What is Wisdom? Practically all religions in the world talk about two classes of wisdom – one the knowledge about the world and the second, the knowledge about God. While scientists go about in their quest to gather all knowledge about the world, the spiritual persons go in search of knowledge about God.
Hinduism calls the “worldly knowledge” as a lower one (apara vidya) and the Godly knowledge as the supreme one (para vidya). Basic human tendency is mostly to go in for acquiring worldly knowledge. With his limited intellect, man thinks that only through acquiring worldly knowledge, he can multiply his happiness – by acquiring physical things he loves to possess and by satiating his sensual needs that the world can give.
But saints and sages cry repeatedly that no lasting pleasure can ever be attained by hankering after worldly pleasure and seeking worldly knowledge. Jesus Christ says that all the pleasures one seeks actually do not rest anywhere in the world, not even in any a heaven outside the world, but “the kingdom of God is within you”.(Luke 17-21)
Man constantly worries about earning money to eat and drink, and take due care of his body; worrying about his future, he accumulates and hoards. Then he worries about the safety of his wealth that he has so meticulously acquired.
This is precisely where birds and animals seem to be far better off than men! They have no worry about the morrow and they live for the day; they seem to enjoy every moment of their life by living in the present. Perhaps they may not have the intellect to know that it’s God who is protecting them always and ensures the supply of their food and comfort, but can’t men who have the intellect to analyze and deduce figure out that there is some higher force somewhere which is taking care of all these creatures?
If that higher force, who has created this world, the trees, the animals, birds and human beings can take care of the birds and animals that do not plan for future, can’t He take care of we humans too, who believe in his omniscience and omnipotence and surrender to Him in full faith?
Sources of Wisdom for a Seeker
One who has understood the hopelessness of hankering behind worldly pursuits turns to scriptures for guidance. But scriptures are like maps that can show the way, but cannot lead you to your destination. Religions like Hinduism insists on surrendering to a guru, a true knower of the Ultimate Truth, to take you closer to your destination, by explaining the “map” (scripture), by sharing his personal experience and by showering his grace. That’s the way for salvation for the most who are uninitiated in religion and spirituality.
But for the vigilant ones, who are blessed with inquisitiveness by birth, seeking true knowledge comes through their keenness of observation of everything around one, particularly the nature.
Learning Wisdom from Nature – A Hindu Monk’s Advice
While the culture of the west gives the highest accolade and respect to the rich, the powerful, and the worldly-wise, the eastern culture (as in India) gives the highest reverence to the saints and monks in the society, who relinquish everything materialistic and go in quest of God. In Hinduism, some monks opt to be wandering monks, possessing nothing for themselves, having no permanent shelter for themselves, eating food from whomsoever that offers to them, and dispensing divine knowledge to whomsoever keen to learn from them.
In Srimad Bhagavata Maha Purana , a holy mythological scripture (on the life of Lord Krishna and other divine personalities and Avatars) read reverently by the Hindus, there is a mention about such a wandering monk (“Avadhuta”) who had attained the highest knowledge, not by reading any scripture, not by surrendering to any guru and seeking guidance, but by keenly observing nature and gathering wisdom from it. (Refer Chapter 11-07 to 09). He says he had twenty-four gurus and most of them were from an assortment of birds, animals and creatures!
At the behest of his host, the Avadhuta explains in detail who those gurus from the nature were and what he learned from them. Let us see here a few of his “gurus of nature” and his explanations about them:
The fish which swims along the river carefree gets attracted by the bait in the hook of the fisherman. In its desire to enjoy it, the fish gets trapped in the hook and meets its end. In a human being, it is the desire to enjoy the sense pleasures that traps him to doom sooner or later.
The Avadhuta once saw a pair of pigeons living happily with their little siblings in a tree. Once when the parent pigeons were out to gather and bring food to their siblings, a hunter came and spread a net and the little pigeons got trapped into it.
When the parent pigeons returned, they were shocked to see their little ones trapped in the net. The mother pigeon, out of love and concern to save her children went near them and got herself trapped too. The father pigeon became motionless in utter shock at the sight of the sad plight of all his near and dear; the hunter simply came and snatched the frozen father pigeon too.
The Avadhuta learned from this the misery behind the attachment to the family and bondage behind it.
Picture source: treehugger.com
The python does not wander hither and thither in search of its food. It patiently awaits the crossing of an animal closer to its abode and snatches it to eat; whether it is good or bad, small or sumptuous, it does not care; it accepts what it gets and remains content at that. Likewise, a wise man accepts what comes to him unasked and is content at that. He does not hanker behind his sensual urges to acquire and taste things of transient pleasure.
The moth gets attracted by the light of the flame in the lamp and getting too close to the flame, the moth dies burnt.
For a man earnestly seeking God, likewise, the sexual attraction of a woman is too tempting to resist. If he gets too close to woman, he is sure to get lost in the Maya and miss his pursuit of God.
The sun evaporates a large quantity of water by its heat; but it does not retain it for itself, but returns it in the form of rain back to the earth. Likewise, a wise man may acquire many material things in this world as they come to him; but he does not possess them for his own. He returns whatever he acquired back to the world at appropriate time.
The sun is reflected in water, be in pond, well, river or ocean at so many places but this reflection does not mean that the sun is divided and seen as so many parts. Likewise, the man of wisdom learns that it is one single Being (Atman) that gets reflected as so many individual souls in the living beings of this world.
From new moon to full moon and back to new moon, the moon waxes and wanes in phases. But it does not affect the moon in any way. Likewise, from birth to death, the human body grows and decays, but it does not affect the soul (Atman).
The rivers that join the ocean may overflow with water in rainy season and go lean or dry in summer. But the ocean, whether rainy season or summer, does neither swell nor dries up. Likewise, the wise men will neither get overjoyed when they get great material wealth nor do they sulk if they get impoverished.
The spider creates the web out of itself and withdraws it at its will. From this, one learns that God created this universe out of himself, he sustains it by his will and, as a master of time and causation, at His own will, he annihilates his creation and withdraws everything – all matter and living beings into himself.
Photo Courtesy: Mr Satish treknature.com/gallery/Asia/India/photo159937
The serpent never builds a home for itself. It occupies one built by other creatures (like an anthill) and leads a carefree life. But people toil and earn money to build a permanent shelter for themselves but they cannot live permanently for ever in it.
The Avadhuta once saw a hawk with a piece of meat in its beak being chased by several hawks that could not get anything to eat. All the other hawks were trying to snatch the meat from the one possessing it; at last, getting tired of flying to escape from its rivals, it let go off the meat. All the other hawks went behind the dropped meat and the hawk originally carrying it felt relieved.
The Avadhuta learned from this the hopelessness of acquiring and holding on to the material possessions. As long as one holds, he has no peace of mind and once he relinquishes what was previously dear to him, he attains peace of mind.
We have seen some samples of what the wandering sage learned from the nature and it’s an eye opener for all of us. After all, the whole universe is a creation of God, and it’s quite natural that his creation contains his invisible qualities. It is for the one who is seeking God to learn wisdom from His creation.