The Search for Wisdom
In ancient times, knowledge and wisdom were concentrated in esteemed centers of learning. We read in our textbooks on the classical world about the Lyceum, where the philosopher Aristotle taught, or about the library in Alexandria, Egypt, which is said to have been one of the largest and most significant in its day. In those ancient times, it was clear that knowledge was available to those who searched for it.
Our modern age makes knowledge available literally in our laps. All we have to do is turn on a computer and search the web. Whether it is something important, like understanding an illness, or something mundane, like learning how to fix a leaky faucet, vast quantities of information are readily available to us.
From this simple action of searching the web, so ingrained in our daily lives, it is easy to be misled into believing that real knowledge is at our fingertips. But perfect saints with their vast experience tell us that there is a difference between knowledge and understanding.
To gain true understanding, we certainly have to search, but within ourselves rather than on the Internet or anywhere outside. It is said that Socrates once explained that he was focused on the maxim “Know thyself” and that until he was able to understand what that meant, he did not have time to investigate irrelevant things. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that it is the same Socrates who commented, “The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know.” Maharaj Charan Singh once explained this perspective:
It is absolutely useless to have all the knowledge of the world if we do not know the Creator, who is within every part of his creation. When we know the Creator, then we realize that we know absolutely nothing. It is the Creator who knows everything.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I
But we live in a society that believes “knowledge is power”. There is a story about a proud and learned pundit who once came to the house of the mystic Kabir on a bullock cart full of books to engage in an intellectual debate. Kabir was not at home when the pundit arrived; instead he was greeted by his daughter. On seeing her, he asked, “Is this the house of Kabir?”
To this the daughter replied, “Kabir’s home is on a peak, the path is slippery and hard where even an ant’s foot finds no hold. The erudite want to reach there with bullock carts of books!”
This story simply illustrates what true wisdom is. We like to think of humanity as having made great progress in the last few centuries. Indeed, we think of ourselves as wiser and more knowledgeable than our ancestors. But the saints challenge us to consider another perspective.
When we are filled with love and devotion for the Father, we get the real wisdom within us … a simple person, who sees the Lord in everyone, in every part of the creation, he is a man of wisdom. However literate or illiterate he may be, however ignorant from the worldly point of view, he may have the real wisdom.”
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I
The logical question in our mind is how then do we fill ourselves with love and devotion for the Lord? In the Adi Granth, we read:
Without serving the Satguru,
One is not blessed with the Name;
One may read till exhausted,
Yet will not find peace.
And so, simply put, we will not be able to create that true love and devotion for the Father until we come across a perfect living Master. Under the Master’s guidance, we can learn how to repeat the true Name and listen to the true Word. It is only then, having conducted that true search within ourselves, that we will obtain true wisdom and understanding.
Reading volume after volume,
Men tire themselves to exhaustion,
But not one becomes
A real scholar;
Who learns the one word love
Is the truly learned one.
Kabir, The Weaver of God’s Name