“Humility, pridelessness, nonviolence, tolerance, simplicity, approaching a bona fide spiritual master, cleanliness, steadiness and self-control; renunciation of the objects of sense gratification, absence of false ego, the perception of the evil of birth, death, old age and disease; nonattachment to children, wife, home and the rest, and evenmindedness amid pleasant and unpleasant events; constant and unalloyed devotion to Me, resorting to solitary places, detachment from the general mass of people; accepting the importance of self-realization, and philosophical search for the Absolute Truth – all these I thus declare to be knowledge, and what is contrary to these is ignorance.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.8-12)
ahiṁsā kṣāntir ārjavam
anahaṅkāra eva ca
nityaṁ ca sama-cittatvam
etaj jñānam iti proktam
ajñānaṁ yad ato ‘nyathā
The claim is that bhakti-yoga is unchecked. The two relevant Sanskrit words are ahaituki and apratihata. These mean “unmotivated” and “uninterrupted.” By extension it can be deduced that the lack of any particular ability won’t present a stumbling block to the practice of love and devotion to the Supreme Lord. This includes knowledge, which the human being has the unique ability to acquire.
What is knowledge? Who is a knowledgeable person? In the United States there is a long-running television show called Jeopardy. Known as a trivia contest, participants compete to answer questions on various topics of interest. Each question has an associated monetary value, and there are chances to further increase earnings through wagering on specific questions.
Is the multi-time Jeopardy champion a person in knowledge? What about the college professor, who has a PhD in their field of study? Is the preeminent quantum physicist the smartest person in the world? Does possessing a lot of facts in the mind make a knowledgeable person?
There is no doubt that knowledge is power. The more you know about something, the better you will be able to deal with that subject. In the culture known as the Vedas, there is knowledge imparted from the very beginning. Understand the fundamental truth about your identity. You are spirit soul. What covers you is matter. Ignorance is a byproduct of illusion, which is known as maya. Come out of maya and into the truth, tattva. Acquire jnana, or knowledge, and be above ajnana, or ignorance.
What if a person has a difficult time acquiring knowledge? What if they are illiterate? What if they have no interest in high philosophy? Does this mean they are shut out from advancing in consciousness? Shri Krishna gives the answer in the Bhagavad-gita.
In a series of verses He lists several important qualities. Then He declares those qualities to be jnana. By the estimation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, knowledge equates to qualities. A person who is humble, without pride, free from attachment to worldly objects, and equal in both happiness and distress is knowledgeable. They may not know the year that East and West Germany unified, but they behave in a way that shows that they are truly knowledgeable about the position of the spirit soul.
The most knowledgeable person understands that God is a person. They then use that understanding to take up service to Him. They may begin that service with the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They continue in that service, knowing that the occupation itself is what brings unending bliss. They steer clear of the maya that would bring them back into ajnana.
The wise person strives to achieve the qualities mentioned by Shri Krishna. Another benefit of following bhakti-yoga is that these qualities come automatically. Jnana and vairagya need not be separate endeavors. If you develop an attachment to the beautiful and soft lotus feet of the jewel of Vrindavana, you’ll automatically be detached from things that don’t represent your true identity or your pathway to real independence, which is release from the cycle of birth and death. Love God and you will be among the most knowledgeable people in the world.
Scholar in the field preeminent,
For trivia contest knowledge pertinent.
What exactly a knowledgeable one to make?
The truth from Shri Krishna just take.
Knowledge actually qualities to possess,
Like without pride, over failure not to obsess.
For jnana and vairagya no separate endeavor,
Through bhakti alone be enlightened forever.