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Ignorance and Knowledge

(Thoughts on the Vedanta, the end portion of the Veda)

One who wants to know the purpose or meaning of knowledge is ignorant. Had he not so much of understanding we would have called him stupid, Moodha, instead of calling him ignorant. 'Ignorant' does not mean 'devoid of knowledge or understanding' but means 'devoid of the purpose or meaning of knowledge.' Such a person alone is fit for obtaining know­ledge. Just as the hungry have a right to bread, the thirsty to water and the sick to medicine, even so the ignorant have a right to knowledge, which, in fact, is for such persons only. The hungry man is devoid of bread, and not of the knowledge of bread. He certainly has the knowledge. So also the ignorant man has the element of knowledge but there is no knowledge in it.

Knowledge is contemplation, thinking, pure discrimination and nothing else. Differentiating things, demarcating the line of difference, establishing the points of difference or distinction — this alone is knowledge which is the characteristic of the mind. Viveka is discrimination. When the mind rests between two different conditions, thoughts are vibrated in it. The place of thought is within the border of the condition of mixture and difference. Of course the mind thinks, resting on it and in it.

The purpose of the wise man or Jnani is not contemplation, thinking or differentiating alone, but something more. Every work has necessarily some effect or the other. There cannot be any work without result or effect. If a thoughtful man is caught in the meshes of mere words, and does not take any advantage of the result, he is an ignorant man, though, no doubt, he does occupy a higher position among the ignorant. But nevertheless he is away from Knowledge and is devoid of it. We call such knowledge as bookish (or barren) which is tall talk. Reading books, hearing lectures, borrowing others' opinions, he limits himself in quoting them. He repeats them like a parrot and does not make them as his own. Such knowledge we term as oral knowledge. But the knowledge of that person who understands the purpose of knowledge and makes it his own by experiencing, staying on it for some time and leading a practical life is called knowledge in the real sense. The ideal, the perfection or the ultimate neither is nor can be knowledge. The gnostic always lingers in between — sometimes leaning this way and sometimes that way. One who has a lingering position has no peace of mind. Comparatively speaking it can be said that the stupid who are engaged in action and those who are devoid of the real nature of knowledge are far better than such people.

This world, the other world and all its events and happenings are quite surprising. This world is a place of wonder and also a place of learning moral lessons.

The charm, advantage and purpose of Satsang is to make the mind broad, so as to reach the goal and purpose by showing the importance of everything in its own place, and then giving a relative view point. The purport of all this is to emphasize that becoming wise (Jnani) is not the final point of attaining the aim. Knowledge is only the final stage in attaining bliss and happiness.

Now a question arises: If knowledge is not the final point in attaining the goal, but the final point of securing bliss and happiness is only freedom or liberation, then, what is the ideal or the highest point of attainment? If happiness is obtained from knowledge, then it is the result of knowledge. In that case knowledge is as good as action. The Shastras declare that action has reward and punishment, and if knowledge gives happiness, then it is the reward of knowledge. Knowledge, too, like action became a means of earning a wage, and has no more value than action or karma. But action has been described as pitch darkness and Knowledge has been praised like anything. The reply is that, really speaking, action and knowledge both are acts of a certain type. Action is physical whereas knowledge is mental. Action means doing; knowledge means knowing.

Another thing is that although happiness is the result of action or knowledge, there is no doubt that here is some misunderstanding about it. This misunderstanding is due to the fact that the secret of the heart could not be grasped thoroughly. Happiness itself is real existence. Really speaking, happiness alone exists and all else, namely sorrow etc., is nothing but illusion. Some accepted this as an ideal and kept quiet, while some others accepted liberation as the goal.

Now we should know the difference between knowledge and liberation.

(1) Knowledge is that which is known. And that too in such a way that one becomes equal to the known thing and only knowing remains. It can be called as a form of similarity — Tadakar.

(2) Liberation means becoming free. Freedom from bondage is called liberation. These two condi­tions are related to the mind. Mind alone experiences. Mind alone accepts and feels bondage and freedom. This knowing and feeling is knowledge. No doubt when the mind thinks itself ignorant, and is keen about knowing and is interested in it and knows it, it is called know­ledge. Likewise, when the mind becomes perturbed on taking a certain condition to be unpleasant, it is called bondage. And when it tries to free itself from that condition and attains that condition, it is liberation or Mukti. Just as knowledge and ignorance are the states of mind, so also are freedom and bondage. Both are illusory and mental acceptations. Thus, when

(i) it establishes strong mental connection with the body, it becomes stupid.

(ii) it acts in the body in a particular relationship, it becomes ignorant and fickle.

(iii) it acts with discrimination and intelligence in connection with physical and worldly affairs, it is called 'intelligent'. Though it has knowledge of all things it is bereft of its own particular knowledge; and for the same reason it is called ignorant.

(iv) And when due to the width of experience it loosens the ties of this world, begins to establish relationship with the spirit, and begins to toy with the ideas of this world and the other, of earth and heaven, it is called wise. It then acts in the same manner regard­ing both, and does not take any deep impres­sion, keeping equal the pans of the balance, as it were. One who has understood the mind has understood the spirit and everything else.

Whenever there is an ideal, it is purely mental and is connected with mind only. The capacity to think and understand, accept and believe, is related to mind only. There is no place in which the mind does not wander. There are innumerable resting gates and spots of action of the mind. Only three of them will be mentioned here particularly. These places can also be called the three chapters of the book of mind.

Doors are also called by this name. There are three different doors of the mind: the lower, the middle and the higher, or the physical, the mental and the spiritual.

The first door is the gross body, which is the begin­ning of the book of mind. The second door is the mind which is in the middle. The third door is the spirit which is higher.

The gross body is that state of matter in which quick transformations occur. Mind or the subtle body is that state of matter wherein there is stability along with transformation. Spirit or the subtle body is that state of matter in which there is relatively more stabi­lity, peace and rest. These are the chapters of the mind.

When the mind settles on the very subtle body, it gains relatively more experience because it experiences only misery having come across better and superior things in the world of multiplicity. It gets material for the aggravation or development of the feeling of envy, hatred, enmity, of attaining better condition and progress. When the mind settles in its own region, or on its own place, it gets opportunity to think, meditate, decide and adhere to a particular decision.

Sages have given it four forms:

Chitta - Thinking faculty,

Manas - Contemplating instrument,

Buddhi - Deciding instrument (intellect),

Ahankar - Dwelling upon the decision;

T-ness or ego.

The mind has the middle position where there is the mixed condition of happiness and sorrow. And when the mind rises above these two stages and reaches the spirit or the subtle body, it gets peace, stability and carefree happiness. These are the three parts of the mind.

This mind has five conditions namely Stupidity, Fickleness, Ignorance, having Wisdom, and having Peace or Happiness.

In this body of yours the lower part pertains to the stupid condition, and it starts from the throat and encircles the region both above and below. The region of the fickle mind is especially found in the heart. The region of the ignorant is the heart, throat and upto the eyes or the subtle organs. The region of the wise is not only the heart, neck, eyes and the forehead but it is also from top to bottom. The region of the peaceful or the blissful is above the eyes upto further higher regions. He never looks downward and only settles safely in the higher planes. The only difference is that he, being at the top, Adhishtana, gives strength to lower states or regions which are dependent on him, He, however, remains quite independent of these.

In the lower regions the mind remains in a stupid condition. In the middle plane it remains fickle. On developing this fickleness the characteristics of ignorance and wisdom are produced in it. Reaching higher planes, it becomes steady and peaceful. Nobody then calls it either stupid or fickle, either ignorant or wise. These conditions are experienced on its resting in these planes. It absorbs their effect and becomes likewise.

Stupid does not mean motionless. But it means lazy, having no intelligence or discrimination. Such a person performs action but does not know it, nor its results. Nor can he say or express anything about it. The area and sphere of action of the stupid world is very vast.

Fickle means moving — he who is restless and hesitant, looks hither and thither, this side and that side, uses if's and but's. He has stupidity, no doubt, but a novel condition has so set in it that he becomes hesitant. He has no firmness to take a quick decision. Whereas the stupid acts without any hesitation, a fickle minded person always hesitates. This is the difference between these two. The fickle man, due to his habit of excessive hesitation, becomes ignorant. He has sufficient experience of the working of lower regions, and has developed better discrimination due to which he knows that such and such an action yields such and such a result. This very thought qualifies it for reward and punishment. And when it goes on enriching its experience by receiving rewards and punishments, wisdom begins to dawn upon it. With the help of this knowledge or wisdom it journeys into the lower, middle and higher regions and gets mastery over the knowledge of cause and effect of their action. It takes care of itself by accepting the way of equanimity. Its sphere is comparatively limited.

That which is stable and at rest is called peaceful. It (peaceful) is the name of the subtlest originality. Its Sanskrit root is Sam which means peace and stability. This is the higher state of the mind.

For example, you take your food. If you are stupid you pounce upon the food like an animal without caring for the consequence, just as a dog and a cat do. But this will not be the condition in case of a human being. You will have the knowledge of the state of eating with tastes, which knowledge is limited particu­larly to the tongue, teeth and upto the neck. As soon as the food goes down the throat, again you will not have any knowledge of it. This knowledge is the characteristic of the middle state of the mind, which state is a combined knot of knowledge and ignorance. The same is called the knot of matter and spirit - consciousness. Now, lend your attention to the region of stupidity. The food has been eaten. It has entered the stomach which digests it under the influence of the phenomenon of ignorance. It turns it into fat, blood, semen, seed, and glow of the personality and takes it from heel to top. But nobody can show, nor does anybody know, how all this is done although it is your lower mind and yourself and none else that do all these things. But there is ignorance and unawareness. The same is termed as stupid action or stupid movement. This occupies a vast region. Something has already been pointed out regarding the middle or mental region. There is knowledge of the taste of eating, of pleasure, and of more or less, which is limited. This is its first condition (stage). Developing this, it becomes ignorant, in which state it is conscious of the conditions and events of the gross body but it does not know its own self. When due to its wide experiences it goes on progressing, it becomes wise, gnostic, and its knowledge is increased. Even then knowledge is not so vast. When this mind becomes wise and attains peace, it acquires bliss. And, if kindled in this state of peace and stability a sort of super-conscious state comes in when it can report even unknown things. These three forms of the mind are due to the influence of its manifold stages which are called resting places.

Higher consciousness or perception — Prajna - chakshusha — is a characteristic of the gnostic or wise. None except the wise can be said to possess super-consciousness. But he alone is wise who dwells (settles) on the soul or causal body which is blissful. The subtlest Scriptures call this Turiya. Very few people know the real meaning of Turiya. This is derived from the famous sanskrit word Chatur which means ‘four’ (the fourth). All know the word but not its meaning. This Turiya is the fourth state which is higher than existence Sat, knowledge, Chit and bliss, Anand. Only three stages of the mind have been discussed so far. The fourth one will be discussed later.

The existence, knowledge and bliss (Sat, Chit, Anand) are also physical. This gross body which is seen and the existence of which can be known is Sat. Its existence can be known through the sense organs of sight, audition, smell, touch and taste. No other proof is necessary to know its existence. Now you can think whether all this is about your gross body or not. If yes, it means you are accepting its existence, and to deny about it will be obstinacy, because it is quite evident from immediate perception through the senses.

Consciousness or knowledge — Chit — is the subtle body and bliss or Anand is the inner or causal body. That which is thought and comes to be thought of; which can be known and understood by means of thought; that which expresses its state of knowledge through understanding, contemplation and discrimination; whose method of contemplation, invention, selection and elimination, intellectual effort and mental understand­ing creates very good impression on the minds of thinking and intelligent persons, and on those who experience, who have inventive brain, quick grasp and sharp intellect which can express with discrimination — what else can it be other than mental ability? It is mere obstinacy to deny the existence of this mind. It is proof by inference.

Bliss (Anand) is the innermost body, the caused body or the soul. This word is derived from the Sanskrit root Nad meaning ‘to rejoice’ or ‘to give joy’. That by combination of which results happiness, in which there is not even an iota of sorrow, which is free from the defects of dependence, poverty, deficiency and demerits, is bliss. What else can this be called except ‘causal body’? It is proved by the very word that it is of the nature of happiness, which can be experienced by one. Now the question is – whose evidence should be taken? The answer is, from the word itself. Whose evidence other than its own be collected? You have this gross body which is itself an expression and acceptance of your existence. You also know this. If you had not this body you could not have known yourself! Nor could others know of your existence!