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Chapter 2: The Attitude of a Disciple

&&Then in his quest for brahmavidya, the science of the ultimate truth, Maharishi Ashvalayana went to Lord Brahma, the god of creation, with the attitude of a disciple, carrying samidha, the symbol of the awareness of his own ignorance, and humbly asked:

“Lord, kindly teach me the eternally secret and most noble path of brahmavidya that the sages have always walked, and through which the wise have dissolved their past bad actions and experienced the ultimate truth.”

Great Lord Brahma then said: “To experience the ultimate reality, one must first take refuge in trust, devotion, meditation and yoga.”

The deepest longing in the heart of man is to know. The longing to know is man’s very soul. Man’s being wants to know whatsoever is unknown, his being wants to reveal whatsoever is hidden. Being wants what is invisible to become visible and what is untouched to be touched, so that nothing remains in darkness. There should be nothing left that is not known because wherever man does not know, it makes him dependent: “Up to a point I know, and beyond this I don’t know - this is my boundary and my imprisonment. The walls of my prison are made up of my own ignorance. When nothing is unknown anymore I will no longer have any boundaries.”

Ignorance is the boundary, hence ignorance is anguish. Knowing is unbounded, hence it is liberation. In man there is a constant effort to shatter these boundaries. This effort can have two directions: one direction is the desire to know every single particle of this whole existence that is all around us. This desire to know every single particle, every single atom, is the effort of science. Science is knowledge through analysis. So one way to know things is to divide them and discover their most basic composition. If you want to know water, then you can divide it and discover the basic elements in it, and when you have been able to discover the basic elements in water, you have known water. This knowledge means that if you want to create water you can do it, and if you want to, you can also destroy it.

Science will divide water and it will search for the basic units of oxygen and hydrogen. To know water this will be enough, but now it will be necessary to separate hydrogen and oxygen to find out what they are made of. Science will discover the electron, and ignorance will be pushed back one more step - but it is not destroyed. With this knowledge you may even create hydrogen, but then the electron will become the limit of your knowledge.

In the past two thousand years, science has pushed ignorance far, far away - or so it seems - but ignorance has not disappeared; at the next step there it is again. Now scientists have started to accept that the day will never come when, through science, man will be able to abolish ignorance completely - because the knowledge that comes out of the process of splitting will have to be split again to be known. Something will always be left unknown. In this way, there will always be ignorance.

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