Knowledge and Knowing
The path becomes an experienced truth when you begin to walk it. Nothing short of that has any reality.
Priests and politicians recite principles and practices. The intellectual types build argumentative mazes. But the theory, the principles and the instructions are not the path. It’s not possible for the mind or the intellect to know God. Maharaj Sawan Singh tells us we can find true spiritual knowledge only by transcending our intellectual knowledge (Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. I).
Knowledge and knowing are quite different. An expanding intellectual grasp is a world away from the sureness of a deepening conscious experience. Ignorance of this makes the door to consciousness invisible. Obscuring concepts and intellectualizations hide it. The door to consciousness is an impenetrable mythical barrier to people for whom knowledge is the highest reality. Yet it is there and swings open easily. This is achieved by spiritual practice, by taking the attention out of the mind.
Many dream of opening the inner door. It is the rare person who does it. The need for spiritual practice is missed because the difference between knowledge and knowing is elusively subtle before it becomes glaringly obvious. A comparison makes it simple to uncover the difference.
The fantastic projections of science fiction a few decades ago are now so ordinary and mundane. A momentary hiccup in an almost miraculously instant transglobal multiperson video-conference is cause for complaint. Full-colour pictures seen on satellite television of other galaxies hundreds of thousands of light years away are only mildly interesting.
All this technology is the result of understanding and mastering some aspect of physical law. This is perceived by our mind-centred culture as an expansion of man’s consciousness. But is it?
A long time ago, like many people, I grew up in the practical world of an old-style farm. In the naturally lit, dim interior our communication technology was a wooden-cased telephone sharing a common line with all the other farms. It was only used when necessary. With a turn of the crank handle generator all the phones on the line rang. Two long rings and a short one was the ring code of our two-digit phone number.
The other technological marvel, a shortwave valve radio in the living room, required such dedication to make head or tail of its static crackles that no one really bothered with it. The real world that required attention existed outside the mesh-screened back door. Farming was practised – not discussed or theorized about. Plants grew and produced and died. Animals were born, grew, reproduced and died. People too. The cycle of life was the reality. Even to children.
The “facts of life” informative talks usually given to suburban adolescent kids were just the realities of life to us. It was the whole cycle of life. Conception, birth, life and especially the reality of death. It was not an intellectual knowledge but a knowing arrived at from experience.
Experience is the fruit of practice. Nowadays the farmhouse back door has been replaced with a vast, conceptual, non-reality instant experience in our digital screen world. And 5.6 million references to whatever can be found in 0.23 seconds, giving an experience of reality to anything your mind drifts into.
We can so structure our inquiry that nothing contrary to our preconceived perception appears. Join the worldwide congregation of whatever you wish to believe in. Nowadays our conditioning no longer needs experiential proof. Conceptual experience has taken its place. This becomes the depth of experienced reality. People occupy a world of projected and grasped concepts. This is “knowledge”. It does not open doors.
The Master says a concept is just a concept until it is experienced. You “know” by experiencing. There is conceptual Sant Mat and there is practised Sant Mat. To how many satsangis is Sant Mat more than a concept? How much experience of Sant Mat do we have?
Many people experience the concept in an emotional way and translate that experience to themselves as experiential proof. This is the “proof” of many people following a ritualised, book-based, conceptual, speculative belief system.
Concepts are constructed out of calculated and projected thought. Neither is possible in the absolute here and now. The here and now is experienced when you bring your entire attention into the moment. It is in the here and now that the whole path will unfold for you. Sant Mat is entirely a here and now experience. Keep checking on the whereabouts of your attention. It is so easy to get lost in explanations.
All through the ages the Masters have had to explain something beyond the explainable. To do this they have used what the people they are speaking to can grasp. They have explained using analogies, anecdotes and metaphors. If you try to understand them with sympathy you will attain an understanding. If you take them as literal you will miss the point. And just see the pointing finger.
The pointing finger is so often later mistaken for the truth itself. It is revered, temples are built for it, books are written about it and wars fought over it. Man’s attention and his life are held captive by a thought form. The reality lies in the experience. The experience lies in the practice.
Vegetarianism as a concept would serve no practical purpose. As a practice it has positive results. So, too, sobriety and morality. Practised together they provide an environment that spirituality can take root in. Practiced spirituality is a method or exercise by which the consciousness is applied to getting into complete harmony with the life force.
In the vastness of possible experiences, sifting the real method from the mimicked real is an intellectual impossibility on your own. A living guide who has traversed the path from beginning to end is essential.
The default guide for the masses throughout history has been a traditional authority who points out an uncertain path informed by limited and conditioned thought. The books or scriptures by now-dead authors that guide these authorities are subjected to all sorts of intellectual interpretations, which are often based on the agendas of the interpreters. Consequently the unverifiable path of the masses is lit by second-hand, speculative and sometimes imagined knowledge. Their faith is maintained by blindly and unquestioningly holding to a speculative belief system.
As the Great Master advised us, “Transcend intellectual knowledge.” Knowledge based on concept and passed along a path of speculation and guided by conditioned thought instead of tangible experience tends to mutate. Knowing as opposed to knowledge is based on experience with repeatable consistency. It is reliable. It is the result of conscious experience.
The Masters know. They teach from experience. They point out where to go and what to do, based on their own experience. Their experience results from following the instruction of their own living Master. This is the same instruction as guided their Masters. They have verified it from experience. Our salvation lies in following the instruction of an experienced, perfect living Master. To waver is fatal.
The Master has warned us that we are on a knife-edge of becoming a religion if we don’t focus on making the path a reality. Conceptualization, speculation, interpretation, too much book-based conviction, and a bit of ritual are the harbingers of religion.
Truth and purity blossom into the most beautiful inner flower, but their beginning is rather dull compared to more exciting and colourful but unverified suppositions. But spiritual practice as revealed by a living Master is going to give you that wonderful inner experience.
Practice starts with becoming a decent human being – a sober and moral vegetarian at least. Then, initiation by a perfect living Master. Then, simran.
The value of simran cannot be overstated. It is the foundation of the whole system. Simran, standing humbly and inconspicuously covered in its seemingly boring and plain exterior, has the sweetest character and the most awesome power. Simran awakens one to super consciousness. Simran bestows concentration. It is concentration that takes us inward to the astral, the causal and beyond. Simran gathers the energy resulting in concentration. Concentration leads to the Radiant Form of the Master. Contemplation on the Radiant Form enables the attention to stay there. And the divine melody is heard. The life force becomes an experienced reality.
This inner journey is not speculation or concept or a patch of sand to bury your head in. It is to be experienced consciously. If you are experiencing difficulties, load the genuine Sant Mat program. Do it consciously, before you find the sign on your screen that says “fatal error encountered, the system will now shut down and reboot”.
All that matters in the end is your meditation. You don’t need a concept to follow. You don’t need anything in the mind. Sant Mat is real. Meditation is the way.
The mind is for interacting with this outside world. It is your tool.
Use it. But when its job is done, put it back on the shelf and return to remembrance. The results are obtained quickly, the Great Master assures us, if the instructions are followed with love and faith.