So much of modern education is based around gathering facts, memorising information and regurgitating it in an exam. We’re systematically trained to become repositories of data, bursting at the seams. Does that really make one knowledgeable? Do formal certifications make us wise? Is knowledge meant to remain in one’s head, or should it deeply transform some other aspect of our being? When real education degenerates, we end up with more ‘experts’ but less wisdom – more information, but little transformation. This tendency can slip over into spirituality, where the study of ancient teachings becomes an academic pursuit and ‘armchair’ philosophy.
In Chapter Four, Krishna explores the topic of transcendental knowledge. As He ushers Arjuna onto the path of active spiritual life in this world, He highlights how transcendental knowledge guides that journey. Krishna explains the mechanism through which knowledge descends from a higher plane, what state of consciousness one must embody to receive it properly, and how humble interaction with spiritual teachers is absolutely necessary in order to grasp the essence. All of these points challenge our pride and vanity since they allude to the fact that our intellectual faculties, in and of themselves, are insufficient in making us truly knowledgeable. Transcendental knowledge is a gift that we receive - we can know it through what we become. Our own sincerity, demonstrated by a willingness to sacrifice and serve, as well as apply and share the knowledge with others, is the key that opens the treasure-house of wisdom.
Once, a man proudly declared, “I can recite the Bhagavad-Gita in 45 minutes.” Unimpressed, the guru replied: “Can you live it for 45 minutes?” That is the real challenge. When we take spiritual knowledge, deeply contemplate its meaning, conscientiously apply it in our life, and sincerely share it with others for their benefit, then the knowledge comes alive. The deeper secret of the Bhagavad-Gita is that true knowledge is awakened in the heart by Krishna, who illuminates our consciousness when He is pleased by our selflessness and sincerity. True spiritual awakening is a result of grace.
A famous saint was once approached by an eager student: “O master, O saintly person, you are in possession of many shining jewels of wisdom, carefully gathered from the ocean of scriptures. Can you give me those jewels of insight?” The saint contemplated the young student’s bold request and replied, “If I give you those jewels freely you won’t appreciate them, and if I sell you those jewels, you won’t be able to afford them!” Seeing the disappointment, the saint continued on, “Instead, you must eagerly approach the sacred scriptures yourself. Study them with patience and humility, systematically navigating yourself to the depths, and there you’ll discover incredible wisdom. Having grasped that wisdom, be sure to apply it to your life and bring the teachings into reality. Then, selflessly help others do the same. After doing this, look deep within your heart, and you’ll find a treasure-house of resplendent jewels of insight.” It’s not a cheap process.
"Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realised souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.” (Bhagavad-Gita 4.34)
4.33 – Key qualities required to understand the mystery of transcendental knowledge.
4.34 – Sincerity in approaching a spiritual teacher is absolutely vital.