There are octopuses living near the sea bottom. They live their entire lives under water. One day one of the octopuses gets caught on a fisherman’s hook. Fearing for his life, he tries to hold onto some coral, but isn’t strong enough and painfully loses his grip. He is dislodged and reeled upwards. Finally he breaches the surface of the water and is slowly pulled higher and higher, beside the column of a pier. The octopus feels wind for the first time, and can’t make sense of it’s surroundings. He also knows he’s somewhere where he can’t survive.
Finally he is reeled in, and then flung on the wooden floor beams of the pier. What he is most struck by is NOT the rough handling of the fishermen, which he hardly notices at all. It’s the SKY. His lidless eyes are singed by the sun. His moist skin rapidly dries. He can’t swim or propel himself. He looks at the sky and though there is no familiar weight of the sea upon him, he feels crushed by the immense heaviness of it. He is completely awestruck. As he begins to stick to the wooden floor of the peer, he only sees the sky and loses himself completely.
He becomes bodiless. He has no thought. There is only the sky.
The fisherman grabs the octopus, removes the hook, and throws it back into the sea. Upon hitting the surface of the water the octopus just sinks, but eventually regains his senses and orientation, then navigates back to the sea floor.
At the sea floor he can’t tell the other octopuses about his experience because they have no framework, and no words or concepts for understanding it. It’s not a part of their world at all. The octopus keeps quiet about it, but now knows that there is another world above theirs. Their world is not the only one or the only way of being.
Later the octopus finds out that there is some ancient writing, and this world is called “The Sky”. He’s surprised that the descriptions of the blue sky fit his own experience. He knows that this place he went to was the sky.
In the course of time, he begins to meet other octopuses who talk about “the sky”. They say it is in all of them, and that if one can vanquish one’s ego one will be at peace with the sky. But he knows that he lost his ego when he couldn’t cling to the coral and was reeled up to the surface of the water, and that was just the beginning. You can lose your ego and still be comfortable in your underwater world. He argues with a few of the octopuses, and asks how they can be the sky when they are under water? How can they be the infinitely bright blue sky when they are dimly lit? The sky is not within them, it is a real place. You can’t know the sky while you are under water. You can’t BE the sky without ever leaving water. The sky is not a metaphor for being at piece with the universe while remaining underwater.
The other octopuses congratulate themselves on their wisdom, and feel superior to the octopus that had been caught by the fisherman. They are confident that he is not as spiritually developed as they are, and too attached to his ego. But they also have compassion for him. They are sure that the sky is within them, and the other octopus has not seen it, and probably never will.