Master: Now, be alert son. To be alert is not to strain but to relax and let the teachings sink deep so that you’ll have no more doubts. Listen carefully, and after that, as k me further questions if you have any. We’ll discuss matters as two close friends discuss their intimate problems. Let’s have complete frankness and love between us.
Yes, many have been perplexed by the apparently contradictory statements of the Upanishads. But, if you examine them carefully, there are no contradictions.
“They who worship ignorance enter into darkness.” Isn’t that quite clear? Ignorance, avidya, is lack of knowledge, nescience. It is by acquiring knowledge, jnana, that ignorance is destroyed. Nowhere does the Upanishad say: “Don’t acquire knowledge”, for knowledge is the only instrument that can dispel ignorance. Everything that we learn is knowledge, including what you are hearing from me now. Then, how can knowledge lead to darkness?
Listen carefully. The Upanishad doesn’t say that knowledge leads to darkness. All it says is that those who ‘worship knowledge’ enter into greater darkness. This is to be examined closely.
Let us say that you have walked into a field full of thistles and you have quite a few thorns lodged in the feet. You did not know—you were ignorant—that it was thorny terrain. You try to pull them out with your bare hands, but to no avail; they are in too deep for that. So, you find a sharper, longer, sturdier thorn to remove them. Similarly, you remove the thorns of ignorance and pain with the thorn of knowledge. Tell me, will you, after getting rid of the painful thorns, stick the larger thorn into your feet? No, you won’t; you will throw it away. So is it with the thorn of knowledge used for removing the thorn of ignorance. Both of them are discarded by the yogi, the seeker, whose aim is liberation.
Before we go further, let us see what knowledge itself is. You understand a thing or an event and say, “I’ve acquired knowledge of that.” This means that you have stored all the information or as much as you can get regarding that thing or event in your memory, so that you can refer back to it, recognise and react to it, in the future. All knowledge is like that—that which is stored in one’s memory. Can you think of any other? The moment you have listened to my words, they have vanished from the present and have become things of the past. They constitute memory, and memory is a thing of the past. Knowledge, as we know it is then something that you remember, whether it is from the recent past, a split second ago, or years ago. That is, it is memory. All knowledge is, therefore, memory—a thing of the past.
On the other hand, Brahman, the Ultimate Reality, is never a memory, never a thing of the past. It is the living present, the eternal, immediate present and , therefore, can never be comprehended by knowledge, which has only the past as reference.