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Respect for knowledge and India

 

India has always given importance to and showed a high regard for knowledge, wisdom, virtues, characters and will power. Knowledge has been considered essential for the purpose of giving activities, their due meaning and value. According to Hindu philosophy even a wise man may get puzzled without knowledge about do’s and do’nts. It is only after the acquisition of knowledge, that a person understands the real nature of work and could distinguish correctly between action, forbidden action, and inaction.i

In modern societies, especially in the West, wealth is generally associated with power, authority and social status. Traditionally India is not a materialistic society. Its systems have separated wealth from status, power from authority, pursuit and achievement in knowledge from temptations of worldly comforts. Earlier the greatness of a person, institution or a nation was judged on the basis of the degree of righteousness and justice, with which the administration governed lives of the people or their character, and not on the basis of the size of a state or its treasury or bank-balance. Similarly, in the society, a person or a caste was ranked on the basis of knowledge, discipline and moral standards, and not on the basis of material success, or control of power.

In ancient India Brahmins and others were given the highest respect only for their learning, character, spirituality and ability to guide the masses. The system was quite liberal in this matter. It gracefully accepted the right and opportunity to get to the top from the humblest origin and earn the respect of the whole society. For example, Vashishtha, the principal of the conservative school of Brahmanism, was the son of Uravshi, a prostitute. Vishwamitra, the maker of the very Gayatri Mantra, the quintessence of the Vedic Brahmanism, was a Kshatriya. Aitreya, after whom the sacramental part of Rig-Veda is named as Aitreya Brahamana, was the son from a non-Aryan wife of a Brahman sage. Vyasa of Mahabharata fame was the son of a fish-woman (belonging to Mahr community – Dalit according to present standards) and he was not ashamed of his origin. Balmiki, an untouchable according to present standards, the original author of Ramayana, is highly respected all over India.

According to Indian philosophy, ‘Wealth of knowledge is supreme among all forms of wealth’. (Vidya dhanam sarvadhana pradhanam). Therefore, knowledge is the greatest thing to be sought after. A human being is human because he has the organic capacity to seek knowledge.

From the time people ran after wealth and left pursuit of knowledge, both wealth and knowledge vanished from their lives. More the true knowledge one has, the more wealth and power, he can generate – through efficient work inspired by knowledge. There is no other judicious way to gain wealth.

For acquiring knowledge one has to work hard and put serious effort and struggle to concentrate energies of mind and train their minds in scientific methods and attitudes. Hard work and knowledge go together. Without hard-work, knowledge seeking becomes superficial. That is what is happening to our education system today. In educational centres, everything is easy going with an aim to enjoy life. Feeling of struggle or hard-work is missing except for a few who still keep the fire of seeking knowledge burning all the time.

Sincere knowledge seekers do not care for inconvenience on the way. For creating modern civilization, western world has dedicated about two centuries in knowledge seeking, sacrificing their time, energy and comforts. Then only they could develop great modern scientific knowledge, technique and wealth. India’s Rishi Munies have done the same thing ages ago. The love for knowledge inspired students to walk from different parts of the country to centres of learning at that time like Taxila or Nalanda.

A powerful Emperor, like Ashoka the great, thought it his duty, to bow before the monks as a mark of my deep respect for their learning, wisdom and sacrifice. What matters in life, are not a person’s status or position, but his virtues and wisdom. Only when you have raised yourself up from ignorance, can you recognize the greatness of a few in a sea of humanity.

The tradition to dedicate one’s life in search of knowledge is coming down in India from very ancient times. We should follow the same principle to deal with present day problems. India has to learn once again to give more stress to acquiring knowledge in order to eliminate poverty.

i Bhagwat Gita, IV 14,15,16,and 17

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December 24, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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