14. Knowledge Gives the Greatest Peace
There was a town-hall in a particular town. There were many tables, chairs and books in it. It was a library. Many people sat there till late in the night to read books. One day, as somebody was stepping into the hall, the lights went out. He hit against a chair. He shouted at the attendant to remove it. The chair was removed accordingly. Then he hit against a stool. It was removed. He hit against a table. It was removed. Then he hit against a wall. Can the wall is removed? Then somebody lighted a candle and his series of miseries came to an end. The darkness is our ajnana and the light is our jnana. We should drive out the darkness of ajnani through the light of our jnana.
Le us say that we noticed some cow-dung on our slippers after we reached home. Do we start brooding over the problem? Do we ask questions like, ‘where did I stamp cow-dung? How silly of me? Did anybody notice it? Which idiot has left his cow on the road? ‘No! The first thing we do is - to go wash our slippers and even feet. The same way, if we are in the state of Ajnana there is no point in brooding over our state of affairs. How did I acquire ajnana? When did I acquire it? What is the root cause of it? There is no answer to these questions even with great people, but they all tell us to drive ajnana by acquiring jnana!
How then do we acquire jnana?
sraddhavan labhate jnanam tat-parah samyatendriyah
sraddha-van--a faithful man; labhate--achieves; jnanam--knowledge;
He who has faith and who is earnest in his pursuit and who has a control over his mind and senses attains knowledge. Once he attains knowledge he attains supreme peace, immediately in the form of God realization.
Before we learn how to seek knowledge, let’s see why, in the first place, should we seek knowledge? Krishna has an answer for it.
na hi jnanena sadrsam pavitram iha vidyate - Bhagavad Gita 4-38
There is nothing equivalent to knowledge in all the three lokas. Here knowledge of course refers to Atmajnana, but in our limited sense we can take it as the knowledge we require. But unfortunately we don’t realize the greatest impact of knowledge.
For instance, whenever I question my students, ‘By studying well and by getting good marks, you will be pleasing four people. Can you tell me who they are?’ Pat comes the reply, ‘Teachers, parents....’ Never the other two ‘They themselves and the institution at large.’ I try to put my face as innocently as possible and ask them again, ‘So nice of you. OK fine. When you get into a job, do you give away your salary to me?’ You should see the startled look on their faces ‘of course not, why?’ is the feeling. Then I explain you don’t give even a piece of sweet to the teachers after you get a job, you may just buy some presents to parents with the first salary, you will not come back to the institution again, until you require a testimonial. Now tell me who is benefited? Now the chorus ‘we ourselves.’ How very true, but we don’t realize it till we pass out of learning stage.
So Krishna has enlisted three qualities required of a seeker of knowledge it can be any knowledge.
a) Sraddha - Faith is the first requisite. Faith, faith, faith in ourselves faith, faith in God, this is the secret of greatness’ proclaimed Vivekananda. When I tell my students ‘If you listen to me carefully, if you learn as I tell you to learn, you will definitely get 90%’ , they have ninety doubts ‘How can I get so many marks ? Do we get only these questions? Is there choice? So on and so forth. So the first thing they should do is to drive out these doubts with the knife of jnana - (Samsayatma Vinasyati) They should have faith in themselves, faith in the teachers who teach them, faith in the parents who seek to provide the best education and finally faith in God. If they have faith in their parents and teachers and do their duty sincerely, God will never fail them.
‘Sraddha vihinasya tu na pravruthihi
Without sraddha we don’t find an interest in the work we do. Without interest in it, we cannot acquire what we seek. We are stuggling in the sukha sagara of samsara, being hit by this lack of interest. So sraddha is the most essential feature. ‘One who has faith attains knowledge.’ The statement appears simple but we have doubts again. If somebody tells us ‘curiosity kills the cat’ we ask which curiosity which cat, why does it kill? The same way, we ask when, where and how do we obtain this jnana? Krishna answered these three questions in just one line in the previous sloka.
tat svayam yoga-samsiddhah kalenatmani vindati - Bhagavad Gita (4-38)
This half sloka has a great impact in Gita. ‘Tat’ means this jnana is not attainable by every Tom, Dick Harry. Who can attain it? It is attainable only yogasamsidhaha one who has purified his mind. We have to take the contextual meaning as one who has tuned his mind.’
Where does he attain it? Atmani. In himself! The knowledge is reflected in himself but not in others.
How does he attain it? Swayam. By his own efforts. He
should acquire knowledge by his own efforts. Guru, parents and God only
guide him or show him the path, but ultimately he has to walk in the path.
The sign boards at cross roads are kept to avoid confusion and direct
you. The same way gurus are like sign boards.
So one who makes a sincere effort himself, will attain knowledge in himself at the earliest.
A seeker of knowledge also requires two more qualities - tatpara earnestness and samya tendriya (a total control over sense organs.)
Earnestness - Faith brings earnestness. For instance a business man hopes to succeed in his business, he continues his job with earnestness unmindful of the suffering in due course - lack of rest, physical discomfort untimely meals etc. He carries on his work with firm resolution. Suppose you wish to become a computer engineer your body, mind and soul should be centered round it you should talk computers, eat computers, drink computers, sleep computers and walk computers. Then only can you attain jnana, here your goal.
Samyatendriya ha - control of sense organs - yatendriya itself means control of sense organs. God has used a more powerful word - Samyatendriya to mean a greater control of sense organs. We are prey to our indriyas and they have an upper hand over us. If we wish to attain our goal, we should forget the material comforts for instance, a student at the intermediate level has to be very careful, because he is at the cross roads of his life. His success in intermediate and EAMCET decides his career. To attain it he should give up his pleasures of watching TV, visiting friends, attending marriages and seeing movies. The greater his control is, the easier his task is.
How do we control? Is it so simple? It is simple provided we direct our mind. Suppose there is a grand spread of delicacies on the table and just as we are about to attack it, if we are told there is poison in two of the items (God knows which two?) do we attack it? We pick up a ‘banana’ at once to avoid the food. It means the mind controlled the sense organs even though they are lured to it. So we have to tune our mind to the required goal.
What is the benefit?
Have you ever struggled over a sum for nearly half an hour? Have you ever struggled to write an article, to paint a landscape, to invent something? Then you understand the ‘serendipitous joy’ the joy of discovery. Edison was asked how you felt when you failed 85 times.’ He only answered, ‘I am happy I was successful after 85 attempts’ that is the joy of acquiring knowledge.
When does he get it?
A ray of thought gives rise to a path of goal.