[This was written in 2015 – shared here with minor edits]
Being a rational, scientifically oriented thinker, for me, the pursuit of knowledge has been one way of understanding myself and the world around me.
Always inquiring about things and phenomena, I’ve tried to get an understanding of the physical world. Adding a little bit at a time, to my knowledge of the physical world.
In my early teens, I had my first accidental exposure to an old leather-bound edition of The Patanjali Yoga Sutras in my grandfather’s dusty bookshelves. I remember feeling a strong pull towards the mystical, the extraordinary in life, the miracles that the book spoke of, the siddhis.
How is it that the yogis and the siddhas are able to do things that normal human beings could not? What is the nature of life that enables a human to express extraordinary, other-worldly powers? How is it that some people are able to read palms and predict the future for a person? How could a person be in two places at one? And on and on and on. The quest for knowledge about the mystical took root.
Could I learn disciplines like palmistry, astrology? Could I learn from teachers the way of the yogis? Could I learn to alter manifest reality like the siddhas? The pursuit of knowledge continued in the mystical realm.
In the later years as I took to the practice of the system of Reiki, and firmly committed to a spiritual path, the pursuit of knowledge continued to be a key element of the journey. Taking classes and workshops from various teachers, reading books and articles written by various masters and authors, I was building my vehicle, little by little, that would take me to Enlightenment.
I would be a Jnani, a wise one, having assembled the most beautiful bouquet of teachings and wisdom from many different paths. After all, in the presence of genuine teachers, I could see that they seemed to know the answer to any question posed to them. How could I be wrong then, to pursue a path of knowledge, in knowing about the mystical, the spiritual?
Yet, in the unfolding, little by little, experiences in life trumped the acquisition of knowledge.
What could a rational skeptic do, when bruises on his own hands simply vanished through touch? How could he explain that? What is the well-cultivated scientific mind able to do when it experiences the spontaneous ability to communicate with a comatose person? How does the well-built citadel of knowledge fare when experience delivers direct glimpses of real nature, Reality, which don’t conform to how things are supposed to be?
As it turned out, extraordinary experiences put the brakes on the accumulation of knowledge. I simply could not explain what I was experiencing. No knowledge I had sought and accumulated was able to explain what was actually happening to me. I could not help but admit with humility, that I simply DID NOT KNOW what the heck was going on.
Ramana Maharshi says this, of the value of knowing things:
There are men of great intellects who spend their lives gathering knowledge about many things. Ask these men if they have solved the mystery of man, if they have conquered themselves, and they will hang their heads in shame. What is the use of knowing about everything else when you do not yet know who you are? Men avoid this enquiry into the true Self, but what else is there so worthy to be undertaken?~ Ramana Maharshi
Indeed. As the journey of Self-realization has accelerated with Grace, it is evident that the continued quest of knowledge in an outside world is just another aspect of the “I”s quest to be relevant. What is that “I”? Where from does it arise? What is its nature? Who am I? This indeed is the sole worthy pursuit.
The unbridled pursuit of knowledge is the pursuit of knowing the “ten thousand things”. This would easily consume many lifetimes.
What is the source of the “ten thousand things”? What is that, through the knowing of which, all “ten thousand things” are known?
Can I simply get to that source?
The scriptures, the sages and Masters say that source that cannot be named can be addressed through the pointers: Tao, Brahman, Reiki, True Self.
Knowing and Being True Self, dualistic knowledge, the knowledge of “ten thousand things” is transcended.
And what a relief this is! And what freedom this is! All that yearning to find this and learn that and all that comes to rest, when the “I” comes to rest in its source.
In practical terms, in conventional living, the pursuit of knowledge is the antidote to, and freedom from ignorance.
And it turned out that knowing who I am is the ultimate antidote to the ignorance and delusion inherent in duality. The ultimate wisdom. The ultimate freedom.
The ultimate wisdom is in the experiential discovery that what I am is not the individual in quest of knowledge, but its source, the knowingness.
The ultimate freedom comes from not adding to what we have, but in letting go of what we cling to. And what we cling to the most is the sense of “I”.
What, dear One, are you yearning to know? And who is trying to know that?
* Check out the book, “What is Enlightenment? A Simple Guide.“. It clarifies what Enlightenment is, and what it is not. It also addresses preparatory practices vs direct paths to Enlightenment.
* Available now, “Awaken: An Experiential Exploration of Enlightenment” – this book guides you on the direct path of Self-Inquiry, to the experiential realization of Reality, your true nature.