Guru Purnima - Some Reflections

Spiritual seekers who have read books, attended lectures and acquired some knowledge may get a doubt - do we require a guru for Self-Knowledge? Can we not gain the knowledge of the Truth with our intuitive power and independent effort and with God's grace?

We gain knowledge - both spiritual and secular - with the help of our intellect. If we reflect a little, we realize that our knowledge of the world is limited. Even after many centuries, scientists are still struggling to gain knowledge of our own body. It is only recently that the genome, the basic building block of the human body, was decoded and that too after many years of intense effort. The implications are yet to be understood. When we have not fully understood the world in all its facets, how is it possible to gain knowledge of the absolute Truth that is beyond time & space? With our limited intellect, we can never understand the ultimate reality.

The scriptures mention six limitations of the human intellect  :
Ajnanam, Samshaya, Viparyaya, Pramada, Vipralabdhi and Apatukaranathyam.

Ajnanam (ignorance) : The intellect in an ignorant intellect. Ignorance precludes understanding. Only a few top scientists can understand the theory of relativity. The more knowledge we acquire, the better will be our capacity to understand.

Samshaya (doubt) : Human knowledge will always be characterized by doubt. The more we study the more doubts we will get. We cannot be sure whether we are right or wrong. This is especially true in science. A scientist puts forward a theory only to be refuted a few years later by another scientist. Light was believed to travel in straight lines until Einstein discovered that the path of a ray of light is influenced by the presence of dense objects such as black holes.

Viparyaya (error) : We acquire knowledge with the help of our faculties ( eyes,ears,etc.) and instruments and in using these, we are liable to make errors. The eye is prone to parallax error, improper use of instruments will lead to error. Errors arising out of the use of our faculties or instruments lead to errors in observations that inturn lead to erroneous knowledge. Even if our observations are accurate, we can make errors in judgment. Since the sun appears much bigger in size during sunrise and sunset than at noon, we may think the sun is closer to the earth during these times than at midday when infact the reverse is true.

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