The shadow of knowledge

Knowledge casts big shadows. Toward these shadows, we chase. To these shadows, we worship. To these shadows, we obey.

What is knowledge? And what is its place in life? Knowledge has become tremendously important to our life. Yet has it solved anything? Has it finally brought peace and happiness? Has it found the eternal and love? Has it found the way to live totally and harmoniously with everything? None of these questions have been answered by knowledge, yet we continue to rely on it to solve our many problems and crises. The schools of philosophy and mysticism have offered many solutions, and all of them are based on knowledge. It provides a framework, a series of practices, and all of them needs to be memorized, and then applied to life, and this application is supposed to dissolve our problems. Yet are problems not born again? We dissolve one and another come to the surface? If we observe life, it is quite obvious that problems continue to surface, and we might then conclude that there are infinite problems in life, and life is simply the process of solving problems, which are infinite. Is that so? What is the relationship between knowledge and problem? Can knowledge solve our problems at all?

To understand, to really see how knowledge operate with a problem, mustn't we observe knowledge? So, what is knowledge? The yogis might say, meditate everyday, do certain breathing techniques, and you shall be calm during the day. So the knowledge is this practice, the series of movements of the breath that needs to be memorized and repeated over and over. So is knowledge mechanical? The scientists might say, have a certain habit to train your brain to be more positive. Again, knowledge is this memory of the habit, and then to condition the brain to this habit. So is knowledge simply a repetition? And then, the psychoanalysts might say, remember your childhood trauma, understand your family history, and this might solve your inner conflicts and depression. Knowledge here is still the remembrance of things past, and we think by seeing the past we can dissolve the conflicts now. So is knowledge always old, in the past?

The problem is always new, isn't it? Each problem, like a traffic accident, or a death, or injury, or psychological trauma, is always moving and changing, and all the time evolving, isn't it? So, can any knowledge solve a problem? A knowledge which is the past, is already gone, and by evoking what is gone, what have we accomplished? We have imposed the past on the present, haven't we? Through this past, this lens of the past, we see our problems which are always in the present. Therefore, isn't knowledge a distortion? Knowledge is repetitive, because it is totally based on memory. Only that which is remembered can be repeated. And how can a repetition see the present clearly? How can something mechanical face a life which is changing in its totality? We clearly see, that a machine cannot live, cannot dissolve a problem. The very mechanical movement creates the problem, does it not? Because life is in flux, which means it does not repeat itself, then anything mechanical can only act in conflict with life, which means to act according to a past, to conform the present to a past pattern. So, is knowledge the source of our problems, our conflicts?

We have been conditioned by our education, by our religions and traditions, to worship knowledge. The image of divinity is knowledge, is created by knowledge. The books, either holy or scientific, are made by knowledge. The rituals, the cultural symbols, the traditional preferences of genders and peoples are the repetition and passing down of knowledge. Knowledge is passed down, transmitted from those living to those born. Knowledge is what is taught, and we have such an attachment to knowledge, that if any questions were raised to challenge its authority, we become defensive. Aren't we defensive? Do we not defend our tradition, our religion and education, our various theories and ideas about life, and are these not all in the field of knowledge? So, now we know that we are terribly attached to knowledge, no matter its form and content, no matter it is personal, political, or cultural. And we are also aware of the mechanical nature of knowledge, that knowledge is a repetition, is a pattern, is to condition the brain to a certain habit.

We are terribly attached to our knowledge, and we use it to live. We use the knowledge of another person to judge them, to justify their goodness or viciousness, to marry or divorce them, to kill or worship them. We use the knowledge of a group of people to label, to give structure to the world's population, to justify our prejudice, to divide the world so as to control its people. We use knowledge of the psyche to condition ourselves into a certain mold, to make ourselves, which means to literally carve ourselves into differently conditioned characters, and from these characters we act in our conditioned manner. Isn't there a comfort in knowing? Because in knowing, we can finally conclude, give a sweeping conclusion to life, so we don't have to keep learning, observing, living. Isn't knowledge, the very attachment to knowledge, death? To be attached to knowledge is to stagnate, is to remain with our petty mechanics, our second-hand repetitions, and all repetitions are second-hand, utterly unoriginal. This is our life, isn't it? The knowledge we have accumulated is the debris of the past, and in our holding on to it, it only decays. The world is constantly changing, as is nature, and the cosmos, and all are one if we can see that, so any amount of knowledge is only a distortion, isn't it? Knowledge is the burden of the past, which directs our action. This action, which comes from a distorted view, can not act intelligently, wholly, rationally. To act with intelligence, one must see clearly. To avoid a dangerous flying rock, one must first see the rock coming, otherwise, any amount of knowledge is useless. We can have knowledge to the size of this universe and we still cannot live with intelligence, because we don't see.

Doesn't knowledge prevent us from seeing? Isn't the very comfort of knowing the same as the laziness of the mind, a mind which has said, I know so I do not need to see. It is the same movement when we say, I know who you are. That very statement implies that I do not have to see you, to listen to you, to understand you, to notice the subtle changes and movements you make. Therefore, knowledge is not intelligence, because intelligence requires absolute clarity. Knowledge is not clarity, because clarity is seeing, is listening, and knowledge with its comfort and pride refuses to see or listen. No amount of knowledge is intelligence, because intelligence is the living quality, while knowledge is dead. Our attachments to knowledge deny this intelligence, and without intelligence, how do we solve any problem?

In order to solve a problem, therefore, mustn't we see it clearly? Mustn't we listen to a problem to first understand it, and then we can ask whether there is a solution? Do we see the problem? Or are we so quick to react to the problem that we cover it up with a million solutions? We are so afraid of the problem, are we not? Whenever we notice a problem we immediately jump to the solutions. Our reaction to a problem is the solution, the finding of solutions. So we rarely look at the problem. Now, we have got so many problems. Let's take one of them, any one, and look at it. What is it?

Must the problem be described by words? Where does the problem lie? And what is its movement? Isn't a problem always a movement? A problem is always in the mind, isn't it? You might go ask a tree whether it has any problems in life, and do you know what it will tell you? A problem is a movement, and a movement is not static. When we look at the problem, what happens to it? Does it exist forever? Or do we only realize the problem when we look at it with our past knowledge? That is, I might have a problem of jealousy, and whenever a certain movement in the mind is noticed, I immediately recognize it as jealousy, and then the problem has appeared. Yet, is it jealousy? What is this movement without the name I give to it, without the many associations I have attached to it? Is this movement the same as what was? It can never be the same, can it? The past, which is our remembrance, can never be the same as what is. So, what is a problem? Without naming, which is the movement of knowledge, what is a problem? Can a problem exist without its naming, without the reaction of knowledge? Then we can look at a problem afresh, and the very seeing of the problem is its dissolution. Then, we might see that any problem in the mind is the movement of knowledge. The ending of knowledge is the clarity of seeing. And no matter how extensive this knowledge can be, either the scientific or the psychological, it cannot escape this seeing. In this seeing, the mortality of knowledge is clear.

Knowledge is ignorance, because to know is to ignore. To know is to ignore the present, to see through a distorted glass of the past. Knowledge has not offered any solutions to suffering, to pain, to the meaningless travail of human beings. We have walked the path over and over, in agony, confused, without a sense of joy and aloofness, in conflict with each other and the environment. This mind we have, is the same mind which has struggled for millennia, kingdoms against kingdoms, tribes against tribes. And in our daily life, which we call modern and civilized, we are still in this field of struggle. We have made our struggle so much more efficient, cruel, modular, profitable, but it is the same struggle. As long as we live in this field, then we shall be forever caught in this wheel of conflict, of the good and evil, the life and death. Intelligence is to see this conflict, to see the utter futility of knowledge in the understanding and dissolution of conflict. When we see that, we put knowledge away, in its right place, and only then can we use it rightly. Knowledge is conflict, as they move together, are born and die together. Intelligence is the light which illuminates the shadow of knowledge. This seeing and listening is without conflict and therefore sorrow. Only in this seeing, is it possible to live a life without a single problem. This seeing is life itself.

It is a cold day, with wind moving across this entire city. Yet because of the wind, the sky is utterly clear. Only on the horizons can the pollution be seen. Birds are flying, enjoying the chilliness and clarity of the air. Their flight is so effortless, as they understand the air, so they move with it. The opening of the wings is done with grace, without a shadow of fear and doubt, and so they move extraordinarily fast and precise among buildings and trees. To live like the wind, like the flying animals that inhabit the sky, to taste this utter freedom of life, any form of attachment must be gone. To see this life is of the utmost importance, because only through seeing can there be this effortless movement, untethered and therefore free. When you see the air, its quality, its shape in the wings, then that flight of the birds is no stranger to you. It is as though you know how to fly.


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Cover photo by Aman Upadhyay on Unsplash