All the arts acquired by men are lost by lack of practice, but this art of wisdom grows steadily once it rises.
~ Yoga Vasishth Sara, Chapter 1, Verse 13
Questioner: Acharya Ji, what is the litmus test to determine whether one’s wisdom is rising, or is it new clothes on the old self?
Acharya Prashant: It becomes very self-evident. Forget about having new clothes on old self, even the old self is not permitted to remain as it is; it starts appearing foolish.
Assume that you now weigh 50 kgs, and three years back you wore a lot of flab, and you weighed 80 kgs. How do you feel looking at those old photographs? Big, ungainly, fat woman, having a lot of unnecessary stuff. And you juxtapose these two photographs, the eighty kg one and the fifty kg one. How do you feel? Would you ever allow yourself to go back to the 80 kg days?
That’s what a Saint means, when he says, “This art of wisdom grows steadily once it rises.”
The very fact that you have known what it means to be foolish, will not allow you to be foolish once again. Foolishness is not merely a concept for you. You have been through it; been there, done it. “Yes, I know idiocy. I have been the most stupid one, and I don’t want to be there again.”
The growth of wisdom is a parallel aversion towards stupidity; not only personal stupidity but also the stupidity of the world.
When you look at others, and you see them caught in the same tangles as you once were. You quickly identify the situation.
You say, “I know that.”
The moment you say, “I know that,” two parallel things happen. One – you are full of disdain towards what is happening currently with the other one. And secondly – you are full of gratitude that you could be rescued.
Are you getting it?
A fellow who knows what it means to experience drowning, and has been saved, ask him, “Would you want to go through that experience ever again?” He will tell you what it means to be rescued.
No relation, no compassion, no identification, with the old self remains possible anymore. Not only that, the change that has happened, keeps you vigilant and keeps you open to receive more change.
You say, “If I were blind once, it is possible that my eyes are still not fully open. When I was blind, even in those days I had a lot of belief in my vision. So belief is such a danger. Even right now, I cannot allow myself to believe too strongly.”
That keeps you open, that keeps you prepared to change. And that is how this verse is saying, “This wisdom keeps growing.” In the sense, that you remain open to change, you keep growing.
You keep growing, stupidity keeps reducing. Both are the same thing.
Beauty is not merely a happening. Beauty is a parallel fascination for the happening. Beauty is a love for the happening. Who wants to return to ugliness? Who can un-see what he has seen? Beauty is a very stubborn thing; it makes you resistant to ugliness. You can no more be welcoming, you can no more be tolerant.
You dis-identify so completely, that you are no more shy of talking of your old days. You talk of yourself of the old as if that was another person. That’s Wisdom. You do not hide your shortcomings, you mention your faults aloud. And mentioning your faults aloud, you do not even say that now you are perfectly free of faults.
You say, “Some of them might still have remained. One must always be alert towards cancer. Even when the tumor has been removed, it’s quite possible that a few cancerous cells are left behind. And then, there can be a relapse. Those few cancerous cells can not only multiply but move to different places of the body. And in fact, the whole organism.”
One remains alert, like a cancer survivor. One starts valuing his life even more. This life is a gift now. “On my own, I had destroyed it. By virtue of Grace, I got a new birth. I can’t squander it anymore. I can’t go back to my old ways.”
The more this feeling remains, the more this realization remains, the more your life gains in beauty. The more your life gains in beauty, the more you despise ugliness. You can have no relation with ungodliness now.
You can’t even force yourself.
It’s a dynamic departure. It is not some kind of marginal, incremental change. The rowing away, away, away, and gone!
You are not wandering here and there, nearby.