Back To The Very Beginning

By Dr Janki Santoke,Speaking Tree,Sep 27 2010                                                                                        
‘I was born intelligent. Education ruined me’ is a popular T-shirt quote. We are born intelligent because we are born with a beginner’ s mind.
When a child hears something, she makes an attempt to grasp it. A child tries to make sense of the world. An adult is satisfied with words, mere information. The role of education is to make us aware. However, what we get is an information overload. Religious education is no different.
In an abundance of words, the spirit is lost. People claim mastery over stories
and mantras , rituals and prayers . But does that make them more aware?

Understanding religion is like understanding any other subject . You need to
comprehend and get to the essence. It is about taking the information,
cogitating, reflecting upon it and attempting to understand what it is really
trying to say. At first, whenever we approach a subject it sounds pretty bewildering. To a person unaccustomed to the stock market, hearing about the Sensex and the Nifty, futures and derivatives can be befuddling . As he keeps up with the subject , the words get familiar . That doesn’t mean he has any kind of understanding of the true picture. His knowledge is only good to impress other ignorant people. Words get thrown around and their spirit gets thrown out. It is the eternal problem of the teacher : how to extricate you from words and introduce you to the essence. The great prophets tried different ways.
As students, it is our obligation to take the words of great masters and try to
understand them, to delve into their meaning; to analyse, discriminate and to
experiment; to apply them to our lives.

Once we are able to do this , we will learn to see the world differently. Not so much to do different things but to gain a new perspective . Religiosity is not a matter of what your body does but what your mind sees. It is not about the clothes one wears or the food one eats. It is not about visiting places of worship; it’s not about symbols and rituals but about recreating the beginner’s mind. The sense of wonder, the recognition of our ignorance, the striving to understand, to see one’s limitations and be charitable to those of others , to be aligned to Truth rather than to institutions and beliefs and personalities . Einstein said that one could never solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that created it.

Religion is about changing one’s thinking to comprehend the mysteries of the universe, of life. It is about becoming more aware and open to different perspectives and to be able to widen horizons rather than get limited
by knowledge.

13 Responses to Back To The Very Beginning

  1. Mahesh Ursekar says:

    Enjoyed the article!


    Good article, looking forward to more of such articles.

  3. Alok Saraf says:

    Thank you Janakiji. Enjoying reading your articles. Had a great lecture last Sunday on the variance between an Avatara and a Self Realised one.

  4. jaya says:

    Thank you so much for giving the info.Makes up somewhat for missing the weekly lectures.I have so much to learn yet.

  5. Goldie says:

    In Einstines case exploring the mystries of the Univers was an intellectual exercise in which he excelled. So, my query is will intellect play the same role if a seeker is trying to find the mysteries/ source of the creation.

    • janki says:

      No. Th role of the intellect here is different. Here the intellect is being sharpened so that the intellect is transcended. To find the source of anything one will need to go beyond it.

      Einstein was searching how the universe worked. The spiritual sadhak is searching whether the universe exists.

  6. Mahesh Shetti says:

    Jankiji, this is second article I have read and looking forward to more of these. They help me to think about fundamentals.
    About the starting comment of the article: in physics we say, “how does one know that he has understood the concept?” – only if he can solve a problem (need not be a numerical kind) – problem is a given situation.
    In the same way, whether somebody has understood the religious concepts can be known by looking at his reactions to reallife situations. That’s why the various incidents in great saints’ lives are parabled. The way some people study physics by only rote learning ‘solved examples’, some people copy what saint’s have done in their lives. But a truely learned person might behave completely differently under similar situation as other parameters in the situations might be different. And of course, that’s why ‘Guru’ is required to discuss, analyse these things.
    Please comment.

    • janki says:

      Yes, true. It is the role of scriptural study to develop the intellect- not create a blind following to mere do’s and don’t’s. Mere information without development of the intellect is a farce. It is like a child wearing adult clothes!
      It is gratifying to see professors endorsing this view. Else, education has come to mean the ability to get a job!!
      Incidentally, reading of the lives of masters may not be an ideal way to glean the truth. It is far more difficult to get the principle from the behaviour. Its like getting the theorem from the rider. Better to learn the principles from the study of Vedanta directly.

      • Mahesh Shetti says:

        Thanks for the further insights. Once I attended a lecture by prof. Ookerjee, retired prof. of philosophy from Wilson college. He gave a lecture on ‘what is philosophy’? He talked about questioning the authority and other things and about being restless about understanding the things etc. At the end he commented : “university used to offer ‘Bhagavadgita’ as an alternative paper for some other paper on philosophy, which seemed perfect because ‘Bhagavadgita is not a philosophy at all’ as Bhagawan tells Arjuna – you just believe in me and accept it without doubting it. this is not philosophy.”

        I had just joined the college as staff and even after reading ‘Bhagavadgita’ regularly for years I had not gained confidence to answer him. My answer to the above comment is (even today after 10 years of the incidence): “it is no wonder. because Bhagavadgita was told as a war-time counselling and counselling is related to psychology and not philosophy. In counselling, it is necessary that the subject must believe the counsellor. However the base is Brahmopanishad – vedanta philosophy – which questions vedas and other beliefs and tries to find answers, even refutes some of the old ideas. Without mentioning these, just commenting as above is what is referred in Bhagavadgita as ‘buddhibheda’ and does no good to students”.
        Please correct me.

        • janki says:

          Scriptures are of two types: Shruti and Smriti. Shruti (what is heard) are eternal principles. Smriti (what is remembered) are instructions, dos and don’t’s. Every religion has both. The smriti is based on the eternal principles of the shruti. The shruti is the highest authority. Shruti includes Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita etc. Smriti includes manusmriti etc.

          The smriti is the opinion of the prophets given to a certain people, in a certain place, in a certain period of time. Hence this may or may not be applicable to all people in all periods of time. Shruti is applicable to all people in all periods of time. We can say that the instruction “don’t walk on the parapet wall of the 30th storey of your building’ is smriti. ‘An object is attracted to the centre of earth at 32ft/sec sq’ is scruti.

          The Bhagavad Gita has both. Shruti for everyone and smriti for Arjuna. ‘Fight’ is the instruction to the warrior fighting a righteous war. It may or may not be applicable to all persons in all situations. ‘The Self exists in all’ is scruti, an eternal principle. The great advantage of the Gita is that He makes it very clear what is shruti and what smriti. Whenever it is smriti He says ‘iti me matam’ this is my opinion.

          Hence the shruti portion comes under philosophy, meant to be understood and grasped thru independent reasoning.

          Another point often missed, is the word ‘I’. In all scriptures, all prophets have used the word I. Come to me they say, I alone will save you. This causes confusion in the mind of the true seeker. He wonders where to go! All this arises because of the mis-understanding of the word ‘I’. When a Self-Realised prophet uses the first person singular, he refers not to his body-mind-intellect but to the Self. Thus I means Self.So all prophets have told us to come to the Self. There is no difference in their meaning.

          Doubt not the Self does not refer to ‘do not question’ but the ‘doubting Thomas’ tendency. The eternal indecisiveness. Questioning the text is a must. Else we will not derive its deep import. Doubting is futile and will lead nowhere.

          • Mahesh Ursekar says:

            @Mahesh Shetti: Would like to add my two bits (as a mere student in Jankiji’s class). In the last chapter, ChXVIII, v63, Krishna says: “Thus, knowledge most secret has been declared to you by Me, having reflected on this fully, act as you will” So, I don’t think your observation that “Bhagawan tells Arjuna – you just believe in me and accept it without doubting it” is justified.

  7. Mahesh Shetti says:

    Often the shruti and smriti are not distinguished clearly by these categories. Only the wiser people can distinguish them and this needs to be re-interpreted at different times as social values / customs evolve. Since different people might want to put certain things under shruti or smriti there will be difference of opinions. How does common man face this challenge?

    • janki says:

      There is no personal opinion when it comes to shruti and smriti. It’s a pretty simple distinction. If it tells you what to do it is smriti. These are the do’s and don’ts of religion. If it merely elucidates a law of cause and effect it is shruti. This is philosophy. Open to rational verification.
      For example ‘don’t kill’ is smriti. Desires cause agitations is shruti. One is an instruction. The other is a statement of fact.

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