Coconut - Symbol of Human Mind

Swami Satchidananda, New York

See this is a coconut? Do you know why the coconut is broken?

The coconut represents the human mind. As people mostly identify themselves as the mind and talk in terms of that, they are all more or less like coconut. The coconut has three parts. The upper surface, which is covered with husk. Below the husk, you see the hard shell. Inside the shell you have that beautiful, white kernel. The husk represents the tamasic part of the mind, which is the lazy mind. The hard shell represents the rajasic part, the restless, extremely active mind, the egoistic part. And the beautiful, white kernel inside represents the sattwic mind, or the tranquil one. That means, when the tranquil mind goes to one extreme, it becomes restless.

And if it goes to the other extreme it becomes lazy. So the laziness is tamas, extreme restlessness is rajas. And the middle point is what you call the tranquility, the sattwa. So you have all these three parts in the coconut.

Now here you see a coconut which is already husked. That means, even to approach a teacher for his enlightenment, for his peace, the individual should remove his laziness first. At this point he realizes somehow that even after having re-moved the laziness, it seems to be hard to remove the egoistic part of his nature. Whatever he tries, the ego gets into that. Sometimes the ego even gets into the so-called spiritual practices. Haven't you hard people saying, 'I can stand on my head for half an hour. I do half an hour meditation every day'. This it self is a form of egoism. It's hard to break that egoistic nature. So ultimately, having got tired of this, he comes to a teacher, he gives himself into the hands of a teacher. And the teacher, with the sword of wisdom, gives ego a hard hit. And then it breaks open to reveal a beautiful tranquility, a tranquil nature. And that's what the coconut symbolizes.

So each one is a coconut here. In the beginning we were all very tender. But somehow slowly, slowly we got hardened. The harder the nut, the bigger the ego. And now it's very difficult to break it. But within, it's all beautiful. It's the Kingdom of Heaven within. Once the ego shell is broken you see a very beautiful kernel inside. It's very delicious. That is the true individual. So at least on a birthday we want to relieve ourselves from the ego and to become a baby again-probably until we develop another shell. So it's more or less a symbolic act. It's not only for the birthdays. In India, normally you take a coconut to the temple and put it in the hands of the priest. And he cracks it for you. It signifies that the teacher breaks your ego and brings out the beautiful you - to be offered to god. Then the priest returns the coconut and the tasteful kernel is shared with everybody. That means, once God sees your purity, accepts you as His own, then He gives you back to be distributed to everybody. Your life becomes a beautiful and dedicated one, useful to everybody. This is the symbolic purpose of breaking a coconut.

May you be free from ego and ignorance which causes the mortality of life, the mrithyor of life.