KNOWLEDGE AND DEVOTION
‘Knowledge’ and ‘Devotion’ are the two eternal traits perpetually associated with human life since the genesis of culture and civilisation. The primary sources and inspirations of both , exist latent in the realm of ‘Nature’ and ‘Natural Resources’.
In the natural flow of human life, knowledge is acquired and imparted. The modes of acquirement and extension of knowledge have undergone periodic and drastic changes with the flow of time. They have been ceaselessly assisted and supplemented by the persistently developing means of storage and transmission. The different forms and fields of knowledge have continuously augmented since the advent of human consciousness. They may embrace the various avenues and arenas of science, art, history, literature, environment, ecology or bio-diversity propounded and compounded by mankind. Notwithstanding these characteristics, all of them have one salient element in common. They originate from the finite and proceed towards infinity. In fact, there is no limit to the scope and acquirement of knowledge. The acquirement and proliferation of knowledge knows no bounds, though time and again, rational human beings have attempted to confine it within the domain of self-realisation and self-awareness. Perhaps Leonardo Da Vinci, considered as one of the greatest painters of all times was fully aware of that fundamental reality due to which he found it practically impossible to finalise the climax of any of his creations. The genius of Sir Albert Einstein felt the essence of the truth towards the concluding phase of his life. Even after having established the revolutionary and innovative ‘Theory of Relativity’ and the pioneering ‘Photo-electric Effect’ he felt himself as a small child picking up pebbles on the seashore whilst the expanse of knowledge lay unexplored before his eyes and vision.
At exalted metaphysical forums, select philosophical maxims are repeated periodically. One of the most common and simplest of such repetitions is the proverbial advice ‘Know thyself’. It is a biblical phrase that effectively transmits a sincere suggestion to each and every human-being that the most important field of knowledge is the one through which any individual becomes familiar and appropriately acquainted with his own self. The familiarisation includes awareness not only with the physical traits or strengths but also an appropriate consciousness about the inner talents and the spiritual potentialities. It also signifies attainment of realisation of something other than the physical, existing within the human body . We may feel it as the ‘conscience’ that pricks or approves or else as the element often referred to during traditional spiritual discourses as the ‘soul’. Consequently, knowing one’s own self denotes a simultaneous acquaintance with the physical self as well as the inner self. In addition to that, it also includes a clear understanding of the essentiality of harmony between the body and soul of an individual. The harmony constitutes the driving force of human knowledge. It always tends to the rare state of resonance between the physical and the metaphysical.
The sources and inspirations of knowledge are clearly manifested in the explicit dynamics of nature and natural environment. It could be easily observed in the breaking of dawn and the rising sun or else in the melancholic gloom of the setting sun or in the mysterious darkness of night. We regularly watch it in the systematic flight of pigeons or seasonal lure of the alluring peacock dance. The crests and troughs of flowing rivers, the occurrence of land breezes and sea breezes, the formation of clouds and the benevolence of the falling rain and the raindrops, the bounteous solar rays and the associated spectrum, the prominent star galaxies and the different lunar shapes along with so many other natural components and displays are purely infinite sources of knowledge. The wasps’ nest or the honey-comb, the aesthetic abode visualised and constructed by the cranes, the reality and importance of the termite mounds and the perpetual struggle for existence thriving within all the forests are few other illustrations. All of them have generated incomparable fascinations and catalysed salient human realisations.
‘Devotion’ is a trait without which human life would have become akin to a heavenly fluid deprived of its intrinsic nectar. Human life devoid of devotion is like a ship without a sail. The essence of devotion is an unflinching faith or affection towards someone or some specific characteristic. It emerges from the soul and holds the heart and mind in pleasant captivity. Often it tends to defy any sort of logic or rationality and purely becomes a sustained mode of life or else a profound sentimental attachment proceeding towards worship or adoration. There are several forms of devotion known,practised,cultivated or followed by human-beings. The devotion of parents towards the care and grooming of their children or of children towards their parents is the most common example. The devotion of a true disciple towards his teacher or guide is also a frequently heard or encountered illustration. The two most popular human relationships of love and friendship thrive and optimise on the basis of mutual devotion. The feelings of numerous devotees associated with the camps and concepts of any reputed religious or spiritual preacher is another concrete bond that is based upon devotion. The personalities of several living sages and select immortal saints, generate such imperishable shades of devotion. The universe also accommodates many persons or groups devoted towards nature or the supernatural. Some of them never believe in exhibiting their concepts and beliefs and prefer to attain bliss in solitude.
There are few striking similarities and dissimilarities between devotion and knowledge. The most prominent similarity between the two is the fact that both of them do not have any bounds or limits. All human attempts to restrain them have proved to be futile as they continuously progress as the unrestrained forces of life. Another major similarity is the truth is that the basic primary sources and inspirations of both dwell in nature and all natural phenomena. Considering the dissimilarities, it may be asserted that the most striking distinction between the two is that while attainment of knowledge is based upon rationalism and comprehension, devotion finds in roots in feelings and sentiments related to the human heart and soul. Another major distinction is that while the path and process of acquirement of knowledge usually makes an individual haughty, less sensitive, less social and over-inquisitive, devotion normally makes the person more simple, more humble and closer to his inner self than before. In most cases, knowledge alienates the individual from the common society, while devotion brings him closer to the social system. Knowledge without devotion is merely a flame without light while devotion without even the basic knowledge is just a leap in the dark. Little knowledge is known to be utterly dangerous but even the slightest of devotion serves to purify the human conscience and soul. Knowledge is power that denotes and connotes a form of energy stored in the human brain. On the contrary, devotion may be regarded as the flow of energy motivated and sustained by faith and affection.
For optimisation of social and ethical efficiency of an individual, he ought to possess and own, a proportionate mixture of knowledge and devotion. The extent of knowledge should not be beyond the domain of devotional ethics. For instance, too much of scientific knowledge makes persons immensely unethical and purely insensitive to social or cultural problems . In the same way, blind devotion without adequate acquaintance with the subject, makes life practically meaningless. In rare cases whence knowledge resonates with devotion, the individual experiences an unusual bliss considered as akin to salvation. Spiritual preachers often face questions or queries regarding the comparative strength of knowledge and devotion in the procurement of that phenomenal bliss. The usual answer or reply to the common query is that the acquirement of that bliss is more feasible through the path of devotion than by the sheer force of knowledge. In this respect, devotion has an explicit edge over knowledge.
The entire history of mankind carries a vivid account of political conquests, social upheavals, inventions and discoveries, battles and wars, along with the incessant human craving for acquirement of knowledge in various fields. Knowledge has facilitated the emergence of several novel luxuries and augmented the level of physical progress. Simultaneously it has made human life more complex and has generated several behavioural sophistications and social tensions though acquaintance with the life and thoughts of the select learned luminaries like Archimedes, Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Ashoka, Shakespeare, Newton, Mahatma Gandhi, Einstein and Kautilya, has always moderated the adverse effect. Accordingly, great mystics and poets of the likes of Gautam Buddha, Mahavir, Kabir, Tulsidas, Guru Nanak, William Wordsworth and Mother Teresa have commanded great honour and respect amongst masses. Devotion towards the religious deities has always proved to be be more easier than the traditional knowledge associated with their conceptions. In the realm of such customs and concepts, the aspect that is crystal clear is that for the generation of the phenomenal state of bliss, knowledge and devotion should undergo a mutual fusion with the desired resonance. It would be an actual realisation of the omnipotent, who is omnipresent and omniscient. That state would be equivalent to the dynamic couple of knowledge and devotion delivering the best in the path of human development and humanitarian bliss.
Retired Conservator of Forests(I.F.S.)
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