The Spiritual Pi

Have you guys read Life of Pi?

Here’s a little comment that I quote, an explanation of a stage in his metaphoric journey through the ocean of spirituality.

The Algae Island

Pi’s lifeboat = faith
Island = Religion
Sea and Sun = harsh realities of real life, scrutinizing your faith
Trees = clergy/priests/rabbis/imams, etc.
Meerkats = followers of religion

The overall message of the chapter is that although religion (organized faith) can aid us and stabilize us and nourish us spiritually in the short term, it is not a viable long-term answer to our spiritual questions, and will ultimately kill us mentally and spiritually.

Yet you can see, Unlike the turbulence of a lifeboat in the middle of an unpredictable ocean, the island was organized. It seemed unaffected by the ocean of real life, and waves that fell upon the island simply vanished into its porosity. Pi is so sure of its ability to withstand the ocean that he would have trusted staying on it during the worst hurricane.

On the other hand, The boat (Faith), is tossed about by the sea and bleached and cooked by the sun (the harsh realities of real life). In the lifeboat, Pi comes close to capsizing and drowning. Not so on the island of religion.

The Meerkats, of course, are the followers of religion. They have given up rational thought, allowing Richard Parker to kill them, devouring one Meerkat after another.

They had accepted the religion entirely.

The trees are clergy/priests. Their roots did not go their own independent way into the algae, but rather joined it, became it. Which meant that these trees either lived in a symbiotic relationship with the algae, in a giving-and-taking that was to their mutual advantage, or, simpler still, were an integral part of the algae.

When you think of religion, you think of the clergy. They are the visible part of a religion, attracting people with their charisma. it is the trees that the meerkats cling to when danger comes, not to the island itself. Pi, too, is taken by a particular priests. A such, The carnivorous tree with the teeth-fruit represents the highest order of clergy, the “pope” of the island. Pi refers to it as “the forest equivalent of a queen bee.” He finds the pope-tree at the center of a densely populated grove of very tall trees, ie, high-ranking clergy, where “the sky was quite blocked off, or, another way of putting it, the sky was solidly green.” Religion comprised the entirety of existence in this location, blocking out the realities of the sun, sky, and ocean. The promising, orange-sized fruit offered by this tree proved to be nothing but a single tooth wrapped in leaves–the spiritual death masquerading as fruit, disguised by the promises of religion.

So although the island saved Pi’s life, nourished him and restored him to health, protected him from the ocean and the sun, provided him food with no effort on Pi’s part, gave him meerkats to keep him company, he consciously chose to leave because he “preferred to set off and perish in search of my own kind than to live a lonely half-life of physical comfort and spiritual death on this murderous island.” And though he tries to take some of the algae away with him when he leaves on the lifeboat, he discovers it cannot exist independent of the island itself.


It is, overall, a stage where one can be forever in, or soon to escape. There is nothing wrong with the Meerkats, as there is nothing devious about the Carnivorous tree. They are simply different faces of life; well-populated and calm part of life. But should the Meerkats grow teeth and the carnivorous tree put barriers for those who wants to leave the Island, then this is malevolence needed to be forever subdued.

Freedom to believe, Freedom to (not) act. Life itself is an endless shackle that naturally, cannot be removed. So what of those giving prisons above prisons?. It is time, I think, that we raised our flag of independence not against the oppressing foreigners, but against the cruelty and smothering intolerance of the fanatics. If someone consciously believe that he or she has none to believe, then maybe they can start to say it out loud.

Without fear of discrimination, without fear of being violated, to be able to live within pure spirituality and proud of it.


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