Five Things You Can’t Learn Everything About By Asking Alone

[Krishna's lotus feet]“A person is said to be established in self-realization and is called a yogi [or mystic] when he is fully satisfied by virtue of acquired knowledge and realization. Such a person is situated in transcendence and is self-controlled. He sees everything-whether it be pebbles, stones or gold-as the same.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.8)

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कूट-स्थो विजितेन्द्रियः
युक्त इत्य् उच्यते योगी

kūṭa-stho vijitendriyaḥ
yukta ity ucyate yogī

1. Becoming a radio host

The source of this topic is a discussion by a very successful radio talk show host. An audience member called in and wanted some advice on how to be a success in the very same business. A tricky question to navigate, since the host is still in the business. He would rather not share valuable information with someone who one day might turn into a competitor.

What he did share were his own experiences when starting out in the business. He tried to find people who were successful and then pester them with one question after another. One mentor finally got fed up. He admonished the aspiring star that a person can’t learn everything just by asking. At some point they have to start doing.

2. Driving a car

“When I was younger I really wanted to drive. I guess a lot of children are like that. I had my assigned seat for family trips. Right behind the driver, who was my dad. I dreamed of one day sitting in his seat, operating the car and deciding where to go.

“As I approached the legal driving age, I asked so many questions to the elders. What is that pedal for? How does turning work? What is the purpose of the mirrors? Looking back on it now, none of those questions were necessary. Everything I know today is based off personal experience. In other words, training. I had to finally try myself in order to learn anything important.”

3. Writing code

“I read books on coding. I wanted to give it a try. Honestly, it seemed a little out of my league. So much theory. Back in that time period, there weren’t advance IDEs available. In other words, it took a little effort to get even a simple working program, like one that took user input and then echoed back in the display.

[cmd window]“I studied a lot, to the point of being able to pass examinations. It wasn’t until I started working, though, that I really learned. All those concepts finally made sense to me. I needed practical, corresponding examples in order to see the different sides to the story.”

4. Performing surgery

“This is a little more serious, it seems. Driving a car improperly can have deleterious effects, but there are safety measures in place to mitigate disaster. Surgery can be a life or death issue. The surgeon has to be cool and calm. They cannot be flustered by the pressure. They should not be thinking of the gravity of the situation. They should focus only on what needs to be accomplished.”

“To that end, simply asking questions won’t do. I can learn the theory, but no one will trust me to perform the operation until I have some practical training. I need to give it a try myself, to see firsthand what needs to be done.”

5. Becoming a parent

Everyone has some advice to offer.

“Oh man, your life is going to change big-time. All that crying. Good luck. You’ll need it. All those things which were previously important to you no longer will be. You won’t sleep properly for at least the next eighteen years.”

In truth, no one can prepare you for the situation. It is something that has to be experienced. First-time parents surely don’t do everything right; but they hopefully learn in the process. Looking back, they can’t believe how much they didn’t know prior. Even through reading all of the books, nothing could appropriately prepare them.

In Vedic culture there are two Sanskrit terms applicable to this discussion: jnana and vijnana. Jnana is knowledge. The word Veda has the same meaning, and the knowledge can be about anything. In terms of meeting the highest interest of the individual, purushartha, jnana is about understanding the difference between body and spirit. My true identity is spirit soul, aham brahmasmi.

Vijnana is the practical realization of the principles learned through jnana. Of the two, vijnana is more important. Shri Krishna confirms in the Bhagavad-gita that a person is a yogi when they are satisfied by both real knowledge and the subsequent realization. This also means that as many questions as the spiritual guide will answer, I will not truly realize the Absolute Truth and the purpose of the principles of dharma until I am actively engaged myself.

For this reason one of the first recommendations is to take action. Hearing is actually enough. Shravanam can bring perfection, such as with Parikshit Maharaja and his seven days of meditation on the Hari-katha delivered by Shukadeva Gosvami.

Chanting, kirtanam, is another way to realize. Though hearing is also considered work, chanting is more distinct as a non-passive engagement. What should a person chant? Take the names of the Almighty. There are too many to count. Any appropriate and authorized name should be accepted, and fortunately there is the terrific formula for deliverance of the mind known as the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

[Krishna's lotus feet]This consists of different names of God, and while the process may seem too simple to yield any lasting benefit, vijnana is one of the immediate effects to the routine. That is to say if I regularly chant these holy names, in a systematic way and with some respect for the process, realization of Vedic principles will come to me. Then not only will I be able to rescue myself from the difficulties of a material existence, but I can also show others the way to transcendence.

In Closing:

To transcendence showing the way,
With holy names to say.

In routing repeating,
Ignorance of maya defeating.

The practical realization arriving,
Better than just for knowledge striving.

As yogi then fully aware,
That God here, there and everywhere.

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