A forest of words: One can get lost if one loses sight of the goal--freedom

A forest of words: One can get lost if one loses sight of the goal–freedom

Again, the next two values go together. The first one is `adhyatma gyana nithyatvam’. `Nithyatvam’ means `regularity’. Not `constantly’, but `regularly’ exposing oneself to the knowledge of `adhyatma’ meaning `self-knowledge’. Remember, as I have said before, the problem of bondage is of self-ignorance. There is no real bondage. The whole problem is based on missing oneself, not knowing oneself. As you don’t know you are the limitless awareness, you project a lot of notions on yourself, and if you don’t know that you are infinite, any notion that you project will be finite. As a result, one’s human existence of being an isolated lonely entity starts, and in the name of living a life a person does a lot of things to seek this fullness. The more you seek, the more you deny that you are already this fullness, this completeness that you seek. The fulfilment you seek is yourself.  But if all that you do is based on the conclusion that you are a finite entity, nothing that you do in the place of physical, emotional, intellectual, even spiritual needs is going to satisfy this feeling of incompleteness. No spiritual activity or action is going to satisfy this need until you come to know what you really are. To know what you are you need an exposure to a means of knowledge that deals with what you are, and that means of knowledge is what we call Vedic wisdom.

Therefore, Krishna says, to gain `adhyatma gyanam’, `self-knowledge’, one has to be regularly exposed to it and it has to be handled by a person who knows it. To communicate this knowledge, or anything, for that matter, all that we have is words, and it is said that `Words cannot reveal the truth’. It is true—cold, printed words cannot reveal the truth, but there is a methodology of teaching this, and if I have to compare this methodology with anything in the Western world, I would compare it with therapy. Therapy is a process you undergo. Everyone has psychological insights, but it is the process that helps you get out of your problems. Similarly, it is the process of learning with a teacher that helps you see the truth. Therefore, to gain adhyatma  gyanam, there has to be `nithyatvam’ i.e. regularity. Why can a person not study and understand this on one’s own if he or she knows Sanskrit, Grammar, Logic? Because people don’t have a vision of the whole to make sense of the texts.

There’s an old story to illustrate this point. Five blind men were trying to know an elephant. One of them felt its side and described it as a wall, another mistook its tail to be a rope. The third took its leg to be a pillar, the fourth said it was a hose-pipe and the fifth feeling its tusk said it was a spear. While they stood there, arguing, a sixth man suggested, `Stop fighting…Let’s try to have an integrated understanding. This is good advice for life issues, but what can one make of a wall and a pillar and a spear, etc. in this case? How do you integrate all these views without knowing that the elephant? Similarly, in Vedanta, you need someone with a vision of the whole to make sense not only of the texts but also of one’s views and experiences of life. Therefore, adhyatma gyana nithyatvam has to come from a guru, one who has a vision of the whole. But, remember, this is not an academic study; this study is value-based—the value for moksha.

This is where the next value comes in—Tattva gyanartha darshanam. Be clear about why you are studying this. You’re not studying this to get an M.A. or a Ph.D in Philosophy. For those who want to pursue that, it’s fine. What is the artham, the purpose of this study? `Tattva gynam’, the knowledge of this reality, `tasya darshanam’ means `to see it as clearly’. To gain this knowledge as clearly as you’re seeing. In other words, knowing yourself as clearly as though you were seeing something in your hand. This is not an intellectual pursuit. Many people study Vedanta as an intellectual pursuit. Nothing wrong with that, but this is much more. It’s a pursuit for moksha, it’s a pursuit for fulfilment. Therefore, if I keep my goal in mind that all my study is meant for me becoming free, then the study will work. Otherwise it will be an intellectual exercise and one can get lost in the whole thing. In one of his books, Sankara, one of the greatest commentators on Vedanta, says that the whole thing is `shabda jaalam maharanyam’.  It’s a great forest, he says, and you can get lost in this forest. In the course of the study you will come across so many sidelights. It’s so interesting to study the grammar part of it, for example, and you could get lost in those academic exercises. Sankara says no to this; he says it has to fulfil itself in self-discovery, the discovery of the fact that you are limitless awareness. Until then, the study has to keep going.

 Your study is connected to your freedom. It is not for intellectual stimulation. If you want intellectual stimulation, study Physics, Maths etc., not this. There’s only one question that is worth asking and answering in Vedanta i.e. Who am I? And the answer to that is in this study. Therefore, until you discover yourself, until you know yourself clearly, you keep the study going. That is the combined purpose of these two values.

We have seen 20 values in the last few posts, all of them inter-related, all of them different facets of one’s own mind. All of them are nothing but different attitudes of what a person can have. This seems to be a huge task. It’s not as though one has to sit and cultivate the twenty values mentioned here; that will take a long time. It’s part of healthy living with a mature mind. Once you have that, this knowledge that you expose yourself to will not only be understood clearly, you will be able to own it up and make it a fact of your life.

It is also very interesting to note here that Krishna says that all this is gyanam. Remember, we started by saying what is gyanam and what is gneyam– What is knowledge and what is the thing to be known? The thing to be known will be clarified in the next few posts. Here, he calls this as knowledge, though this is not knowledge. As I said earlier, these are the qualities of the mind which will help one gain knowledge. Therefore, he says, any other quality that is opposed to this is `agyanam’, `ignorance’, because it will keep one’s ignorance going. Earlier, he had said, `No emotional dependence’, `free from emotional dependence’. Therefore, if you are emotionally dependent, you’re definitely not going to understand the independent atma. Therefore, `emotional dependence’ will be equated to `agyanam’,  or, actually, the ramification of my ignorance. Similarly, he had talked about `integrity’ in an earlier post. If there is integrity, what you know will flow through into your life, but if one is a disintegrated personality, then it won’t. Therefore, the lack of integrity would become conducive to agnyanam, because it keeps one’s ignorance going. I had also mentioned `healthy self-esteem’ in an earlier post. If I don’t have a healthy self-esteem, I won’t even have the courage to try for moksha. Therefore, all these values we have discussed in this and earlier posts are (not to be taken as `knowledge’ but as) conducive to gaining knowledge and making it a fact of one’s life.



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