Source: Prema Vahini, chapter 23
Don’t neglect the study of Sanskrit and Vedic culture
In past ages, Indians performed their daily rites, sat in purified places, surrounded by sacredness, and immersed themselves in the study and practice of the teachings of the Vedas and the Upanishads. They recorded their experiences in order to guide others to bring those experiences back again into their own consciousness. But their children and grandchildren placed the books on the altar and duly worshiped them. Neglect reduced them to dust or lumber; the palm leaves disintegrated, and rats ate into them.
Eager students from the West have sought out this lumber, realising that it enshrines incomparable sources of illumination and priceless pearls of wisdom. They lift it reverentially above their heads and acclaim it as the precious gift of the continent of Bharath (Bharatha-khanda) to themselves and their children. They carry it across the seas with joy in their eyes and thankfulness in their hearts.
Shall I reveal what the children of India have been doing? They don’t open the pages, peruse the contents or even concern themselves with them. Only one in a million reads them, but even he is ridiculed as a fool and a crank. People laugh at the books as a conglomeration of lies and legends and argue about the historicity of the books and their authors. They dismiss Sanskrit as “very hard to learn” and pass on the treasure to scholars from other lands. What a sad spectacle this is! It would have been some compensation if they attended carefully to the study of their mother tongue, but even this they fail to do. It is neglect; neglect everywhere.
No. I don’t condemn worldly happiness. I feel glad when people are happy. But, please don’t believe that this happiness is permanent. I want you to study all the arts and sciences for acquiring worldly happiness, but I want you to remember that this happiness is not everlasting.
Permanent happiness can be secured through only one knowledge (vidya), the Upanishad knowledge. That is the science of God-realisation, the teaching of the sages (rishis). Only that can save one and grant one peace.
There is nothing higher than that; this is an indisputable fact. Whatever your joy and sorrow, whatever the subject you have specialised in for a living, rivet your eyes on knowledge of Brahman. If only intelligence is sharpened, without the growth and practice of virtues, and if mere information is stored in the brain, the world cannot progress and its welfare will be in jeopardy.
But people now seem to be losing faith in virtues, for the educational system does not assign any place to spiritual teaching or training. True education does not mar or pervert the beautiful virtues of boys and girls, it does not content itself with filling the brain with cumbersome junk. Only education that gives full scope for the blossoming of all the virtues that distinguish people is beneficial.
Don’t mistake appearance for reality
Actually, people see the shadow and take it to be the substance. They see length, breadth, height, and thickness and jump to the conclusion that they have an object before them. They experience a series of sensations and memories and, adding them all up, infer that some objects produce them. This mistaking of appearance for reality is misnamed spiritual wisdom (jnana). How can it ever be spiritual wisdom? Can the image of a person ever be “he”? If the image is taken to be “he”, can we call it knowledge? Such is the nature of all knowledge now; what is cognised as an object is not real at all; its reality is not cognisable.
Nondualists (a-dwaithins) believe “I am Brahman (Aham Brahmasmi)”. How do they acquire that conviction?
Ask one of them, and the reply is, “The scripture (sruthi) declares it so; the guru taught it like that.” But learning it from these sources does not entitle one to make that profound statement. Do people who are masters of these three words: “I am Brahman (Aham Brahmasmi)” attain unity with Brahman? No, ceaseless striving through countless births, loyal performance of scriptural duties —these purify the mind. In such a mind, seeds of devotion sprout and, when tended with care and knowledge, grow into blooming flowers; fruits appear and ripen and get filled with sweetness and fragrance. When the fruit is eaten, a person becomes one with the Supreme —the power that permeates all things and all regions and that is eternally present, conscious, and blissful.
People may enunciate the formula, “I am Brahman (Aham Brahmasmi)” correctly; their etymology may be perfect; but when they are ignorant of the “world”, unaware of “I”, and completely in the dark about “Brahman”, how can they ever taste the rare joy of the wise (jnani)? It is not mastery of words and their meanings that counts: it is awareness, experience —these are the fundamentals.