If by studying the scriptures, one can become a sannyasin, by counting the King’s money one must become a billionaire. – Chinmaya
The above quote reminds us of a famous Subhashitam:
पुस्तकेषु च या विद्या परहस्ते च यद्धनम् | समये तु परिप्राप्ते न सा विद्या न तद्धनम्||
(When in need, neither the knowledge in the book and nor the money in others’ hands is going to help.)
Counted money belongs to others; possessed money alone belongs to us. So too, gathered knowledge belongs to others; digested knowledge alone is ours.
Gathered knowledge is mere bookish knowledge; digested knowledge is experienced wisdom. Gathered knowledge makes one informed; digested knowledge makes one transformed. With gathered knowledge, one continues to negatively react; with digested knowledge, one learns to positively respond. Gathered knowledge is etched only in one’s memory whereas digested knowledge becomes a part of one’s personality. Gathered knowledge strengthens the ego; digested knowledge dissolves the ego. Gathered knowledge may help us gather the outer riches; digested knowledge helps us experience the inner riches. Gathered knowledge keeps us bound even after death; digested knowledge gives us liberation even while living.
The above quote is in no way discouraging us to study the scriptures.
Study of the scriptures forms an important part of spiritual sadhana. The scriptural study gives us the clarity regarding what is the goal to reach, how to reach it, what are the obstacles en route, how to tackle those obstacles, what are the signs that we are progressing in the right direction etc. This guidance is very much necessary for any spiritual seeker.
But once having gained the information, one must actually walk the path; else all this information becomes futile. Studying the map alone will not do. One must actually visit the place as well.
Therefore the Upanishad says:
ग्रन्थमभ्यस्य मेधावी ज्ञानविज्ञानतत्पर: | पलालमिव धान्यार्थी त्यजेत् ग्रन्थमशेषत: ||
(Having studied the scriptures, an intelligent student intent on acquiring knowledge and wisdom should discard the scriptures altogether, just like one who seeks rice discards the husk.)
Nourishment comes from rice, not from the husk. In the same way, it is only the experiential wisdom which will benefit us, not mere bookish knowledge.
A devotee asked a Mahatma, “Swamiji, how many scriptures should we study? There are so many of them that even an entire lifetime will not be sufficient to study them!”
The Mahatma asked a counter-question, “How many mirrors do you need to see your face?” The confused devotee replied, “Only one Swamiji!” The Saint smiled and replied, “Scriptures, my child, are also like mirrors. The physical mirror shows you your outer physical face, while the scriptural mirror shows you your real face, your real nature! Hold the mirror in the right position, and you see your face. Study of even one scripture in the right way will take you to your real Self!”
The Upanishads say:
गवामनेकवर्णानां क्षीरस्यापेकवर्णता | क्षीरवत् पश्यते ज्ञानांङ्गिनस्तु गवां यथा ||
(The cows can be of various sizes and shapes, breeds and colours, but the colour of the milk is one; so too the knowledge is one though expounded by varieties of scriptures.)
Scriptures are like the torchlight. It shows the way; but to reach the destination, one has to walk the path. Walking without lighting the path is as wasteful as lighting without walking the path.
Many times, the scriptures meant to liberate us themselves may bind us! Our vast learning may create arrogance in us, and we are more interested in showing off our learning and gaining some worldly praise and honour than in improving ourselves through the teachings of the scriptures.
Hence Bhagavan Shankaracharya says:
वाग्वैखरी शब्दझरी शास्त्रव्याख्यानकौशलम् | वैदुष्यं विदुषां तद्वत् भुक्तये न तु मुक्तये||
(Loud speech in a steam of words, the efficiency in expounding or commenting upon the scriptures, erudition – these bring only a little joyous, material satisfaction to the scholar, but they are inefficient to liberate him completely.)
Nan In was a great Japanese Zen master. One day a University Professor approached him with a desire to attain the knowledge of Zen. Nan made him sit with due honour, and the Professor went on talking for a long time indicating his vast knowledge, scholarship and erudition. Nan just kept listening and did not speak.
This went on for long and it was tea-time. The servant brought tea for them and Nan In began pouring it in a cup from the kettle. He continued pouring the tea in the cup until it began spilling over the edge of the cup. Seeing this the scholar said, “What are you doing Sir? The cup is already full!”
“Like this cup,” Nan In said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you the Truth unless you first empty your cup?”
The true sign of knowledge is humility. Knowledge without humility is nothing but ignorance in the garb of knowledge. It benefits neither the possessor nor the listener. It is like the plastic fruit with a deceptive reality, beneficial to none.
Once Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was travelling by boat with a friend of his childhood days, Raghunath Shastri. Shastri was an erudite Sanskrit scholar. It was during those days when Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had written a great book on Logics. He had worked very hard on the book. While travelling, he showed the book to Shastri. Shastri went through the book in all minute detail. As he went through the book, he lost the lustre of countenance and his eyes welled up with tears. Seeing him depressed, Mahaprabhu asked why he was upset.
Under the pressure of insistence, Shastri opened up, “Dear friend, you will be surprised to know that I too have written a book on Logics. My book is a result of years and years of hard work. I had thought that my book is the best in the world, and hence would bring great name and fame to me. But in comparison to this book, my work is nothing. Mine is as insignificant as a lamp in front of the brilliant sun.”
Hearing this, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, “You are depressed for such a small thing? All right! I am going to offer my manuscript to Mother Ganges now.” Saying this, Mahaprabhu tore his manuscript into pieces and threw them into the river Ganges!
Bhagavan Shankaracharya warns all seekers:
शब्दजालं महारण्यं चित्तभ्रमणकारणम् | अत: प्रयत्नाज्ज्ञातव्यं तत्त्वज्ञै: तत्त्वमात्मन: ||
(Commentaries on philosophies constitute a thick jungle in which a roaming mind may easily get lost, in its own delusion. Therefore true seekers of Brahman should, through right efforts, come to experience the real nature of the Self.)
Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda used to say, “Mere putting sugar into the coffee is not enough; you must stir it; then alone coffee tastes sweet. So too, unless our personality has become sweet, our study of scriptures has not yet served the purpose.”
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