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How does knowledge cleanse the mind? || Acharya Prashant (2018)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
12 min
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Acharya Prashant (AP): Tell me, why does a small child get corrupted? The small child has—to begin with—no social influence upon him. He is like a little one emerging straight from the bathroom. With just the body and no influence upon the body. Right? Then why does he get conditioned and corrupted?

Because his innocence does not have the armor of worldly knowledge. So, it will fail at some point. You must know the ways of the world. If you know the ways of the world, then you know the ways of Maya. If you know why one country is jealous of another country, you will also know the relationship between you and your brother, and you and your husband. Knowing the world is knowing oneself, knowing oneself is knowing the world. Therefore, it pays to know the world. And that is different from being obsessed with the world.

If you look at the words of the saints, they repeatedly refer to the ways of the world. That is why they were able to reform the society. Because they knew how the society was operating, therefore they knew what were the drawbacks there.

If you do not know what is going on, then what is going on may affect you. Are you getting it? So, know what happens. As long as you have a body you will remain, you will retain a subtle tendency to get conditioned. So, you must always have an armor upon you. Never feel too self-assured. Yesterday we said that it is possible to come down from the eightieth floor to the fiftieth floor. We said that spiritual evolution is not irreversible. Now, can you relate what we said yesterday to what we are saying today? You must have heard that story, it is topical, I will narrate.

A king once asked his favorite painter, the royal painter to paint him the face of the most beautiful individual in the kingdom. So, the painter set out looking for the most innocent face in the kingdom. And he chanced upon a little girl, he chanced upon a little girl. And the little girl had the innocence of a fresh flower. She might have been four or six years old.

So, he brought that girl with himself and painted her face. And he displayed the painting to the king. And the king was pleased. He had never seen a more blemishless and innocent face. Around twenty years later, the king had another wave, another thought. He called the same painter again, and the painter was a little old now. Why don’t you go and look for the most vile face, most cruel, conditioned, and evil face in the kingdom? The painter said “Yes sir” and he again commenced his search.

And he again found a woman. The sight of her face was enough to give jitters to even the most saintly, or the most courageous person. She was Maya, she was evil personified. And she would not come with the painter. The painter had to both threaten her and lure her. It was such a gross painting, terrible and terrifying. When the painting was completed, he found the woman, that hard-hearted, cruel woman had a tear in her eye. The painter was a little surprised, he said this one can cry! He asked what’s the matter, want more money or something? She said, ”No, around twenty years back you had made another painting, right?” The painter said, “Yes.” The woman said, “I was that girl.”

Such is our cleanliness; it can get very quickly corrupted with time. That’s why you need fresh clothes, to keep yourself clean. Knowledge can be both a stain on the body and also an armor that prevents the body from getting stained(smiles). Knowledge can be both, are you getting it? To the person who is not blessed by the scriptures, by the teachers, knowledge is merely a burden, a blemish, it stains. But to the one who has been cleaned by the blessing and contact of scriptures, and teachers, knowledge can now act as an armor. Knowledge can now act as the clothes that prevent your body from getting dirty.

So, the guru advises both ways, guru advises both ways. To begin with, he will say drop all knowledge, knowledge is nonsensical, drop it. Because your relationship with knowledge is that of bondage. What are you doing? Watching the news channel all the time, the news channel is beaming nonsense. But you are addicted. You are watching rape news, Wah! You are watching how the stock price has risen by 0.2 percent. How does that matter to you? And the stock prices are always rising and falling. How has that made a difference to your life?

But see how much of your one precious birth has just gone watching the news channel. Has that added value to your life? Has that added richness to your life? It hasn’t. Your knowledge is quantum, your knowledge is your burden. You do not even know why you are carrying it. So tipsy, are you. And you have so much knowledge, you know what is cooking in the next house, don’t you? And if you do not know what is cooking next door, you become uneasy. CIA would be less eager to know about the Russian secrets. You are more eager to know what is inside the pressure cooker of your neighbor. What will you do with all that? What will you do?

You may know the names of all the ministers in the central cabinet. You may know the names and portfolio of all the ministers in all the state cabinets as well. How does that add richness to your life? Tell me.

You are from Bihar and you may know who is the education minister of Pondicherry. You may even know who is the education secretary of Nagaland. And you pride yourself on your general knowledge, but how does that help you? Tell me. And there are so many who knows all these things. How does that help you? In practical terms, if you are trying to clear some exam or something then go ahead that’s a different and irrelevant matter.

Especially in today's time when everything is available as information on your mobile phone. If you want to know something, you can google it and you can get it. Why do you want to store so much knowledge in your memory?

So, the guru says drop it, it is unhealthy, you are addicted. And you are coming to know of things that will only corrupt your consciousness even more. Do your newspapers, news channels, and neighbor, and gossips, and phone calls, and WhatsApp forwards tell you of the saints and the Upanishads? Do they, do they? Is that what prime time television beams to you? How many times have you heard the name ‘Ashtavakra’ on prime-time television, yes? But you still keep watching TV. What are you watching? Why do you want to wallow in excreta? How many times have you received a WhatsApp forward telling you about ‘Sahajo Bai’ or ‘Lallabai, ‘Lalleshwari’, for that matter ‘Akka Mahadevi’? You recently came to know of her, right? ‘Akka Mahadevi’. Was it through the newspapers?

So, not only are you addicted to news, you are addicted to poisonous news. Both the TV channel and the newspapers use news as a vehicle to bring advertisements to you. Where does their revenue come from news or advertisement?

Q: Advertisement.

AP: So, they are just using news to bring advertisements to you. Why don’t you realize that? You are being made to buy and consume, consume and buy. This so-called knowledge is just making you somebody’s money machine.

So, you know when that particular company is going to launch the next mobile phone, what will this knowledge do to you? You will have a craving to buy that phone. The fact is you may not need that phone, but that knowledge has induced a craving in you. Don’t you see this? Now, why do you want that knowledge?

Now, you may as well go to the news site to read about the impeachment proceedings in the parliament, but what have you instead been served? Or being served alongside the news? The launch of the new mobile phone. And they have not merely served news to you, they have induced desire in you. Now, you will go and buy that phone. Not only will you buy that phone, you will say, “It was my personal desire to buy that phone.”

It was not your personal desire; don’t you see that? You are made to buy that phone. But because the coercion was not explicit, so you are not even smart enough to know that you are coerced. Had somebody held you by your hand and dragged you all the way to the market, and asked you to pay at gunpoint, then you would have said, ”I have been coerced, forced, to pay up.” But, here none of the explicit, visible, gross elements are present.

You are being subtly manipulated. This is called civilization, this is called market economics. You are being subtly manipulated. So, you don’t even come to know that you are being made a fool and slave. Are you getting it?

So, knowledge is advised to be kept aside for a while. But, if you have no knowledge at all for long, then remember that ‘girl’. Our innocence requires protection because our innocence is not the innocence of the true Self. Our innocence is the innocence of the little kid. It is there but it can quickly get lost. If the situations change and protection is not available, you can very quickly lose your innocence.

So, give it the protection of, what else but knowledge. How do you counter a virus? How do you counter a virus that attacks your body? By knowing how the virus operates. Do you see what I am saying? If you know how a virus operates then you can protect yourself against that virus. Who are the saints? Who know the way of Maya. Since they know the ways of the Maya, so they can defend themselves against Maya. Getting it?

So, I am saying both the things, it’s like playing point-counterpoint. Speaking on both sides of a topic, on one hand, I am saying that knowledge is a great burden, drop it; on the other side, I am saying if you don’t have knowledge then the little girl can get corrupted very fast. So, you go to your teacher all soiled and dirty and the teacher says take off your clothes. And gives you a sound rubbing and cleaning and scrubbing. You even cry a little, you know, he is scrubbing you a little too hard perhaps. And now that all the dirt and grime has been washed off, he says, “Put on your clothes again.” And you are saying,” Ha! But asked me to get naked.” Why are you asking me to put on my clothes?

Now, you complain. You say, ”This chap is self-contradictory, he talks both ways.” Sometimes he says, “Knowledge is great.” And sometimes he says, “No, drop all knowledge.” Sometimes he says, ”Take off your clothes.” At other times he says, ”Put on the clothes. You dare not take them off." “This won’t do, this is opportunism, dissent!” The ways of spirituality are too subtle to be comprehended by sloganeers, you know, “Make that into a poster.”

If you are busy sloganeering, you will not get even a whiff of the ways of spirituality. And you can keep shouting your lungs out. Getting it? So, there is no great virtue in declaring that, “I do not even know the name of the president of India.” Go and read, download the right apps on your mobile and read.

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