I came upon this wonderful story from the ancient texts of the Hindus, The Upanishads, that got me thinking about how we far-flung faiths have so many streams crossing each other, while celebrating the unique rivers of thoughts that flow from their own spring:
“A young man called Sretaketu has studied the Vedas for twelve years and was rather full of himself. His father, Uddalaka, asked him a question which he was unable to answer, and then proceeded to teach him a lesson about the fundamental truth of which he was entirely ignorant. He told his son to put a piece of salt into water and report back to him the following morning. When his father asked him to produce the salt, Sretaketu could not find it because it had completely dissolved. Uddalaka began to question him:
‘Would you please sip it at this end? What is it like?’, He said. ‘Salt.’
“Sip it in the middle. What is it like?’ ‘Salt.’
‘Sip it at the far end. What is it like?’ ‘Salt.
‘Throw it away and then come to me.’
His father said to him, ‘My dear child, it is true that you cannot perceive Being here, but it is equally true that it is here. This first essence-the whole universe has as its Self: That is the Real: That is the Self”: that you are, Sretaketu!'”
“Thus, even though we cannot see it, Brahman pervades the world and as Atman, is found eternally within each one of us.” (Juan Mascaro’s translation, VI of The Chandogya Upanishad).
The element salt has many used to illustrate well known spiritual parables in our Judeo-Christian traditions as well. In biblical times, it was an expensive and important commodity. It was used to barter, was widely traded, and used not only as a means to flavor food but even more vitally, as a preservative. Hence, it was widely understood as a metaphor for preserving the purity of the world, as well as being essential to sustain all life .
The Hebrew Bible (namely Exodus, Ezekiel, and Kings) mentions salt as a purifying agent. While passages in Leviticus (2;13) and Numbers (18:19) present salt as a sign of God’s covenant .
Jesus employs the metaphor of salt in the gospels of Matthew (5:15-16), Mark, and Luke (14:34-35) in the New Testament to spiritually instruct: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50).”
Salt itself, sodium chloride, is extremely stable and cannot lose its flavor, so that interpreting salt that has lost its flavor has been a topic of some debate. The most common explanation for this is that salt in the era was quite impure, not only due to extraction methods, but also due to unscrupulous merchants mixing it with other substances. Other scholars say that the writers are aware of salt not being able to lose its flavor and hence being the salt of the earth implies that the audience, once having heard the message, will always remember their value. The words translated lost its flavor translate from the Greek as became foolish, but the Aramaic for both phrases is the same, and so we must use our gifts, lest we lose our gifts, from lack of wisdom, complacency, or impurity.
May you never lose and may you be worth your salt.