We are creatures of habit. Our minds are conditioned by past impressions. We keep following in our old ways until the cycle of ignorance is broken by constant awareness of ourselves. This is why we need constant reminders. Knowledge needs to seep into our sub-conscious mind in order for it to become useful to us. This is precisely why in the Vedic scriptures, three levels of attaining knowledge are prescribed:
- Shravanam (Listening)
- Mananam (Contemplating upon knowledge)
- Nidhi Dhyasa (Practicing the knowledge)
A lot of people read/listen to inspirational material for the temporary relief that it brings. When you are feeling low, positive thoughts make you feel better. It gives you hope. Inspirational material asserts that the way you are currently looking at things is not the only way to look at it – that there is a much more positive solution to your problem out there, which you may not be seeing in this moment. However reading inspirational writings only to feel better is limiting the value you can derive from it – it is like using an aeroplane to drive around in your neighbourhood, which you could be flying to a neighbouring state!
Mananam (Contemplating upon the knowledge)
Contemplating upon the knowledge means reflecting upon the knowledge to see how it is applicable in the context of our lives. Contemplating of knowledge is understanding the intricacies of the knowledge, and making the knowledge ours. Without contemplation, we are less likely to fully appreciate the real power of the piece of wisdom being discussed.
Nidhi Dhyasa (Practicing the knowledge)
Then, you may find that some people are able to speak beautifully about a certain piece of wisdom. They have understood it really well. They can analyse it, discuss it with others, and even challenge opposing views. However the appreciation of the knowledge is only from an intellectual perspective. They may not have made any effort to apply the knowledge in their own lives. This is akin to a doctor who advises his patients on the ill effects of smoking, but is a chain smoker himself.
Why does a person who fully understands a piece of wisdom unable to apply it in his life?
One possibility is that the person learnt the knowledge only to derive some intellectual pleasure from it. He had no real thirst for self-improvement. The second possibility is that his mind, thanks to various past habits, is rebelling against his own intellect and making him incapable of applying the knowledge he knows very well. For example – the person knows that reacting in anger does not help. However this knowlege comes to him only after he has already reacted in anger and then later regrets his act. This is why, in addition to just gaining knowledge, it is also necessary to quieten the mind with meditation. A quiet mind can grasp the knowledge better and is more capable of applying the knowledge when it is needed. Meditation also helps the mind to become more contemplative.
It takes regular and continuous effort to put something new that we learn to practice – as our own mind rebels against us and wants to keep going about it’s old and comfortable ways. However all the effort we put into ourselves comes with a big payoff. There comes a stage where the application of knowledge becomes natural and effortless, and brings about a positive, lasting transformation within us.
~ Sudhir krihnan