The Philosophy and Significance of a Coconut – Part 1/2

The coconut is considered to be a sacred fruit, occupying a place in many religious ceremonies—those of the Hindus particularly. Apart from its role in ceremonial usage, this fruit is generally placed at the feet of saints and gurus by their disciples and followers, or even by those who pay casual visits, or who go for darshan—a custom, once again, especially prevalent among Hindus. But how many of those who present coconuts to such holy and exalted personages realize the great significance and deep philosophy that underlies such offering?

A coconut, as explained by Shri (Meher Baba) can be divided into four component parts: the three outer coverings and the water inside. The significance of each of these is as under:

  1. The outermost fibers and threads = the gross body
  2. The outer hard covering or shell = the subtle body
  3. The inside kernel = the mind
  4. The water = God-realization

Now, in the ordinary course of things, there are four steps and processes involved in extracting the water from the coconut.

First, you remove the outer threads and fibers.
Second, you crack the shell.
Third, you cut open or break the inner kernel.
Finally, you draw the water from the kernel.

These, the common and ordinary methods as practiced by the masses, are gradual and slow. But in the case of an emergency—as when, on certain ceremonial and sacred occasions, coconut water is needed for sprinkling as a good omen—then the whole coconut with all its coverings is broken by rough means and smashed to pieces; you do this by striking it forcefully against a wall or floor—all at once, all in a single blow. These, then, are outer, material, worldly actions associated with extracting the water from a coconut.

The spiritual significance of these processes connected with the coconut we will now describe. First, the aim and object of breaking the coconut is to extract either its water or the kernel (the coconut “meat”) from inside the shell; different processes are employed for each of these objectives. This is the outer, worldly manifestation, the outer level of meaning connected with the offering of the coconut. But the inner meaning, the spiritual manifestation, as it were, is the attainment of Self-realization. If extracting water (as a material act) signifies (on the spiritual level) winning realization of Self, the four stages in this process are these:

  1. The process of stripping away the outermost threads and fibers of the husk can be compared to shedding the various physical component parts of the human body as a whole.
  2. The successful “removal” of the gross body—which is to say, the cessation of its action—activates the subtle body. This can be compared to the exposure of the outer hard wood-like shell of the coconut (when the cutting and tearing off of the fibers is complete).
  3. When both the gross and subtle bodies have been removed, there remains the mind, which now comes into action. This stage in the spiritual process corresponds to the baring of the inside soft white meaty kernel of the coconut, once the fibers have been cut away and the hard shell cracked and broken off.
  4. The cessation of the working of the mind lifts one to God-realization. Similarly (on the material level), the breaking or cutting open of the kernel yields forth the sweet coconut water.

– “Meher Baba’s Tiffin lectures”, p53
31-May-1926; Meherabad

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