Category Archives: Spirituality

Half Knowledge is Dangerous

There is a saying that half knowledge is dangerous.

If you have read the stories of Suppandi in the children’s magazine Tinkle, you will know what I mean. Once Suppandi’s master instructed him not to let anyone in the house while he was gone. Suppandi diligently followed the instructions and when his master returned, he did not allow even him to enter the house. Another time, some guests had come over to the house and Suppandi was asked to bring some Samosas. He brought them in his hand and was reprimanded by his master to bring everything in a plate. Next day his master asked him to bring his shoes and Suppandi brought them in a plate.

Image Credit: Tinkle

These stories illustrate in a funny way how half knowledge is dangerous. However, it is true in real life also. Cooking a new dish without knowing the nuances may affect the taste of your preparation. Writing a complex piece of code without knowing the entire context of the customer’s requirements will lead to unintentional bugs. Travelling to a distant city without accurate maps will lose you hours in getting on the right track. In the simplest case, if your knowledge is less than complete, you will get less marks in the exam. We can recognize innumerable such examples in our daily life.

If we really think about this, then whatever we know is always incomplete, always half. In fact the more we know the more we feel we know less about something. So at all times, our knowledge is half knowledge. We don’t know the entire story.

Just to clarify, when we say half, it is not exactly 50%. It means not knowing different facets of the subject. Whether you know 25% or 75%, it is still less than complete, therefore it is called half. You cannot say that someone who knows 25% is more ignorant than someone who knows 75% or the other way round.

So now the question begs itself. Is there a state of complete knowledge? If you keep on gaining knowledge, will you ever know everything? I doubt that.

New knowledge is always getting created and therefore it is an endless journey to gather complete knowledge. In the lifetime of an individual, it is not possible to acquire all the knowledge of all the things.

Since we all are in the state of half knowledge and we take action based on that, so we are all ‘dangerous’ people. Whatever action we take based on our half knowledge is less than optimum and will may create more harm than good in the long run. But that seems like a controversial statement. Obviously, we can do good for others and not all our actions are harmful.

At this stage, we reach a point where our understanding is limited by the collective understanding. It is possible that even though when the world says something is good, it may be harmful but you will know only when you get some more knowledge of the cause and effect of that action.

This discussion is taking us deeper into the meaning of knowledge, good and harm. It is not possible to conclude this at this level.

They say the Buddha had complete knowledge. In one of the suttas, the Buddha said to his monks that he knew far more than what he revealed to them, taking the analogy that he taught only a handful of leaves compared to all the leaves in the forest. According to the Buddha, we must focus only on the alleviation of suffering and not bother about who created the universe and whether it is eternal or not.

According to the Buddha, knowledge that helps in alleviation of suffering is superior to knowledge that may lead to increase in suffering or have no impact on suffering.

Vedanta philosophy points seekers to go beyond knowledge. It speaks of the ending of knowledge. Ved + Anta = Vedanta. The Vedas were considered to be the repository of all knowledge till then. But it was found by the wise that that knowledge was not conducive to emancipation or awakening. It merely was leading people on the path of rituals and worship.

Could it be that the clue to solving this conundrum is to get an insight into knowledge i.e. understanding the very nature and structure of knowledge.

That which we call knowledge is a consensus, a provisional conclusion, not ultimately real. It is something that helps you to get along in life, work with others and do things but none of that fundamentally is true, it’s not the substance of the universe.

Mathematicians will argue otherwise and speak of the perennial constants and universal ratios which are at the root of the laws of nature. But such laws are just the result of our universe being the way it is and mathematics a way to understand that through symbols. They are the truth only of our observable universe dependent on the way we have designed our science.

Knowledge, if we understand it as a description of the world whether in language of English or Mathematics, has inherent limitations, which cannot be overcome by gathering more knowledge.

Knowledge is the description of the world and description = words and words are symbols to represent what is. But ‘what is’ cannot be captured as symbols or in words and descriptions. Knowledge by its very nature is a representation of ‘what is’ and a re-presentation is not the real deal.

To know ‘what is’, knowledge must be dropped and only bare awareness must be retained. When you are able to look and hear what is with bare awareness without creating knowledge of that, then there comes a time when you can directly experience ‘what is’ and know directly, not through any representation of words and formulas.

Direct knowing is complete at all times. This is not gathered knowledge or applied knowledge. This direct knowing is new and fresh every moment. And action based on this direct knowing is the right action that is good, not harmful.

So it is not a question of half or complete knowledge, it is a question of direct knowing or indirect knowledge.

Genuine Spirituality is an Action not a Reaction


People who have turned “spiritual” need to consider this very important aspect.

By spiritual, I am referring to people who engage in reading spiritual books, going to a spiritual teacher, spending time at a satsang, joining a spiritual club or going for a meditation retreat and in general who think of themselves as “spiritual” not ordinary. There are people who engage in such activities on a regular basis and for whom it has become a part of life in terms of hanging out with similar individuals. Such people are always quoting some saying from the sacred texts, or something they have read or something their guru has spoken or sharing some of their “spiritual” experiences or simply complaining that the world is going to the dogs because of the lack of spirituality.

For such people, it is quite important to honestly clarify to themselves their true motivation for turning spiritual.

We can distinguish three contexts. First, there is the habitual spirituality, which is nothing but a habit learnt from childhood about following certain rituals and pujas. You see your mother and father going to the temple or church and you have learnt to do that. Some of you might choose different Gods and Goddesses to follow as you grow up, depending on your affinity, but it is a habit nonetheless. There is no thought behind that habit but just a belief. Seeking blessings from every temple you see while traveling is a sign of this habitual spirituality.

Second, there is the spirituality that emerges as a reaction to life. People, who have been deeply hurt in life due to certain experiences, turn to spirituality for solace and comfort. People who are living a hard life turn to spirituality with the hope of finding some happiness. Such people usually form clubs and groups where they can find similar people and get the opportunity to feel related. The interest in spirituality is sustained so long as the circumstances in life remain the same. Because life is full of suffering, people seek happiness through spirituality. They read books, memorize quotes from it, go to gurus and practice meditation. If the life was good, such people would not be interested in spirituality at all. People remember God only when life becomes a challenge. So this kind of spirituality is a reaction to life.

Genuine spirituality is not a reaction to life. It is a positive action towards living a life full of understanding and happiness amidst all the challenges and hardships. Genuine spirituality seeks to understand and act from that understanding. It is not afraid to be alone and does not seek comfort in a group. It does not run around from book to book or guru to guru to speak the latest fashionable truths. Genuine spirituality does not make a display of its genuineness or spirituality. Therefore, it is difficult to spot. A completely ordinary being can be the most developed spiritual person without anyone being aware of it.

The road to genuine spirituality starts from the inner recognition of our habitual or reactive spirituality. When we realize that we are only calling ourselves spiritual and want to be recognized as such by others, and when we see the utter un-spirituality of it, we are at peace with ourselves. Then we can be genuinely spiritual even while doing the most ordinary things in life and are able to handle the most difficult situations in life with ease.

Worldly Knowledge vs. Ultimate Knowledge


Human beings have the unique privilege of being born with the capacity to learn. Using signs, symbols, language and science, we have gathered a lot of knowledge over the centuries. This knowledge has transformed our lives through its application in technology, medicine and engineering.

​As we know more and more, we realize there is always something more to know. In every theoretical discipline – physics, chemistry, mathematics and so on – the search for more knowledge continues. There does not seem to be an end to knowledge. Although many scientists are diligently seeking a unified theory which will be the mother of all theories and will answer all the questions, their quest has not been successful so far. This does not mean that one day they will be successful. Scientific discoveries in the field of Quantum dynamics tend to point to the conclusion that there might be fundamental limits to knowledge.

Despite such limits, knowledge can always increase endlessly. Such is the nature of worldly knowledge. The increase in the amount of this worldly knowledge has also increased the number of years young human beings have to spend in school. There is ever increasing amount of knowledge we need to imbibe before we are ready for working in the world. Beyond a point, one must choose a specialization and literally know a lot about very little.

One must observe this carefully in the world.

Realizing this some people go in search of spiritual knowledge – the knowledge of God. The case is the same in this field also. There is endless knowledge of meditation, consciousness, soul, higher energy and so on. It is crucial for one to realize that such knowledge is equally worldly. It has the same nature of being never ending.

​As one understands this, one begins to investigate how knowledge is created. One sees clearly how simple sensory inputs are concretized, symbolized, given a name and then woven to form the fabric of knowledge. Much of this is done by one person and then later just informed to others through the process of education, without the actual sensory experience.

By investigating deeper into this, the grip of knowledge on oneself weakens. Everything one knows is put under the microscope of the mind, questioned and understood in its entirety. Knowledge literally falls away and there is freedom from all that is known. All that remains is bare experience – the experience of the air on the skin, the sound on the ear, the object on the eye, and the taste on the tongue. The mind will still name the experience but not in the same way as before. There is a certain knowing of the knowing – a constant moving knowing state not an accumulating process. This is ultimate knowledge.

Note to a Seeker: Stop Seeking


A seeker is searching for something higher, some meaning in life, God, enlightenment or inner peace. That something, he may believe is external and in order to find it, he will visit sacred places and meet holy people. If the seeker believes that what he seeks is within, he will read scriptures, meditate, or practice different techniques in order to attain it.

Now, seeking may have two orientations – seeking for something you do not have or seeking for something you had but have lost. Although the two may seem very different, eventually those who believe that they are seeking for something they do not have, come to understand as they investigate deeper, that it makes more sense to believe that they are seeking for something they had and now it is lost.

Seeker, I tell you to stop seeking.

Lets say you dropped your pen somewhere but do not know that you have dropped it. Your mind is not agitated. Suddenly you realize you have misplaced it or someone tells you that your pen is missing and you start seeking for it. Now your mind becomes agitated. You do not need the pen to write anything but you still want to know where the pen is so you continue to search. You spend an hour searching and finally you find the pen under the chair. Great relief. The mind is calm again.

The mind was calm when you did not know you had misplaced the pen. When you knew you had lost it, the mind was agitated even though the pen was right there under the chair. When you found the pen, the mind was happy again.

The pen was there all the time. The only change was in your knowledge. First you did not know that you had lost the pen. Then you knew you had lost it. You spent an hour in agitation and mental torture searching for the pen even though there was no use of it immediately. Finally, when you found it, the relief that resulted was not an attribute of the pen but due to the dropping of the stress you developed in yourself during the search!

So Seeker, I tell you to stop seeking. What you are seeking is right there. It will always be there.

You may ask whether the mental state of a person who does not know he has lost the pen is different from the mental state of the person who has found the pen. The mind is calm before also and after also. It is possible that the person may forget once again where he has kept the pen but this time he will not be so troubled because he knows the pen is there somewhere. There is no need to search.

So Seeker, I tell you to stop seeking.

What you seek is right there. Only you do not know. All your seeking is because you know there is something to be sought. Those who do not know, do not seek. You may cause them great harm by telling them there is something to seek. Because once a person starts seeking, it becomes a passion, difficult to stop.

So Seeker. I tell you to stop seeking. If you renounce seeking, that which you are seeking will appear to you on its own. You will then laugh at yourself and all the seeking you did.

So Seeker. I tell you to stop seeking.

Understanding Fear and Insecurity


We all strive for security in life – we want good education in the hope of securing a high paying job, we invest money in property and funds so that we can secure our future, we save money for our children’s education and marriage, we buy insurance for safeguarding our family against accident and death.

Insecurity is caused by fear. Deep down there is an unconscious fear, a certain insecurity which drives us to do these things. But we never question it or investigate it.

Insecurity must be understood at two levels. One is the inherent insecurity of life. Everything is impermanent; nature is in a constant state of flux. Seasons change, we grow old, we fall ill, we die. There is nothing we can do to prevent this.

Since we are born, we must grow old and die one day. The uncertainty is when and how we die, not whether we die. Even if there are tremendous advances in medical science, nothing can prevent death. So this is the basic level of insecurity in life which will never go away – whatever your job, position, bank balance, and health is.

The second level of insecurity arises from people trying to find more security in life for themselves and their families. This is the insecurity most of us are caught in. We all want to be settled in a job earning a monthly income and saving for the future. We also keep trying to find more ways to earn additional income such as changing jobs, investing in shares and real estate and so on.

We think of our future, then our children’s future and then our grand children’s future. All this thinking creates more insecurity and we strive harder to acquire more property and money – all with an underlying sense of panic, thinking what will happen in the future.

Even if we are not driven by family concerns we are simply driven by competition – by looking at what others are doing around us and wanting to do better than them. The more people we see running after property and wealth, the more insecure we become and strive harder, increasing the insecurity. This is a vicious cycle.

Whereas the first level of insecurity is natural and cannot be eliminated, the other is created by us, is totally unnecessary and is the root of all evil actions, cheating and corruption in the world.

​In order to full grasp the first level of insecurity, one must see through the illusory insecurity and stop acting in a manner which increases that insecurity.

When one is free of the man made insecurity by not chasing after symbols of security such as property and wealth, one can then tackle the original insecurity of life i.e. death.

Finally, when even this level of insecurity is penetrated to its roots by discovering what you truly are, you can be free of all fear.

Ground Yourself in Impermanence


Change is the basic fact of nature. Everything around us and within us is changing every moment. Take a second to stop, see and listen. You can hear sounds changing, you can see things moving, you can feel the air on your skin, you can sense the breath going in and coming out. You can feel the sensations in your body and know the thoughts in your mind. Changing.. changing.. changing..

​Impermanence is the only permanent thing. Even the things which are seemingly solid like walls, wood, iron and stones are also changing at the microscopic level. It would be foolish to say that they do not change at all and are permanent.

When you strive for permanence in an impermanent world, it makes for a lot of sorrow, frustration, dissatisfaction and discontent. Real happiness can only be found when you ground yourself in impermanence all the time. Stay with impermanence, flow with it, and allow impermanence to flow through you.

It is a paradoxical notion that when nothing is permanent, how can there be a ground? And yet, the only refuge is the ground of impermanence.

One only needs to observe to penetrate this paradox. It is only when you are not aware that the nature of things is to change that you try to hold on to them – you want the good situation to continue, you want the good relationship to continue, you want the pleasant experience to extend and so on.

When you are continuously conscious of change, you have no experience. You ARE the very impermanence. In this state, there is no separation of experience from one who experiences. You have reached home.

The Shocking Realization


It is natural to consider – I am Y. I can do this and I can say this. I have independent will to do what I wish. I can listen. I can think.

It is also natural that I get angry, I get depressed, I like something and I don’t like someone. I have my habits, my assumptions, my judgments, and my way of thinking.

Further, I also believe that I can change whenever I want to. I don’t change simply because I don’t think it is necessary. There might be some aspects of my personality that hurt others or hinder me to attain my best.

However, when things don’t turn out the way I want, I blame others and I blame circumstances. I project all sorts of intentions on other people but do not realize it at that moment.

Now what I am going to explain is the most shocking realization on the path to realization. Every person who has walked on this path faces this hurdle. Only if he accepts this and see the truth of this can he move ahead on the path.

This realization is that – I am not in control!!

I have no control on what I do, what I say, what I think… none at all. Things are happening of their own accord without any one controlling them. In other words, one thing happens because of all the other things. There is no way that one thing would not have happened in any other way keeping all other things the same.

Everything depends on everything else. There is no individual will.

When I see this in myself first, I don’t believe it. But there is no doubt since I am seeing it directly. And when I extend the same observation to other people around me, I am overwhelmed by the danger of the situation.

I cannot expect someone else to simply believe this fact. You gotta see it for yourself. Watch each action of yours – what you do and what you think. If you see carefully, you will observe an infinite chain of events but no original will.

Let’s say you lift your hand to your face. Why did you do it? In most cases, you won’t be able to answer that because we are always making movements of our hands, fingers and body as a reaction to the entire stimulus of the external world on our senses. But if you are observing, you will see that there was a thought to lift the hand and before the thought there was some itching sensation on your face which you want to do away with so you raise your hand. But where did the itching come from?
That is not in your control.

You might develop great theories and plans and think you have done something. But go over it slowly and find out the time when you decided to do that and ask yourself whether you decided independently or as a reaction to something that came to your mind.

All our actions and thoughts are completely involuntary. Nobody can do a thing about it. Our life might seem haphazard but everything happens as a reaction like a spring being released. This realization needs to be deepened before you can come to full realization of the nature of reality and your life.

Science and Spiritualism


The above invitation was published by the Haryana State Council for Science and Technology, Kurukshetra in the Times of India sometime in June 2006. The following was my response to the invitation.

Science is an understanding of matter

This is a definition. This is something which is generally accepted. Science is a word that stands for something, which is defined as ‘understanding of matter’. Matter is also a word referring to something.

whereas spiritualism is related to the consciousness of the soul.

Consciousness is a word which refers to the quality of being conscious. Soul is a sound/word which refers to the actual entity (Never seen, felt, touched, tasted or smelt) called soul.

If we begin by defining both science and spiritualism in different terms, how can we ever reconcile them? Can we say that science is related to the consciousness of the soul, whereas spiritualism is an understanding of matter? Only if the definitions can be interchanged can both science and spiritualism be linked.

Usually, we analyze them as separate entities, whereas in reality, they are indeed inter-dependent and inalienable parts of each other.

If we are sure of this, then there is nothing to discuss. But we are not. There is a certain sense, a certain feeling that they are inter-dependent and parts of each other but every now & then we separate the two and then struggle to bring them together. If they are inter-dependent, there is nothing to talk, nothing to argue and no puzzle to solve. But if they are seemingly separate, then there is a puzzle. So we come together to resolve.

​Trying to solve the puzzle without knowing how the solution will look is like looking for something without knowing what but only knowing that something is lost.

Understanding life, the creation and its creator has been the biggest challenge before the human mind and has been the unresolved puzzle so far.

Why does the puzzle exist? When did it first appear? Was the puzzle existent before the humans appeared on the earth?

What happens if the puzzle is not resolved? What will go wrong? What will happen if the puzzle is resolved? How do we expect the puzzle to be resolved? What will the solution look like? Will it be a scientific discovery or invention? Will it be something which an individual will realize while meditating? Will the solution be a formula (mathematical or chemical) or a set of instructions to arrive at the solution? Will a human find it or a computer? Will the person finding the solution be able to show it to another? Will the solution be another entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica?

​It is assumed that the solution will help us resolve the problems faced by humans in this world. Will it be a pill to be taken after dinner? Will it be a program to watch on television? Will it be a site on the Internet?

What will be the form of the solution to the puzzle of life, creation and creator? Any serious individual, who reflects on this question, without jumping to try finding out the solution through various means, will see that any solution in a worldly form will not make sense.

Science and spiritualism have both tried to solve this puzzle in their own way and have not been completely successful.

If both have been unsuccessful, then what will succeed? Prayer? Blind Faith? We must investigate this deeper.

It is assumed that both science and spiritualism use different methods. Superficially, they do look poles apart. The scientist is busy dissecting matter, studying its qualities, making records and making hypotheses and building theories. On the other hand, the sage (practitioner of spiritualism) sits and meditates. It looks as if he is doing nothing.

There is a misconception that these two methods are different. On a little investigation, a perceptive individual will see the similarity. Fundamentally, the approach is the same that of setting up an experiment, making observation and drawing inferences. Whereas the scientist sets up the experiment with external objects, the sage sets up the experiment with internal mental states. Whereas the scientist observes the objects of his experiment interact, the sage observes whatever mental states his mind produces.

​The difference is that the scientist is in a hurry to reach a conclusion, so he draws inferences based on a few experiments. This is generalized and becomes knowledge. But the perceptive individual will see that this knowledge is limited. He sees the need for further observation. He also sees that any amount of knowledge is limited. Today, science has reached its limits. Even those scientists at the frontier of experimentation and research are unable to explain matter, let alone understand it. Spiritualism is in a certain sense an extension of science. It starts where science finds its limits. The observation of external objects and events gives way to the observation of the instruments of observation i.e. the senses and the mind. The sage realizes the need for continuous observation. He is not in a hurry to reach a conclusion, a solution to the puzzle. He continues to observe.

However, if the efforts are made to combine the two approaches, some acceptable and convincing solution can be achieved.

Trying to combine the two approaches will lead us to a blind alley, a dead end because there are no two approaches. The solution to the ‘puzzle’ cannot be something which can be decided by vote. Does it have to be convincing?

​The solution will most probably be obvious. Something which is right in front of our eyes but we cannot see it. Continuous observation of the observer eventually dissolves the puzzle. We then see that that it was the question that was blocking the answer. The moment the question dissolved, the answer is right there shining brightly.

In order to bring experts from both fields on a single platform and to discuss all the issues in a new perspective threadbare, HSCST invites knowledgeable persons…

More discussion may not help. Knowledge always leads to more discussion. It is vital to see that it is knowledge which is blocking the solution. More knowledge and more discussion will create more clouds before the sun of truth.

…inviting the most impressive entries.

I do wish that the discussions are fruitful.

My response was shortlisted and I was invited to address the conference, which was held in the campus of Kurukshetra University in Nov 2006.