We must never lose sight of the goal of knowledge. We are not here to feed our curious minds aimlessly, nor are we here to become proud scholars – we are here to love, trust and surrender to the satguru and God.
Written by: Swami Revatikaanta
The pillar known as svadhyaya carries multiple meanings. It refers to both self-studying, the act of self-introspection and analysis, and the study of the Vedic literature. This pillar’s importance cannot be overstated. As a starting block, let’s take a look at the eleventh verse of the Isha Upanishad
Only one who can learn the process of nescience and that of transcendental knowledge side by side can transcend the influence of repeated birth and death and enjoy the full blessings of immortality.
Isha Upanishad, verse 11
The term nescience is offered up as the translation for the Sanskrit term ‘avidya’, meaning the absence of spiritual knowledge. The statement that there is a need to learn the 'process of nescience’ clearly alludes to an understanding of the material world and our material self. Its opposite, vidya, translated as transcendental knowledge, denotes an understanding of the spiritual world and our spiritual self. So, what this verse tells us is that only one who has properly studied the nature of both the material and spiritual realities can attain the true spiritual purpose of life and transcend this material existence.
Suffice to say, the process of studying, introspection and analysis is of paramount importance to our spiritual aspirations. There are so many samskaras within us, so many external distractions lurking around every corner, ready to tempt our senses and mind into material engagement that unless we come to observe these patterns and learn to identify their causes and negative effects, there is little hope that we won’t be led astray from our path sooner or later. Regular self-analysis and reflection are the solutions and the final three chapters of the Bhagavad Gita are the perfect companions for that journey. But far beyond our concerns with our own selves lies our deepest longing and attraction to the Supreme Reality, Narayana. Knowing our minds and controlling our impulses end up being worthless endeavours if they are not coupled with the sincere thirst for approximation to our beloved Lord. And one of the ways Guruji has recommended for us to do that is by studying the teachings and lilas of the Lord, primarily through the Bhagavad Gita and the Srimad Bhagavatam. In fact, not familiarizing ourselves intimately with the Satguru and God’s words and lives can have very negative outcomes.
Case in point, lately I have had the mercy to be able to work on some of Guruji’s upcoming book publications. I found some choice quotes that I would like to share with you that emphasise this particular point.
Very often the people start fantasising, creating things in their mind, and start believing in those things. So, then they go a bit cuckoo in their heads and they like to tell people stories. So, please, be aware of that also in your life: that whatever you experience of the inner guru, it has to be what the (external) guru said.
How could we hope to avoid the danger of inner fantasies (or perhaps misguided conclusions as a softer term) if we don’t invest the time to learn what has been taught and spoken by the external satguru and Lord? That is why Guruji says: 'It is very important to study and really absorb your mind and intellect into the teachings of the guru. Know which language the guru speaks, and if your inner Self is speaking the same language, then listen to that. But if you see that your inner Self is speaking a different language than the one the guru is speaking, don’t listen. That is the mind talking to you.'
But having said all that, I will leave you all with a quote and a sentiment that has been repeatedly emphasised to me throughout my time with Guruji, serving Him in the field of education in the last few years.
‘You have to have knowledge and you have to have the right knowledge…When reading or listening to these scriptures you have to really dive within your heart. Let that mind dive deep inside. Then you will have a different understanding and then you will have a transformation….It’s good to have knowledge, but if that knowledge doesn’t lead you to surrender, if that knowledge doesn’t awaken that Love, if that knowledge doesn’t awake that humility inside of you, it’s useless.’
As much as Guruji encourages us all to study and to learn, we must never lose sight of the goal of knowledge. We are not here to feed our curious minds aimlessly, nor are we here to become proud scholars – we are here to love, trust and surrender to the satguru and God. That requires knowing what is NOT meant to be understood and pursued, just as much as what is.