Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Mantra "Sahanavavatu" -part 2-
Although we have protected the plant, we quickly realize that is not sufficient for its growth and prosperity into a tree. We have to enable its survival by providing adequate manure, water, and sunlight, so that it will grow. Hence, the second step is ‘to nourish.’ Nourishment has to be fully understood in the context of the mantra. Often we associate nourishment with external objects, such as the printed label on boxed food which indicates the amount of nourishment each serving provides. But the nourishment does not depend on the food that you give and its contents. The food may actually be very nourishing, but if it is not properly digested by the consumer, it will fail in its attempt to nourish. A food which is not digested properly is nothing more than a poison. A small plant needs some water no doubt but if you flood the plant with too much water and manure, the plant will drown and die. Similarly, if a small child is given highly nutritious food that is indigestible, how will s/he benefit? We have to give the child food that s/he can digest. Similarly, on our yogic path, the knowledge may be abundant but how we absorb and digest this knowledge is what determines our spiritual growth.
I am reminded of such an example when I visited a dear friend in Los Angeles, CA. My friend was excited to see me and she asked me, “Raghu, are you teaching any workshops now?” I said, “Yes, I am conducting a workshop for the next three days.” And she indicated that she would like to attend. She further added, “It is so nice that we recently had another series of lectures by another teacher. A great scholar from India came and gave a series of talks for one month on the Ishavasya Upanishad. We had a feast of those lectures and now you have come so that we can further discuss other Upanishads. We are so lucky!”
I asked, “A series of talks on the Ishavasya Upanishads? It must have been wonderful.” She replied, “Yes. They were wonderful.” So, I continued, “If he has conducted these lectures for one full month, there must be so much important information that you have taken away from the lectures. Can you share some of the important aspects of the lecture, so that I, too, may learn?”
She replied, “The Upanishads are a very tough subject. Everything that I heard went just over my head, but the talks were wonderful!”
How can knowledge that went above your head be wonderful? The Upanishads may be wonderful and nourishing, but how you present the information is as important as the information itself. So nourishment is not in the external object, but in the interplay of the presentation of knowledge and how we relate to it. If it can change my understanding, my intellect, then it is nourishing.
Swami Vivekananda was explaining some philosophical things once to his brother disciple, Abhedananda, who was also a great scholar. Swami adbhutananda, also known as Latoo, another brother disciple who is a total illiterate who was also listening to it sitting by his side said to Swami Vivekananda, “my dear brother can you please explain these things in simple language so that I can understand?” Swamiji replied, “my dear Latoo, please don’t worry about it this is some thing you can’t understand.” Latoo said to himself but loud, “Ok, if your knowledge is useful only to those who know and not for one who does not know then I don’t worry about it. Please go ahead”. Immediately Swami Vivekananda realized his mistake and apologetically told him, sorry dear brother, let me explain it in such a way that you can understand.” Therefore knowledge has to be presented in such simple way that an ignorant can understand it.
That is why in the mantra we say ‘may we both be nourished.’ This basically means that when we sit to learn this knowledge, let us not simply proceed, because we have to learn. Much like when we eat something that is indigestible, you may become sick; when you have knowledge that is not used; it becomes misused or is a burden on us.
-to be continued...
Posted by Ayça Gürelman at 12:59 PM