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Friday, September 09, 2005

Knowledge & Ignorance

Acquiring Knowledge Might Not Efface Ignorance
by Janki Chopra

To gain knowledge does not mean that automatically you will efface ignorance. Paradoxically, knowledge and ignorance are not two sides of a coin. Increase of one is not always the decrease of the other. In spiritual pursuit we tend to focus more on gaining knowledge and less on effacing ignorance.

Gaining knowledge is the capacity to quote scriptures and teachers. To get the words right, but to miss the inherent meaning behind them. To hug onto the carcass, and lose the spirit. If it were so simple to become spiritual that one could do it by reading books and attending discourses, then the whole world would be spiritual. That is, the whole world would have a ready understanding of the truth. Dharma is the most difficult thing to know. Truth or Reality, and its path, Dharma, have baffled great thinkers since ages.

Truth is ultimate Reality, the transcendental, the state of moksha or self-realization. Dharma is the path to it. IT is the capacity to decide on the right action. Choice of action is necessarily based on one's understanding of life; on understanding the laws that govern life.

By merely gaining definitions from various masters and books, by merely listening to discourses and speaking about them, you do not find the Truth. You have to execute right actions, be they physical, mental, or intellectual. That alone takes us closer to Truth. The process effaces our ignorance. When ignorance is effaced, Truth stands revealed.

How does one move from the stage of pedantic knowledge to removal of ignorance? Ignorance is ignorance of Truth. It cannot be eradicated by accumulating knowledge from the external world. Not all the knowledge prevalent in the world is capable of removing our ignorance of the transcendental Truth, not even spiritual knowledge. However, the same knowledge when reflected upon gives us true wisdom.

The more we are able to reflect upon, cogitate, think about acquired knowledge independently, the more will our visions clear. When our vision is clear we will see the path ahead clearly. This will enable us to perform right action to proceed on the spiritual path. This clarity comes only when we apply ourselves to the understanding of words rather than memorizing them blindly.

We seem to take for granted anything told to us, no matter how fantastic. In the study of the scriptures we throw overboard all sense and reason. Often, the more fantastic and fabulous an account is, the more we are inclined to believe it. All on the grounds that something spiritual must definitely be miraculous. The result of all this 'faith' is that we remain where we are spiritually.

Six blind men went to 'see' an elephant. Each had his own version of what an elephant was. Knowledge is knowing the various opinions. 'Faith' is believing one of them. Effacing ignorance is seeing the elephant. There is a world of difference between knowing various opinions and seeing the elephant. One who sees the elephant does not quarrel with opinions. He understands that they are all valid and also that they are all invalid.

Somehow, reading this at this time in my life, it seems to make a whole lot more sense. I think at the end of it all, you have to allow for time to look at all the things that you've seen and heard and said and done. I mean, when you reflect on things, and especially because hindsight is 20-20, you tend to see that entire stages in your life are a sham. It's an intense thing to deal with on a daily basis. I guess it's a bit confusing to have to try and live with trying to be 'you'. Just be.
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