Acquisition of Jnana

All of us should strive to acquire Jnana. It is only then that we shall be able to endure any kind of suffering. No man can escape suffering in some form or other. Each of us has his or her share of suffering. We may think that a wealthy person, or a highly placed in life, is free from cares and anxieties, and, so thinking may covet that wealth or that status in the belief that we can thereby get rid of our worries. But if you ask those persons, they will unburden to you their tale of woes. In fact, every man thinks that his suffering is the greatest, even as he thinks that he is the most handsome or the most wise. No person dares to express the latter two feelings openly; but each person thinks that his sufferings are greater than the sufferings of others and likes to parade them with a view to eliciting sympathy from others. In a sense, suffering seems to be our birth-right. Suffering is the fruit of our actions in previous births. So when we came into the world in the present birth, we came with the seeds of suffering deeply implanted into our being. There is no escaping from suffering.

But it is in us to blunt the edge of suffering. An idiot or a lunatic, a Jada an Unmatta, does not "suffer" as we do. He becomes impervious to suffering. But when this man is cured of his idiocy or lunacy, as the case may be, and he is normal like us, he becomes aware of suffering and begins to suffer as we do. Sleep is the soothing balm for all suffering. We are oblivious to suffering in dreamless sleep or Sushupti. The consciousness of suffering in waking life is negated in sleep. But we relapse into this consciousness when we wake up from sleep. The Jnani "sleeps to suffering" even when he is awake. It is not that he does not suffer in body ; but it is that he does not suffer in mind. A heavy log of wood is not easily lifted or shifted ; it requires a number of hands to do so. If the same log is immersed in water, it becomes light and even a child can move it without effort. Similarly, if we learn to immerse our load of suffering in the water of Jnana, it will become extremely light and we can make light of our suffering.

What is this Jnana that can lighten our suffering? It is knowing a thing as it really is. That is the quest of all scientists, namely, to arrive at the core of the truth of things. And we know that a scientist, engrossed in his research, loses himself in his pursuit and is undisturbed by any difficulty or distress. The pursuit of his research and the joy resulting from the knowledge he thereby acquires, far out weigh his personal suffering, which becomes very nearly non-existent to him.

We seek a Vaidya or a Mantravaadi to cure our ills. But whatever relief either can give will only be temporary. The remedy they prescribe will not drive out suffering from our system root and branch. The Jnani, however, is able to get our sufferings, because he develops a sense of imperviousness to it. Time is a great healer. Thirty years hence, our present woes, viewed in retrospect, will appear insignificant. We are also not afflicted by sufferings of people in a distant place, as we are by the sufferings of people close to us. In the face of present and proximate sufferings also we must develop such a detachment. When a person who has acquired such a detachment is commiserated with for any loss or bereavement he has suffered, his reaction to the offer of sympathy will be : " It is not anything of much consequence. It came of its own accord and it went".

How much greater will be sense of equanimity in the face of suffering when absolute Jnana dawns in the mind? To a Jnani there is no distinction such as friend or foe. He looks on all as the Paramatma. He allows nothing to irritate him. He detaches himself from his environment. He is not afflicted by sorrow or elated by joy. Such a sense of indifference and equanimity can come only from the knowledge of the Ultimate Truth. This knowledge must be acquired gradually by intense meditation or Tapas, as detailed in the Bhrigu Valli of the Taittiriya Upanishad. Asking the question what is the purpose and purport of life (kim samsare saaram), Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada answers, in his Prashnotharamaalika, that it is intense meditation on this question itself (Bahavopi Vichintyamaanam Idam Eva).

The Jnana that ensues from such meditation alone will teach us to make light of our own sufferings and also prompt us to go to help of others in distress, as a matter of duty. Engaging oneself in the acts of public benevolence and devotion to God produce Chitta Suddhi, cleansing of heart, so necessary for meditation and Jnana. Such service is not for show or fame; but for chastening one's own mind. In fact, one ought not to expect gratitude for the service one renders. The ingratitude of the other person is a test of one's purity of motive and constancy of service. Rarely does the beneficiary feel benefited by the help rendered to him. By such service one does not help the other man so much as one helps oneself to have Chitta Suddhi.

A true Jnani creates an atmosphere of detachment and holiness around him and draws innumerable people towards him. Such great Jnanis have arisen in the world, from time to time, no matter whatever religion they professed. All this prophets and saints proclaimed the same Truth, each in his own way, and if they happened to come back to life now and meet together, there will be perfect unity in their messages. It is the followers that have put into their mouths more than what they said and wrangle with others, freezing the original teachings, mangled in their hands into institutional forms, which foster narrowness and bigotry.

The test of a Jnani is whether all troubles and tribulations of life appear light to him. This attitude of the Jnani is the sure solvent for all our ills. To that end we should all strive, doing good deeds and entertaining devotion to God both of which will be futile unless oriented to that goal.

December 7, 1957.