Balancing Worldly Knowledge with Spiritual Knowledge

Most people in the world do not know the true significance of life. Many do not even seem to care about it. One in a million may be concerned about knowing the purpose of life. Concern is the first step in the journey towards the ultimate goal. Most young people are content with eating, sleeping, dressing and rearing a big family as the main aims of living. Doubtlessly, all these are necessary to some extent. But they alone cannot contribute to peace of mind or fullness of life. The phenomena of the external world are what the eyes see, the ears hear, and the mind cognises. All these are sensory phenomena. Beyond the Indriyas (senses) is the mind and greater than the mind is the Buddhi (intellect). The intellect is governed by the Atma (the indwelling Spirit). The human destiny is to realise the Atma. Among the sense organs the most powerful is the mouth (which has the powers of speech and consuming food). When the mouth is under the control of the mind, all other senses can be controlled. Speech should be restrained as much as possible. Then, the attention of the mind should be diverted towards the Buddhi (which has the power of discrimination). When the Buddhi is turned towards the Atma, it begins to realise the all-pervading Spirit. 

Worldly Knowledge and Spiritual Knowledge 

The inextricable connection between the phenomenal world outside, and the world of consciousness inside, eludes the understanding of ordinary people. Immersed in the desire for enjoying worldly pleasures, people do not attempt to discover the boundless joy to be derived from the inner Spirit. This is because all the sense organs are open only to experiences from outside. It is not surprising that the common man is subject to the outward vision. Only a few develop the inner vision and enjoy spiritual bliss. Is it the body that derives joy from looking at a thing of beauty? Or is it the Atma? What is it that relishes the food that is consumed – the body or the spirit? What is it that enjoys fragrance or is moved by companionship? Enquiring in this manner, it will be found that it is the Atma that is the enjoyer and not the physical body. The body by itself is gross and is incapable of experiencing joy. It must be realised that the Spirit transcends the mind and the intellect and pervades the entire cosmos. The Spirit is the basis for the cognition of the external world and experiencing the inner world. The Vedas and Vedangas (Vedic sciences), music and literature, physics and chemistry, botany and biology, all these different branches of knowledge are related to the phenomenal universe. They belong to the category of ‘Apara Vidya’ (worldly knowledge). People devote their lives mainly to these studies. Only the knowledge of the Spirit is ‘Para Vidya’ (the Supreme Knowledge). Apara Vidya is pursued mainly for earning a living. But even worldly knowledge exists to point the way to spiritual awareness. Without spiritual knowledge, all other knowledge is valueless.

The Three States of Consciousness 

Every man has to enquire every moment about the purpose and goal in life. Eating, drinking, sleeping and passing time cannot be the meaning of human life. All these are common to birds and beasts. What is the uniqueness of man? He is endowed with faculties which can enable him to rise above the animal to the human and the Divine level. Vaak (speech), Manas (mind) and Prana (vital breath) are manifestations of the Atma. Each is related to a state of consciousness. They are – Jagruti (the waking state), Swapna (dream state) and Sushupti (deep sleep). In the Jagruti state, man is awake and experiences the outer world through sight, hearing, speech and other senses. The phenomenal universe is what one experiences through the five sense organs. The experience in the waking state is known as Vishwa because experiences are the subtle form of the cosmic principle. Vishwa has 24 constituent elements – the 5 organs of action (Karmendriyas), the 5 sense organs (Jnanendriyas), the 5 basic elements (Panch Bhutas), the 5 vital airs (Pranas), the mind (Manas), the intellect (Buddhi), the subconscious mind (Chitta) and the ego (Ahamkara). In the dream state, only the 4 internal senses (the mind, the Buddhi, the Chitta and the Ahamkara) function. They constitute the Antahkarana (the psycho-somatic agency). In this state the experiencer has Tejas (an effulgent form) and is known as Taijasa. Sushupti is the state of deep sleep. In this state, Prajna (intuited awareness) alone remains. Hence the experience in this state is called Prajna (the Knower). Vishwa, Taijasa and Prajna are all different names of the Atma (in different states of consciousness), according to the different forms assumed by the Atma in the various states. 

Constant Integrated Awareness – Prajnana 

‘Prajnaanam Brahma’ declares the Upanishad. Jnana, Vijnana, Prajnana, Sujnana and Ajnana are modifications of one and the same principle of Consciousness. Prajnana (Constant Integrated Awareness) comprehends all that is experienced by the Antahkarana through impressions received by the sense organs—the eyes, the mouth, the ears, the nose, etc. Prajnana is immanent in Antahkarana as the principle which absorbs and interprets the messages received through the senses. The eyes, for instance, are like the bulb in a lamp. The bulb cannot emit light. It needs the electric current to make it burn. Likewise the eyes cannot see by themselves. It is the Prajnana which sees through the eyes. The same thing applies to the ears and the other organs. They all need power of the inner current to do their work. All the sense organs are insentient by themselves. It is Prajnana that animates them and makes them instruments of the Chaitanya (Consciousness). 

The universe contains innumerable objects. In all of them, the one unchanging, eternal principle is the Atma. That is Prajnana. That is Brahman. It is the power of this eternal principle which sustains the evanescent and ever-changing objects of the universe. Asti, Bhaati and Priyam (Existing, shining and pleasing) are three indices of the Divine. ‘Sat-Chit-Ananda’ are the attributes of the Divine. Sat indicates permanance. Chit indicates Omniscience. Ananda is the state of unalloyed bliss. These three attributes of the Divine are changeless and have no form or name. When these three get associated with objects which have name and form, we have Prapancha – the quintuple phenomenal universe. The cosmos is permeated by the Divine. Even if you are unable to see It, the Divine is present in everything. All our senses function because of the Consciousness that operates in every being. Without that consciousness man would be an insentient creature. 

Atma is common to all states of consciousness 

The different states of consciousness are mutually exclusive. You cannot experience in one state what you have gone through in another. For instance, in a dream you may weep over the death of a person. But when you wake up, you don't weep for the person who died in the dream. What happened in the dream is true only in the dream state. In the waking state it is Mithya (unreal). Likewise we do not lament in the dream for a person who died in the waking state. Each experience is real only in that state of consciousness. But the one principle that is common to all states of consciousness – waking, dream, and deep sleep is the Atma. Atma is not bound by limitations of time, space and circumstance. 

The body is impermanent. But it is the abode of the indwelling Spirit. It is a shrine and when it moves, the Divine moves with it. Hence the body should be cared for the same way in which an iron safe, which is of little value in itself, is safeguarded for the sake of the valuables kept in it. What is it that binds man to the illusory world? It is not family or property. These can be given up when one wishes to do so. But what are the most difficult to renounce are Raga (attachment) and Dwesha (hatred). As long as these are dominant in man, he cannot realise his true Self. And as long as man is unaware of his true Self, he is in bondage; there is no freedom from suffering or worry. 

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