From the Katho Upaniṡad

The Great Vājashrava Gautama decided to offer in sacrifice, many of his possessions to obtain heavenly pleasures. The Sacrifice sarva dakshina means giving up everything.

His son Nachiketas observes that his father is giving away only that which he can spare, and that which is of less use. The child disturbed by his father’s actions questions him thrice ‘Who will you offer me to?’ The enraged father says ‘To death I give you’

Legend has it that the little boy, Nachiketas, leaves home in that search and arrives at the door of Yama the God of death. Yama is not in his abode so Nachiketas waits for three days without food and water.

Yama is mortified on his return to see a young Brahmin boy waiting patiently for him. He apologizes profusely and asks the child to ask for 3 boons as compensation for keeping him waiting for three days. The first boon Nachiketas asks of Yama is for his father to be pacified and free from anger towards him, and that he is welcomed warmly on his return home. Yama grants him the first boon happily.

As Nachiketas asks the remaining two boons and his questions follow, Yama the lord of death, is bewildered by the child’s genius and the profundity of his intellect. He offers all the wealth in the world, riches and power but Nachiketas refuses. He only wants knowledge of the supreme Brahman(The word Brahmin comes from that)


Yama speaks thus:

अविद्यायाम्अँतरे  वतर्मानाः स्वयं धीराः पण्डितम् मन्यमानाः

दन्द्रम्यमाणाः परियंती मूढाः ,अन्धेनैवा नीयमानायथान्धाः( 1.2.5)

Steeped in ignorance, colossal fools living in darkness, who consider themselves wise and knowledgeable; thinking themselves as having an understanding of everything, run hither and thither like the blind leading the blind.

This phenomenal verse from the Katho upanisad is a reminder of the state of confusion we exist in. We are bound to our egos and unwilling to learn, and we do not see it. Dedicated to our fixed ideas and notions we go on and on discussing our problems, opinions and attitudes with our peers who are equally pompous and misguided. This makes our condition no different from the blind being led out by the blind lost in a maze.

Everyone is on the same level of thinking and at a certain age, having finished formal education, assumes that no further learning except that which we obtain through experience is required. The world appears to us through our senses and our understanding of it is limited to our own experience. We are microscopic as compared to the cosmos and we are microscopic as compared to billions of events yet we construct the worlds’ truths based on our experience

This of course is silly. Our minds are conditioned by sanskara ( metal impressions and brain patterning)to receive information not as it is but as we are!

The lenses that we view the world with colour the information coming in. This is only too obvious as we fail to have the ability to look at anything anew and go on and on believing falsehood.

Faced with turbulence we fail to examine, if at all, there is indeed another way, and take solace and refuge in blaming others or in another faulty assessment of our situation and lamenting our fate

How often have we ‘not noticed’, that when we talk to our peers and blame our circumstances for our problems our friends faithfully nod their heads and advice us accordingly and if any friend does not accept our faulty reasoning we abandon the friend instead of abandoning our faults. We seek confirmation and validation of our fixed ideas and not advice even as we sound like we are seeking it.

‘’The significant problems we face today cannot be resolved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them”- Albert Einstein

This brilliant line by the great scientist is an astute understanding of the paradigm

In reality however we do not even think of ‘level of thinking’ and we do not question if there is something we need to learn. Even as we sometimes seek answers our brains trick us and all we get is old wine in a new bottle and we fall for it. We think we are ‘wiser’ when we have only replaced one faulty perception by another. We do the same thing differently and look for profound changes.

We are blind and so is our teacher.

Regardless of the level of our knowledge the intractable problems that confront us can only be solved by acting and practicing knowledge that is acquired from someone who can guide us out of the maze and not somebody who is stuck in the same maze

At every stage we must resist the arrogance of knowledge and be open to seeking a teacher. It is only the self realized sage who has no further need for learning.

The rest of us, living among the objects of the senses and buried under emotions, feelings and ideas, must never ignore the imperative of seeking higher knowledge.

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