What do we know? We know what we know and we also know what we don’t know. Simply put, there are few things which we know (or at least we think we know) and there are also few things which we know that we do not know. The known is knowledge, the unknown is ignorance and we are the knowers. If we are asked to jot down all the things that we know, we might end up filling up some books or depends upon how much knowledge an individual has accumulated. And then, if we are asked to jot down the things which we do not know, give or take, a book or less than that. The reality is, our ignorance is always unlimited and our knowledge is always limited. There are a few things which we don’t even know that we don’t know.
The very nature of knowledge is to be limited. It can’t be unlimited. Even if you have finished studying the libraries of the entire world, what you know is just a miniscule of this planet Earth. There will still be so much that you will not know and many things which you will not even know that you don’t know. You’ll need trillions of lives and that would also be not adequate to acquire the whole in the form of knowledge.
Alan Watts, one of the greatest philosophers who explored Hindu Mythology and Yogic Culture, says ‘Knowledge is a necessary evil’. In a way he is absolutely correct. When a child is born, he comes totally blank. He doesn’t carry any knowledge with him in his head. He is a blank slate. Later gradually he starts accumulating knowledge from his environment. It is the environment that molds the child and accordingly he thinks what is right and what is wrong. His individuality is corrupted by the so-called knowledge. He just becomes an accumulation of impressions. He is born as an individual, but he dies as a crowd. By the time he reaches to his death, he is no more an individual, he is a crowd. If you were born in a different country, you wouldn’t be what you are now. You would be a totally different personality.
Knowledge is Never Universal
Knowledge is always dependent on two things: Time and Space. As time and space change, the knowledge has to be changed accordingly. What is wrong in India, maybe right in the United States. What was wrong two thousand years ago, is right today. Riding a Ferrari in a race with the speed of 200 kms per hour would absolutely be right, but riding any vehicle with the same speed just to bring groceries from a close by shop would be absurd and absolutely wrong. There’s no Universal Right and Universal Wrong. It is the situation that decides what is wrong and what is right.
Same is the case with knowledge too. Knowledge is just man-made and that is why people hold debates on whose knowledge is correct and whose isn’t. Proving others wrong doesn’t make us right. You definitely might have come across a story of five blind guys fighting over how an elephant looks like. One said it is a huge leg. Another said it is just a tiny tail. The third said it is a huge stomach / belly and the other two said whatever part of the elephant they touched. All the five will argue endlessly, because they have a taken a part and trying to describe the whole. It is not possible for such arguments to come to an end. They just have to agree to disagree.
Now, let’s understand this using an analogy. Please take the tiniest particle in the entire universe (something that is visible to our naked eyes) and look at it. You can’t look at it in its entirety. If you look at the side A, you can’t look at the side B. This is our capacity of looking at things. The other side will always be a mystery. Look at your palm. When you look at it, you cannot see the other side. With this capacity of seeing, how can we understand anything? We can only understand things in parts and it is absolutely absurd to define the whole with the partly knowledge that we acquire.
Surrender to The Mysterious
Now, we understand that we are a part of this mysterious universe. Remember! We are just a miniscule part of it, but now that miniscule part is trying to understand the entire universe in the form of knowledge and feels pompous about the bits and pieces of knowledge. This approach to understanding the universe will always fail as it always has failed. In the ancient / olden days, they tried digging into the mystery and ended inventing tools and methods. Through the naked eyes, they were not able to count the number of stars, planets, galaxies etc., so they invented microscopes and telescopes. Now, the mystery has become more mysterious. Billions of stars, planets, galaxies are found, but we remain what we are. The inner universe remains stagnant.
The part can never know the whole, it can only dissolve into it. Presently we think or we are made to think we are different from the external world. Psychologically it may sound correct, but from a larger perspective, WE ARE what the universe consists of. A finger is complete on its own, but it is a part of a hand. A hand is complete on its own, but it is a part of a larger body. We may think we are complete, but we always will be a part of something larger than ourselves. The branches or flowers of the tree might have forgotten their roots, but without the roots they wouldn’t exist. They just have forgotten that they have roots which nourish them. Just like that we also have forgotten. Not that we have become separate from the source, we just have forgotten. Do not let your knowledge delude you, but always be ready to understand the immensity of the universe.
Once you develop this understanding, you’ll simply bow down to everything. As time passes, you will know your level of ignorance. As said at the beginning of the article, ignorance is boundless and knowledge is limited. Identify yourself with your ignorance not with your knowledge. Whatever you know is only in your mind and whatever is in the mind is simply imagination not a reality. If you simply are aware of your ignorance, gradually you move from being a personality to being a significant presence. And, that is what you are. You are a significant presence. The personality is in the head which is needed, but not the truth. The presence is real.