor (see e.g. Zen, Shingon, Tantra, Mahamudra, and Dzogchen).
Given this analogy/metaphor, a question arises: does this mean that the person loses their individuality to fully blend into one amorphous entity called God by any other name (e.g. cosmic consciousness, purusottama, parabrahman, paramashiva, dharmakaya, eternal original buddha, primordial buddha, or buddha nature)? In other words, is the supreme goal of life complete eradication of personality and individuality to become an undifferentiated oneness? Some would think so.
I disagree. For me, this analogy/metaphor of drop into ocean is at best one side of the story. It is fragmentary and incomplete. Spiritual transformation and sanctification into godliness is like a dynamic river, at times rushing and head-on and at times gentle and meandering, with many variations in between. The drop expands and flows dynamically into the ocean.
At its climax, the river/drop is swallowed up by the infinity of the ocean—God’s unfathomable being. All our limited concerns, petty afflictions, self-referential vexations, defilements of heart and mind, even their seeds and imprints, are burned up by holy fire and flushed clean by mighty waters of divine life. Freedom dawns.
At the same time, the ocean is infused into the drop and saturated in the river. Ocean in the drop. Ocean suffusing river. This is unlike anything we’ve tasted before. Individuality in a sense has been transmuted into cosmicity. Yet, unique personality is never lost. It is the sense of self-isolated, self-reified, self-referential existence that is dissolved. But all distinctive qualities of the person, that make them unique in design and purpose, remains. In fact, all the gifts and talents of that person get exponentially enhanced and expressed for the good of creation and the glory of God.
Experientially, spiritual union beyond separation and isolation, reification and vexation. Ontologically, the created remains subordinate and surrendered to their Creator. Not the same. Not different. Not both the same and different. Neither not the same nor not different.
What is it?
Empty of inherent existence. Yet not empty of existence, and thus not non-existence. Not non-existence yet not existing in any fantasised impossible ways that we habitually assume and instinctively cling to.
This is your challenge. And mine. To inquire seriously and unremittingly into this. How? By plumbing the depths, breadths, lengths, and heights of silence and solitude in the ambience of the love of Christ. Touching the wakeful luminosity and knowing that sees in one direct stroke the way things truly are in the essence of God’s being. May we realise this theosis. By grace alone. Through faith alone. In the loving presence and power of the Holy Spirit.