Admitting our ignorance
by Swami Prasad Sharma
(Dona Paula, Goa, India)
A curious mind becomes aware of its ignorance in the matters of:
1. From where do we come here and where shall we go hereafter?
2. Why do we come here and why don’t we remember the purpose?
3. On what account do we suffer in spite of adopting righteousness?
Well, there is a story of a king who wanted to see a real fool in person. He sent several persons in search of a fool. They came across several fools but no family admitted that their ward was totally a fool, rather they claimed him to be sensible. Unable to find a fool all of them returned but one was still left. That one searched for a long time but he too remained unsuccessful and after a few months he too returned. By that time the king was on his deathbed waiting for his death. Seeing the last fellow return the king questioned him about whether he found the real fool. The fellow admitted his failure and then asked the king as to why he was bed ridden. The king told him that he was departing. To where, when and how – asked the fellow successively. The king expressed his ignorance about all these questions. The fellow considered him a real fool who is determined to go somewhere and doesn’t know about the destination, time and the means by which to travel.
The idea of this story is that we all (except a saint) are ignorant in such matters. Scriptures (Upanishads) warn the people that without knowing the answers of these questions one has to return again through rebirth. Let me try to substantiate my understanding on the questions enumerated in the first paragraph:
In the way that a current flowing through a particular gadget may be transformed into other forms of energy, namely, heat, sound, light, magnetism, it may produce heat or coldness depending upon the system while itself it’s neither hot nor cold. Similarly, the life force (soul) enters into a particular species and keeps the body alive, and when it leaves the body it becomes inert. The body and its behavior (selfish or altruistic or mixed) depend upon its past deeds and mental tendencies.
During the course of life we incur sins due to selfish instinct and gain virtues on account of good deeds through our dealings with others. In other words we gather various kinds of reactions as a result of our actions. It continues till we adopt total righteousness and act for the good of others without a trace of our own selfishness. In that case no action is done with self-motive but as a devoted duty with the intention of the
welfare of mankind. Here total mankind is representative of the Supreme God and Nature.
We can observe a newborn child who being innocent is a source of pleasure for all. Later he adopts certain tendencies, inherited from its parents and adopted through various relationships, and then he is liked by some and disliked by others.
On the basis of the Karma (action) theory we can say that just before the collapsing of the physical body the mind makes a kind of vow on the basis of the intense feelings prevailing in the last leg of life. No doubt we have to face reactions of our deeds in rebirth, but we have the choice of choosing other things based on our wisdom. It is only when one determines in the end for the spiritual life that one gains it in rebirth. When a person identifies himself with spirit then his chances of rebirth are eliminated. A devotee in his last life may still have to suffer on account of remaining karmic effects of earlier lives, though more intense, but spirit protects him.
In case of a normal death, a person usually loses his consciousness of the body and his attention is diverted to the breathing in the throat. A mind free from physical ailments takes certain vows and suddenly slips into a kind of deep sleep. On the basis of karmic effects and vows he reincarnates to accomplish desirables. But, due to his free will, he happens to do new karmas and aspire for new objectives. And the chain continues. It is only when a person discontinues new aspirations other than awakening that he gladly clears the load of sins incurred in earlier lives. Here we can note that sins are incurred due to actions of the five senses carried out for self-enjoyment through various body parts (hands, feet, sense organs etcetera) while virtues are gained when all our actions are directed towards the real happiness of others.
Awakening in a person is the result of knowledge and the love to self is called devotion. Since this non-materialistic self is present in all, he serves and guides others to real happiness.
Usually in Hinduism the highest aspiration of a devotee in his last life is a mental devotion to enjoy a kind of most intimate relationship with his supreme self in incarnated form, or with his spiritual teacher, and service to mankind. This most satisfying mental enjoyment remains eternally with him in a non-materialistic form in a universe of no time and space(!).
One is most lucky if one has solved the mystery behind the questions raised in the beginning through the third eye of wisdom and spiritual experiences.