Knowledge: Academic or Spiritual?

Knowledge: Academic or Spiritual?

Knowledge: Academic or Spiritual?

Everybody knows the value of education. All parents wish their children to have the best education they can afford. Often, parents urge their children to be the top student in the class, and children become stressed if they cannot meet their parents’ expectations. It is known that some students cannot cope with the pressure, and they commit suicide. This is a sad end to an otherwise normal student.

Academic education is essential in order to understand how the world works. The world is very complex if you take an overall view of it. But we do not have the ability to understand all the processes and events that are happening. It is hard enough to understand the nature of the earth, the weather, the extent of the cosmos, the galaxies that have billions of stars and planets, their movements and so forth. We do not understand why the body is susceptible to diseases of various kinds, and there are so many other issues we do not know. Still we need to pursue knowledge as much as we can. Aristotle said, “There is no nobler occupation than the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake.” Just to know that you know is a great reward.

We need education to secure a job, to discover new processes or inventions, to pass our knowledge to future generations, and to improve our life and society. But educational level is different for different people. So there are people with minimal education due to circumstances, and there are people with a high level of education by having favourable circumstances. These latter are the repository of higher education, professionals, researchers, professors etc. People of all levels of education make up the world, and the world has a way of functioning as it has done throughout history.

There is another type of education that is not expensive, and can be acquired by anyone who cares enough to seek it, pursue it, and demonstrate it in life. This is spiritual education. Acquiring spiritual education as a university subject becomes an academic pursuit. Real spiritual education is one acquired through a spiritual Master, and self-inquiry under his guidance. Satguru Kabir famously sang, “bhajo re bhaiya raam govind hari, jap tap saadhan kachhu na laagat, kharchat nahin gathari.”(Sing the glories of the name of God. You do not have to subject yourself to austerities, or spend money to reap spiritual rewards!).

Think of the great teachers of humanity! They did not have any academic qualifications or degrees from institutions of higher learning. Yet they are held in the highest esteem and are glorified and followed by billions of people. Think of Lord Buddha, a prince that gave up a kingdom and became a mendicant, and attained Nirvana. Lord Mahavir of Jainism was born a prince, but gave up all worldly attachments and attained moksha. Similarly, Jesus was a carpenter, Mohammed was an employee of Khadijah, a business woman and wife, Lord Krishna was a prince but is best known as a cowherd, Guru Nanak was a shopkeeper, Kabir Saheb was a weaver, and said that he never touched pen, paper and ink, and Guru Ravidas was a tanner. These spiritual teachers had an inner education about the Self (soul) and God. They were impartial (neutral) and saw everybody as equal, and God as the indwelling spirit in all. They gave their teachings publicly without any sectarian connections. Kabir Saheb said, “I stand in the bazaar and seek the welfare of all. I do not see anyone as friend or anyone as enemy.”

These are the spiritual, highly evolved beings that have about 80% of the world following them. Can any academic degree holder compare with them? The Teachers of humanity saw the Spirit as omnipresent and equal in all beings, whereas the academics do not dwell on such a subject. They may personally be religious, but that is a different matter. Therefore let us strive to have both types of knowledge, as knowledge is a continuum from the worldly and academic, to the Divine and universal!

Dr. Jagessar Das