Question: Acharya Ji, what is ‘elimination of false knowledge’ that Ramana Maharishi talks of when he says, “The individual is miserable because he confounds the mind and the body with the Self. This confusion is due to wrong knowledge. Elimination of wrong knowledge is alone needed. Such elimination results in Realization.”
So the question is what is the knowledge that should be eliminated?
Acharya Prashant: All knowledge that we have, comes from the world. The world gives us knowledge in various forms, ways, structures, fields. But, whatever be the structure of the knowledge that is provided to us by the world, there is one underlying theme always common in all knowledge coming to us from the world through our senses.
What is that common theme?
The common theme is, “Knowledge can be had only from the world and the knowledge is possible only about the world. All objects of knowledge are present in the world.” So, the world keeps on asserting that the world and knowledge are one. It does keep the possibility open that one may not keep complete knowledge about the world, yet it maintains the strong identity that all knowledge is always about the world. And when I say world, I also include the body, the mind and that is apparently right also.
Go into your mind and see whatever you know, in whichever field: is not everything about something in the world? You may know Geography, then you know of mountains and rivers of the world. You may know Polity, then you know about the countries, systems and constitutions of the countries, and all of these are in the world. You may know Physics, then you know a lot about the properties of the matter, in the world. You may know this and that. Your range of knowledge may be broad, the fields may be diverse, and there may be a lot of depth in your knowledge. But one thing is certain; whatever you know is about the world.
So, the world has taught you many things. Along with everything that the world has taught, the world has been parallely teaching one common thing that the world is the only possible object of knowledge, and that if the world is not there, then knowledge cannot be there, that the world and knowledge go together. That is always what the world has been teaching us. Together, till this point?
This is proven wrong when you start knowing instantaneously, without the aid of the world, without any source of knowledge outside of you, without any experience or cause whatsoever. That instantaneous knowing then proves that what the world was teaching you was false. What was the world telling you? That, the knowledge can be had only from the world.
But, comes a moment and you suddenly just know that grace has blessed you.
From where did this knowledge come?
Nobody from outside came to tell you. It was not written in any scripture. And you have no previous experience to draw from. And, yet you know with total certainty that you are blessed that this is grace. This proves that the world was lying to you. The world was saying, “Only I will give you knowledge, only I will be there to be known.”
Even without the help of the world, certain things are just known. You look at the small kid of a goat and you just know that you cannot be violent. You just know that this little vulnerable thing is most worthy of love and protection, and by protecting it, you are not doing any favor. You just know that it is your total dharma to be with it, to not to harm it, to treat it gently. You were not taught this, yet it happens. Now you know that there is a certain knowing that arises from within. Now you know that you don’t have to depend on the world for knowledge that, that which is most precious does not come from the world.
And now you also know that there is a certain quality of knowing which is not the same as knowledge. It is a quick instantaneous realization. Realization without cause and with total certainty. Realization that has no cause and no proof either. You cannot prove that what you have just learnt is the right thing, yet you are so certain about it! You are certain without proof. Whatever knowledge you have about the world stands on doubt and uncertainty. You search for proofs and even after all proofs, the knowledge is still tentative.
One contrary piece of information can prove all your accumulated knowledge wrong. Can it not?
One little evidence piece of evidence can prove all theorems of Physics wrong. One little bit of information can destroy all your trust in whatever you trust. A fifty-year old relationship can be shattered by just one bit of news.
But that knowing that arises from heart is not so weak. It does not crumble so easily. It has a great certainty about it. Are you getting it?
You come to a scripture, and you have never read that scripture before. It may not even belong to your organized religion. Nobody has ever recommended it to you and yet you read it, and you know that something worth worshiping is in front of you. You meet someone and you just fall in love; nobody tutored you to fall in love. And ostensibly there is nothing in that person which is very attractive. You do not know what pulls you there, and you are not an ignorant being, you are not drunk, you are awake in your senses, and yet you know what is happening is not sensible.
If someone asks you to explain, you will not be able to explain but deep down you know that you are doing the right thing – causeless, proof-less, and yet certain. This is the quality of knowing. Now phased with this knowing, all the knowledge that the world gave you, appears so weak and trivial and also deceptive because it had been lying to you all this while. What was it that the worldly knowledge was suggesting to you? That all knowledge will come only come from the outside. All knowledge will always have a cause, that all knowledge will be something that can settle in the memory. All the worldly knowledge was always memory-to-memory transfer.
And here, neither is it arising from memory, nor is it going to the memory. It is so subtle that sometimes even consciousness even fails to detect it. How will it then move into memory?
When you live in such a way, where there is grace, where there is love, where there is a reason-less devotion, then you are free from the bondage of worldly knowledge.
This is what is being called by Ramana Maharishi as the elimination of false knowledge.
Now, I live in that knowledge that arises from my heart. So, I do not listen to the knowledge that the world has given me. This is being referred to as the elimination of false knowledge. All that goes around in the head is false knowledge. That total stuff of consciousness is false knowledge. If you live by that, you will live in fear and insecurity, because that knowledge is neither certain nor total and obviously, not even final. Things get added there, things get deleted there. What appears so perfectly right this moment is thrown into the trash bin the next moment!
Worldly knowledge springs up, sets down.
That, which you just know, never deceives you. It never fails you. It is another matter that you may fail it. You may fail it by not being faithful enough to it. And that is the story of our lives, is it not? We know and yet, we do not live by our knowing. We have no faith in that in which we directly know. We rather have faith in that which others have told us.
You know how to live, you know what your core value is, yet you do not live by that. You are not loyal to that, you do no justice to that.
You betray your own realization and you chose to live by second hand knowledge. You see security in others, you see security in numbers and crowds. You say, “So many people of the world have verified the external knowledge, so it must be true. Everybody is following it and all the great teachers and researchers and respectable people, they have put their stamp of approval on the books on the worldly ways of living! So surely there must be something right about that. If I feel uncomfortable with that, then surely it must be my fault. So, I would rather accept that which others are pushing into me, and I am uncomfortable with. I would dare not live by that which is totally mine, which is arising from my own core, from my own self, which is – clean, not touched by anybody – little, small, gentle, vulnerable, smaller than a new born baby and as easy to kill.
You know how easy it is to kill your own baby?
And you will not be answerable to the world because it is your own baby. We all live in that way. This knowing, this realization is something that arises from Earth, from us. It is our own child, we don’t nourish it, we don’t raise it. Instead, we silently, secretly, just kill it! It is another matter that if you raise it and nourish it, you will find that it is raising and nourishing you. It is another matter that if you live by it, you will find that there could have been no other way to live. But all of that is revealed only to those who have faith, first of all. Those who live by fear will live by what the world tells them to do.
Nothing stops you except your beliefs and all your beliefs are coming from outside. There is nothing that I can say that you anyway and already do not know. It is just that I know far less than you do. I only have that which I purely and myself know. You have that which you know by yourself; and you also have that which the world has stuffed into you. So you are far more knowledgeable than me. That is my little secret. I do not know a lot of things that you do. And that is why Maharishi is saying, “Kindly be free of your knowledge.”
“Don’t be so knowledgeable.”
“Don’t be such a scholar.”
“Don’t be so world wise.”
“Remain a little empty, remain a little foolish!”
The world is telling you that everything is limited. Is not all worldly knowledge about objects and every object is limited? So what is the world telling you? The world is telling you that everything comes to an end. That’s what limits mean-everything comes to an end. If everything comes to an end, then you have to live in fear. So you are suffering.
All the knowledge that ever comes to you comes with the message of suffering because all knowledge is about stuff that is limited. That is why one must live by the heart because only there is their limitlessness.
Unless there is limitlessness, you will not refuse to suffer. It is not for nothing that you are called identical with the infinite Brahm. Don’t you see that your appetite is infinite? Don’t you see that you do not settle for anything less than the limitless? And that is why the world can never satisfy you because whatever the world offers is always exhausted. And that is why knowledge from the world is so dangerous if you make that knowledge the center of your living. The world will tell you, “This will disappear, that will disappoint, this will finish off, that will die.” And what is your appetite?
So, how will the world satisfy your appetite. You are then forever hungry and suffering and that in-turn validates what the ego had already being saying. What did the ego start out with?
“I am Suffering.”
And the world has proved the ego right. So, now the ego has reason that it is indeed suffering. Do have knowledge of the world, but don’t live by that. Live by something else. In small matters follow reason. In matters of life and death, be totally reason-less.
You want to decide which bus to take to reach your home – apply reason, see which bus takes longer time, compare the fare and other things. But, if you want to chose whether or not to love and live with somebody, then don’t apply reason there. Such decisions are not taken on the basis of reason. The mind is petty and little so it is perfectly alright for matters that are petty and little!
You want to decide which shirt to wear, you apply your mind – that is alright. Look at the season, look at the occasion and accordingly you may pick up a shirt but if you are deciding on what to do with your life, what work to choose, and what mission to choose, then please don’t apply your mind. Don’t start being calculative in matters that define your life. There you must be totally nonsensical. There you must act totally without reason. That will make you appear so foolish. It is alright. This foolishness is great wisdom.
You must know the right place of both – you must know the right place of the mind and apply the mind there, and you must also know the right place of the heart and there you must not apply the mind.
The Upanishads scripted it very beautifully. They say that you must know both ‘Vidya’ and ‘Avidya’.
If you miss out on either of them, you will suffer badly.
In matters where calculation is needed, be totally calculative. There you must calculate till the last Paise. And, there are matters where you must not pick up the calculator at all. Usually we are overly calculative. We start deciding by the calculator, even in matters of our basic freedom. We live by numbers, we live by digits.
Not good, not good at all.
Let the heart take the first position. Let the heart decide on all matters that are important and then let the mind, like a servant, figure out the details. Let the heart decide who you are, let the heart decide where to go, and then let the mind work out the itinerary. The mind is good for that.
The mind is like a machine. Decide to analyze, compare, dissect, calculate and conclude. It’s a good and useful machine.
But no machine can ever be a master.
Let the master be the master and let the machine be used by the master – the master in his own place, the machine in its own place, and both will be good!
You remain with the master. You don’t become identified with the machine. When you remain with the master, you are the master. Then the machine becomes your servant. That alone is mind control, that alone is you, that alone is control of mind.
How are you so certain that you do not know? Sometimes, just change in the name helps. Instead of saying, “No no,” just say, “Yes yes!” Your entire body is saying, “Yes.” The body is probably more intelligent than the conscious mind. The body is saying, “Yes!”, mind is saying, “No!”
Just change the word.
I will repeat this a thousand times. You already know all of this. None of this is knowledge hidden somewhere in some esoteric scripture. None of this is knowledge that is privilege of a few gurus or enlightened or awakened people. All of this is common place, all of this is your own essence, all of this is just the chair, table and bed that is found in your own home.
What I am saying is as common — I repeat — as the cutlery that is found in homes. Anybody here whose home has no cutlery at all? If you have cutlery at your place then you also have what I am talking about. It is so very simple, common and all pervasive, you cannot not have it! If you have blood in your veins, you also have that which I am talking of. You cannot not have it.
And that is why you question, “Sir, how do you know all this?” often perplexes me. You are asking me, “How do you have teacup at your place?” Is it difficult to have teacups at my place. I don’t think it is difficult to have teacups at one’s place. So why do you ask me with such amazement.
I have all this just as you have teacups!
It is absolutely simple. It is just that you are far too clever for your own good. You are like someone who has eaten a lot and is now screaming, “I have only eaten as much as I need.”
You have consumed too much of knowledge and now your tummy is bloated. Spirituality is about having a clean stomach. But because of greed and fear and taste, the world keeps on feeding you and you keep on eating.
Yoga, then is not about having a lean body, it is about having a lean mind, mind that has no excess fat at all. What is the fat of the mind? Knowledge. You must have a very-very lean mind with no fat.
Kabir puts it very beautifully. He says that the man of Ram is reduced to just bones. He says he is left with no fat at all. Please understand what he is pointing at.
Why do you hear so much? Why do you consume so much of T.V? Don’t you see that is making you so fat? T.V. is the biggest reason of obesity. Do you see how deeply meaningful this sentence is? Even physical obesity is caused by television. And far more dangerous than physical obesity is mental obesity. All the knowledge that the television is feeding you with is making you terribly sick. When you listen to the television, how will you listen to the heart? Why do you listen so much to gossip? Why do you listen so much to others instead of being with yourself? Why do you spend so much time with people who are anyway sick? Don’t you know that your friends are sick? If you sit with a sick man, what will you get?
And you too are sick, your immune system is so weak. Should a sick man sit with other sick people? Only a healthy man has the right to sit with sick people. The sick one should avoid more sickness like one avoids death.
Why do you keep on gathering knowledge?
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant on Ramana Maharshi: The elimination of false knowledge
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