A man may read all the books on swimming. He may become an authority on all the information regarding swimming. He may even qualify to lecture on the subject – but do not ever push him into water, for whatever his qualifications, he cannot swim! To know swimming and to know about it, are two entirely different things. It is quite possible that one who knows swimming may be unable to explain it. He might say: “All I know is that I jump into water and – I swim! You too, will swim if you jump. If you insist on him clarifying his statement, one will say: “How is it possible to speak about it? I can jump in the water and demonstrate. What discussion can there be in the matter of swimming?”
So, also, we can know about truth, but that is not knowing truth. There is a great number of such learned pundits who know about truth, but those who “know” truth are few and far between. And invariably these learned pundits become the enemies of the saint and the seer. This is natural, for the superficial knowledge of the pundit, holds no ground before the lofty knowledge of self-experience. One who “knows,” knows there is no need to discourse; knowing is enough. Of what worth is the knowledge if one cannot swim?
There was a fakir, Mulla Nasrudin. He used to ply a boat to earn a living For two paise he would take a person across the river. Once a pundit got into his boat. As they were going along the pundit asked the Mulla: “Mulla, have you any knowledge of mathematics?”
“Mathematics?” asked the Mulla, “What does it look like?”
The pundit was shocked. “You do not know the science of numbers? Your life is spent in vain. Four annas worth of your life has gone to utter waste.”
After some time he asked again. “Mulla, do you know astrology?”
“What in the name of heaven is that?” asked the Mulla.
The pundit shook his head in despair. “Mulla!” he said, “Eight annas worth of your life is wasted. If you do not know astrology, what else can you know?” And then a storm arose. A strong gale began to blow and the angry waves tossed the boat up and down. The Mulla asked; “Punditji, can you swim?”
“Not at all!” said the pundit. “Then sixteen annas worth of your life have gone completely to waste!” And so saying the Mulla jumped into the water and swam ashore.
This “knowing about things,” is not of much value in life. To stand before truth holds some meaning, but to go about acquiring knowledge of truth is meaningless. Whatever we know about the outside is always relative and never the truth about truth, for it is not possible to know this way. Once we understand this, we can take our first step toward truth. If someone comes and tells you that truth is like this, or God is like this – what can you possibly know except words? And there is nothing in words.
We do not make such mistakes in our day-to-day life: take for instance the word horse. We look it up in the dictionary and it says “it is an animal we ride on” – but we do not take hold of that word and ride on it! We know that only the horse in the stable can be used for riding. The dictionary horse is a mere word. We never take words on their face value in the ordinary course of things, but in spiritual matters, we have placed our full trust in them.