Srila-Bhakti-Vinod-Thakur-White-Hari-Thumb

A Learned Ass

Continuing our present­a­tion of the upcom­ing release Sharanagati, in this post Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur sings of the dreadful effects  of worldly learning.

Verse three of this song is frequently emphasised by Srila Achayadev.

Sharanagati

Song Two

vidyāra vilāse,          kāṭāinu kāla,
parama sāhase āmi
tomāra charaṇa,          nā bhajinu kabhu,
ekhana śaraṇa tumi [1]

vidyāra–of learning; vilāse–in the pleasures; kāṭāinu–I passed; kāla–the time; parama–great; sāhase–with confidence; āmi–I; tomāra–Your; charaṇa–feet; –not; bhajinu–I served; kabhu–ever; ekhana–now; śaraṇa–shelter; tumi–You. [1]

(1) I spent my time absorbed in the pleasures of learning with great confidence. I never served Your feet. Now You are my shelter.


paḍite paḍite,          bharasā bāḍila,
jñāne gati habe māni’
se āśā biphala,          se jñāna durbala,
se jñāna ajñāna jāni [2]

paḍite–studying; paḍite–and studying; bharasā–confidence; bāḍila–increased; jñāne–through knowledge; gati–goal; habe–will be attained; māni’–considering; se–that; āśā–hope; biphala–fruitless; se–that; jñāna–knowledge; durbala–powerless; se–that; jñāna–knowledge; ajñāna–ignorance; jāni–I know. [2]

(2) Studying continuously, my confidence that I would attain the fulfilment of life through knowledge increased. However, that hope was futile and that knowledge was useless. I now know such ‘knowledge’ to be ignorance.

Sri Laghu-chandrika-bhashya

jñāne gati: “I would attain the fulfilment of life through knowledge.” In Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā (4.33), Kṛṣṇa says:

sarvaṁ karmākhilaṁ pārtha jñāne parisamāpyate

“Oh Arjun, all actions are fulfilled through knowledge.”

se jñāna durbala: “That knowledge was useless.” Knowledge alone is unable to fulfil one’s spiritual desires. This is explained by Sriman Mahaprabhu to Srila Sanatan Goswami Prabhu in Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta (Madhya-lila, 22.17–18):

kṛṣṇa-bhakti haya abhidheya-pradhāna
bhakti-mukha-nirīkṣaka karma-yoga-jñāna
ei saba sādhanera ati tuchchha bala
kṛṣṇa-bhakti vinā tāhā dite nāre phala

Krishna-bhakti is the fundamental means of spiritual progress (because the soul is by nature an eternal servant of Krishna). Karma (pious action), yoga (self-regulation), and jnan (knowledge) are all dependent on bhakti; they have no actual power of their own. Without the shelter of Krishna-bhakti, they are all unable to deliver results.”

se jñāna ajñāna: “That ‘knowledge’ is ignorance.” All knowledge of the mundane world is really illusory knowledge, or, ignorance. This is described in the Katha Upanishad (1.2.5):

avidyāyām antare vartamānāḥ
svayaṁ dhīrāḥ paṇḍitaṁ manyamānāḥ
daṁdramyamāṇāḥ pariyanti mūḍhā
andhenaiva nīyamānā yathāndhāḥ

“Insincere fools who remain in ignorance, yet consider themselves sober (free from any illusion) and wise (learned authorities), are deluded just like blind persons being led by other blind persons.”


jaḍa-vidyā yata,          māyāra vaibhava,
tomāra bhajane bādhā
moha janamiyā,          anitya saṁsāre,
jīvake karaye gādhā [3]

jaḍa–material; vidyā–learning; yata–all; māyāra–of the illusory energy; vaibhava–the opulence; tomāra–Your; bhajane–in the service; bādhā–an obstacle; moha–infatuation; janamiyā–bringing about; anitya–non-eternal; saṁsāre–in the material world; jīvake–to the soul; karaye–makes; gādhā–an ass. [3]

(3) All mundane learning is an exhibition of the opulences of maya and an obstacle to Your service. It brings about infatuation for the temporary world and makes an ass of the soul.

jaḍa-vidyā … jīvake karaye gādhā: “Mundane learning makes an ass of the soul.” This refers to apara-vidya, inferior knowledge; that is, knowledge which construes material objects as meant for one’s own enjoyment. In this regard, shortly after returning from Gaya, Nimai Pandit advised His students as follows (Sri Chaitanya-bhagavata: Madhya-lila, 1.158–9):

śāstrera nā jāne marma, adhyāpanā kare
garddabhera prāya yena śāstra bahi’ mare
paḍiñā śuniñā loka gela chhāre-khāre
kṛṣṇa mahā-mahotsave vañchilā tāhāre

“Those who do not know the purport of the scriptures, yet teach them to others, are like asses: they bear the load of the scriptures in vain. Reading and hearing of the scriptures leads only to death and destruction for both these teachers and their audiences. They are all deprived of the joy of the grand festival of love for Krishna.”

In Srimad Bhagavatam (10.84.13), Krishna Himself explains:

yasyātma-buddhiḥ kuṇape tri-dhātuke
sva-dhīḥ kalatrādiṣu bhauma ijya-dhīḥ
yat-tīrtha-buddhiḥ salile na karhichij
janeṣv abhijñeṣu sa eva go-kharaḥ

“One who considers their decaying material body, made of mucus, bile, and air, to be their actual self (but does not realise themself to be a servant of the Lord); who considers their spouse, family, and associated paraphernalia to be their possessions (yet feels no affectionate attachment for the devotees of the Lord); who considers a graven image made of earth or other material elements to be the Lord (but has no reverence for the devotees of the Lord); and who considers a body of water to be a place of pilgrimage (but fails to understand that the devotees of the Lord are the ultimate place of pilgrimage)—such a person is an ass among cows (a foolish beast fit only to bear the burden of carrying food for other animals).”

Krishna explains the components of His inferior energy (apara-prakriti) in Srimad Bhagavad-gita (7.4–5):

bhūmir āpo ’nalo vāyuḥ khaṁ mano buddhir eva cha
ahaṅkāra itīyaṁ me bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā | apareyam

“Earth, water, fire, air, space, mind, intelligence, and false ego are the eight divisions of My inferior, material energy.”


sei gādhā ha’ye,          saṁsārera bojhā,
bahinu aneka kāla
vārddhakye ekhana,          śaktira abhāve,
kichhu nāhi lāge bhāla [4]

sei–that very; gādhā–ass; ha’ye–becoming; saṁsārera–of material existence, of family life; bojhā–the burden; bahinu–I carried; aneka–much; kāla–time; vārddhakye–in old age; ekhana–now; śaktira–of ability; abhāve–in the absence; kichhu–something; nāhi–not; lāge–strikes; bhāla–good. [4]

(4) I became such an ass and bore the burden of my household for so long. Now aged and devoid of strength, nothing brings me any pleasure.


jīvana yātanā,          ha-ila ekhana,
se vidyā avidyā bhela
avidyāra jvālā,          ghaṭila viṣama,
se vidyā ha-ila śela [5]

jīvana–life; yātanā–agony; ha-ila–became; ekhana–now; se–that; vidyā–learning; avidyā–ignorance; bhela–became; avidyāra–of ignorance; jvālā–the burning pain; ghaṭila–became; viṣama–torturous; se–that; vidyā–learning; ha-ila–became; śela (marma-bhedī astra viśeṣa)–a heart-piercing spear. [5]

(5) My life has now become agony. My learning has proven to be ignorance and the burning pain of that ignorance has become unbearably torturous. My ‘learning’ has turned into a spear (that has pierced my heart).


tomāra charaṇa,          vinā kichhu dhana,
saṁsāre nā āchhe āra
bhakati-vinoda,          jaḍa-vidyā chhāḍi’,
tuyā pada kare sāra [6]

tomāra–Your; charaṇa–feet; vinā–apart from; kichhu–any; dhana–treasure; saṁsāre–in the material world; –not; āchhe–is; āra–other; bhakati-vinoda–Bhakti Vinod; jaḍa–material; vidyā–learning; chhāḍi’–abandoning; tuyā–Your; pada–feet; kare–makes; sāra–the essence. [6]

(6) Oh Lord! There is nothing of value in this material world other than Your feet. Bhakti Vinod abandons all mundane learning and accepts Your feet as his be-all and end-all.

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