Chapter 4: Eyes and Legs for the Journey
Now try to understand this in yet another way. Ignorance means that there is something that you don’t know. If there is no ignorance, then there will be a state when you can say that you know all. Your ignorance was about something; there was still something not known, hence there was ignorance. Ignorance does not create ego - because how can not knowing create an ego? It is knowledge that creates the ego. When I know, my “I” is strengthened. Ignorance is related to outer things, knowledge is related to the ego inside. When I know, the emphasis goes to the “I” and the “I” is strengthened. When I say I don’t know, all I am saying is that there is something unknown to me, unfamiliar to me, something which I don’t know. The ego cannot be strengthened by this ignorance. In ignorance you make mistakes and you do stupid things - in fact, many stupid things and many mistakes. In knowledge there is only one mistake, and that is ego. In ignorance many diseases surround you; in knowledge only one disease, ego, surrounds you. But remember one thing: all diseases combined are nothing compared to the disease of ego.
So it is necessary to destroy ignorance through knowledge, but then do not cling to that knowledge. If you get a thorn in your foot, you have to prize it out with the help of another thorn - but don’t forget that the second thorn is as much a thorn as the first one. It would be logical for you to not consider the second thorn to be a thorn because it has helped you so much to take the first thorn out, but then you would be very much mistaken. In the first place, it could take the original thorn out because it is also a thorn. And in all probability it is even stronger than the first thorn, otherwise it could not take the first thorn out.
So if you think that the second thorn is very kind because it helped you so much to get rid of the first thorn, and now you want to keep the second thorn in the same wound where the first one was, this would certainly be a logical thing to do. It helped you so much in your time of need, so it doesn’t feel nice to throw it away. But if this is this case, although you have got rid of one thorn, you will now be pierced by a bigger and stronger thorn. If this kind of logic gets stuck in your mind you will never be able to get rid of any thorn.
Because of your ignorance, you were unhappy. The ignorance hurt you and created wounds, and it is because of it that you were in suffering, misery. But now the new thorn of knowledge will also create a wound, and your unhappiness and suffering will continue. It is better if you gratefully throw the second thorn away too. Thank it, it has served you, but throw it away because it is also a thorn.
Ignorance must be removed with knowledge - but then you don’t hug the knowledge and sit down with it. This is the essential meaning of vedant: throw knowledge away as well. Knowledge is useful only as long as the thorn of ignorance has not yet been removed. The moment the thorn of ignorance comes out, knowledge becomes useless.
If a man is sick, he needs medicine only for as long as he is sick. And if you understand it rightly, it is not the man who needs the medicine, it is the sickness that needs it. It is not the man who takes the medicine, it is the sickness that takes it - so the moment the sickness is gone the medicine becomes useless.