The Best Part of Knowledge


Sri Swami Chidananda

This article is a chapter from the book Seek The Beyond.

The whole of the spiritual life is an acquiring of spiritual knowledge. The guru is a source of spiritual knowledge: Scriptures are the source of spiritual knowledge. Special books on specific topics or aspects of the spiritual life and sadhana are also a source of spiritual knowledge. The function of knowledge is to remove ignorance. We replace ignorance by knowledge. It is knowledge itself that does this function of getting rid of ignorance and taking its place. It removes darkness and brings light.

But, apart from its function of getting rid of ignorance, let us ask a different question about knowledge itself. What is the best part of knowledge? Have you ever considered this? We have knowledge, but what is the best part of this knowledge that we have acquired? We may say that knowledge by itself is undivided–it is one integrated thing–but there are parts of knowledge in relation to us.

When we consider knowledge and ourselves, when we consider knowledge and its relationship to ourselves, it is dual. We are related to knowledge, and knowledge is related to us. Therefore, the question of what is the best part of knowledge acquires a certain relevance. It also acquires an importance.

The first part of knowledge is that we now know something that we did not know before we acquired this knowledge, before we were blessed or graced with this knowledge. The guru gives blessings in the form of the knowledge that has the power to gradually liberate us. Thus, you did not know, and when you got the knowledge, you knew. So knowing is a quintessential part of knowledge–enabling us to know things that we did not know until it came into our experience. Knowing, therefore, is the essence of the matter.

However, what is the difference between a person who does not know and a person who knows? Is there any difference at all? That is the next part of knowledge–when the knowing of the knowledge makes a difference in the person. The person is more perceptive, more understanding, more tolerant, more sympathetic. They act with a greater spirit of give and take. Knowledge can do all these things, but there is a big IF. That big IF is that knowledge can do all these things only if the person allows this knowledge to have a transforming effect upon their being. They become a better person because before they got the knowledge they committed many errors. After they acquired this knowledge they begin to avoid all those errors. They act in a different way, a better way, a nobler way.

So, knowledge is knowing, and when this knowing brings about a change for the better in us, it also becomes being. Knowledge first becomes knowing when previous to that we did not know. But then, if we are satisfied with keeping it at that level, and it does not bring about any change, then there is only one part of knowledge that is present–not a better part of knowledge. The second part of knowledge is becoming someone different in a positive and creative way because of the knowledge. The second part of knowledge is being.

And there is still a better part of knowledge. This change must become a social asset. It must become a value that has an effect in terms of other people’s well-being. It is here that the third part of knowledge comes into our consideration. Out of becoming a knowing person and then a changed person, we turn this knowledge and its knowing and being into a social asset, a value in human relationship–a value not only to our own self-culture, self-evolution and ethical and spiritual progress, but a value also in terms of the well-being and happiness of others.

Perhaps this is the best part of knowledge–the doing part of knowledge–bringing knowledge into actual manifestation in a creative pattern of human relationship, behaving with others so that every act that you do becomes a source of benefit to others, every act is, as it were, a seed for the well-being of others, the good of others, bringing into their lives something positive, something helpful, something for which they feel grateful. That is the third part of knowledge, the best part of knowledge.

Knowing is good; it is a wonderful part of knowledge. Being is better. It is really a very praiseworthy part of knowledge, a very, very valuable part of knowledge. But doing is best because it affects in a positive, creative and beneficial way all other lives whom you touch as you move about in this world and live your life. It becomes a benediction, a boon, a blessing, a great desirable value in your life with others–all others, all of God’s creation. Therefore the best part of knowledge is knowledge in practice, the transforming effect of knowledge upon your being being a source of auspiciousness, good and benefit to others.

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