Objective Knowledge and Subjective Experience
There was a guru, who had a novice disciple. The disciple had never seen a cow nor had he tasted the milk. He had read that the cow’s milk is very nutritious as well as delicious. He was very curious to find a cow and taste its milk. He approached his Guru and asked “Do you know anything about the cows?”
“Yes.” replied the Master.
“Then would you please explain what a cow looks like?” the disciple prayed.
The Guru explained: “Cow does not live in the forest. It is a domesticated animal. You can find one in the villages. It has four legs.” Then the Master proceeded to give him a lot more information on the features of a cow: the horns, eyes, ears, legs, stomach, udder and tail.
Finally, the Guru said, “It gives a white liquid called milk, which is delicious and good for health.”
Armed with this information, the Student went to a village and there he saw a statue of a cow. Someone was painting an adjacent compound wall with chalk and had left a bucket full of lime water near the statue of the cow.
The student saw the cow and observed its features, he finally came to the conclusion that it must be the cow, he also saw a bucket with white liquid nearby. ‘This is definitely a cow, so this must be the delicious, healthy milk’ thought the disciple and drank some of it. He soon started screaming with severe stomach ache and had to be hospitalized.
As soon as his Guru heard about it, he rushed to the hospital to see him. “What happened?” the Guru asked.
“Master you don’t know anything about the cows or the milk, you are totally wrong.” The angry disciple answered.
“Tell me what happened.” The Guru sought an explanation. The student explained everything.
“Did you milk the cow yourself?” asked the Guru.
“That’s why you are in trouble. Until you rely on what others say, you won’t get to the truth, which will liberate you.” The wise Guru replied.
Just listening to the teachings is not enough. With an inquiring mind, one should get a clarification of all possible doubts that may arise, regarding the subject that is being discussed and gain an in-depth knowledge of it. Only then, one will be able to apply that knowledge properly in a given situation and gain the right experience. Otherwise one may end up being a storehouse of some vague information or superficial knowledge, which may land one in trouble.
In today’s world, due to internet and information explosion, people collect a lot information. Merely collecting information is one thing and having an in-depth knowledge of a particular subject is a different thing. Moreover, just having an in-depth knowledge is not enough. It is more important to have a direct subjective experience as well.
When we merely collect information without any in-depth knowledge, we may land in trouble like the disciple in the story.
Wisdom is a measure of discrimination. It can also be said that common sense in an uncommon degree is wisdom.
There is a distinction between acquired knowledge, intellectually grasped or ritualistically gathered, and intuitive knowledge, which is the spiritual experience itself, beyond the web of mind.
In spirituality, after gaining परोक्ष ज्ञान / paroksha jnana (knowledge of the Real Self through a systematic study of the scriptures), it has to be converted into अपरोक्ष बोध / aparoksha bodha (direct subjective awareness of the Real Self).
Merely writing honey a thousand times will not give us the taste of honey, nor reading the menu will ever satiate our hunger.
Only अपरोक्ष बोध / aparoksha bodha of our Real Self can liberate us from the limitations of space, time and causation.