The unwanted persons, situations and things that we find ourselves surrounded with, forms the basis of all our struggles in life. And so we take it upon ourselves to change these to ameliorate our sense of well-being in life. But gradually, we realise that all our efforts are in vain. No amount of domination, cunning or control that we exercise over our environment relieves us from our reality.
According to Elie Wiesel, “Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself”.
But where does he acquire the means to such a power?
The human mind is capable of two kinds of knowledge – the higher knowledge, which is traditionally associated with religion and the lower knowledge, which is associated with various sciences. The two modes of consciousness that we use to acquire them are the rational for conditional truth and the intuitive for transcendental truth.
The aim of balancing lower knowledge with higher knowledge is to enable us to go beyond our ego self. The ego-self operates on empirical truth. Higher knowledge helps us introspect and observe the forces that govern the rational world. It gives us an insight on the principles that govern the two forces of the cosmos, kama – desire and karma – fate. Having thus acquired the knowledge, we sublimate our ego and align our actions in keeping with these principles.
However, unfortunately for most of us, this higher knowledge does not translate into our actions. It just becomes a means for us to enhance our self-image. We use it as a tool to dominate and exploit our environment. We expect people to subscribe to our way of living and thinking.
The purpose of higher knowledge is to help us transform ourselves; to be able to transcend our ego and all the negative reactions that stem from it, such as – aggression, hasty judgement, impatience and intolerance.
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When the true import of the higher knowledge reaches us, our transformation is effortless. We live the knowledge by becoming non-judgemental, tolerant and accepting of our reality. It is only when our knowledge reflects in our conduct that we have truly become wise.
Otherwise like Ravana and Duryodhana we can claim to be learned but not wise, they were consumed by their self-image and used their knowledge to feel superior to others. They tried to dominate, exploit and control their environment rather than evolve as human beings. As the Sufi saint Rumi summed it up beautifully in these lines, “Yesterday I was clever so I was changing the world, Today, I am wise so I am changing myself.”