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Ignorance is misplaced knowledge, not a lack of knowledge || Acharya Prashant, on Shiva Sutra (2016)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
9 min
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“Knowledge is Bondage“

~Shiv Sutra(1.2)

Acharya Prashant: Second sutra says, “Knowledge is bondage.” To know too much is hell!

Listener 1: Ignorance is bliss!

A.P: Ignorance does not exist; only knowledge exists. Great knowledge is called ignorance. When you know a lot, then you are called ignorant. There is nothing called ignorance. It is just your knowledge which stands between you and the Truth; hence it is called ignorance.

Never think that ignorance exists. Only knowledge exists. Abundance of knowledge is called ignorance. You will never meet an ignorant man. You will only meet a man too stuffed with knowledge. And he will be the most ignorant man you will ever meet!

That is why it is being said that,”Knowledge is bondage.”

How does this Sutra show up in our daily lives?

Do we see that we want to convert everything into knowledge? Would you continue to love somebody or anybody if you lose all knowledge about him or her? Knowledge is memory. Knowledge is past. Knowledge is all the shared moments and attachments. If all that memory is wiped out from your brain, would you still continue to return to that person?

L2: If your love is conditional then you would not return but if it is unconditional then you return.

A.P: I am not talking about ‘ifs’. I am talking about what would happen. So, even that which we call as ‘love’ is knowledge dependent, memory dependent; no memory, no love.

L2: No, not really.

AP: Here on one side is your own child and you have knowledge and memory of that. There, on the other side is the child of your sworn enemy, and you have knowledge and memory of that. Which side would you go to save? This situation is life, these decisions are life. Our own child is warm in the blanket; the child of the beggar is shivering outside. Do we give them same treatment?

Listeners: No.

AP: I am talking about life. Do we give them the same treatment?

Listeners: No

So even our love is conditional. Who are we to talk about unconditional love?

There was a news report. A mother was with her newborn child since a year. After almost an year, the hospital informed that the child had gotten swapped with another child. Now for this one year she had been showering this kid with all the so-called motherly love. The moment this knowledge comes to her that her own biological child is somewhere else, she drops this one and fetches that one. Now, is the love conditional?

Is the love not dependent on body, memory and knowledge?

Who are we to say anything about unconditional love?

Yesterday we were singing songs. He (pointing towards one of the listeners) sang something that pertained to his nationality. They (pointing towards other listeners)sang something which came from their national language; his language, his context, his memories, his attachments; Do you really feel that same excitement when some other nation’s national song is played? Who are we to talk of unconditional love?

But, not only do we not know what is unconditional love; we also have knowledge that unconditional love is great and because we want to believe that we are great, so we want to believe that our love is unconditional. You see how knowledge operates? We have the knowledge; some book told us, that true love is unconditional. Now I want to believe that my love is true. So I will insist that my love is unconditional and all of this is coming from knowledge.

The sage is advising, “Knowledge is bondage.”

Can you please operate a little free of all that which you know, of all that which has accumulated within?

L3: Is there some scientific way to let it go?

AP: And science is all?

Listeners: Knowledge.

AP: So there must be a knowledgeable way to get rid of knowledge!

L2: I don’t know but sages like Ashtavakra and Janaka, they dropped the…..


When a Vasugupta or Ashtavakra states something, he states only to someone like himself. To be even more accurate, an Ashtavakra speaks only to Ashtavakra. So when he is saying this and putting these things in your hand, he is absolutely certain that the ‘real you’, that the ‘only you’ is as intelligent as the expression of these Sutras.

So never for a moment say that it is beyond us, that we are too small in front of this. If we are too small in front of this, then we have no business in holding it in our hands.

L2: So, real consciousness, real I think itself has consciousness. Intellectualism is good but I know…..

AP: He knows, and knowledge is?

Listeners: Bondage!

Please know a little less. You said that you doubt, please doubt first of all, yourself! Your knowledge.

L4: How to know less? Because every day we have experiences and it gets stored in the memory.

AP: And right when it is happening, see and say that, “it happened once again.”

Darkness when seen remains darkness no more. Because, if it is truly dark, how you would have seen?

See, accept, acknowledge, and all too quickly, all too subtlely, all without thought, all without calculation, all without bothering for consequences, all very unreasonably and madly.

L5: But it’s happening if life manages it. Life manages it very slyly.

AP: What do you mean by life manages it? You are the manager and controller and doer. Aren’t you?

L4: I have same question because I don’t get it. Let’s say I am in India and every day I work in the streets and see people in scooters that they can afford, honk, when they pass by. Now after a few days I have this inside me that ok, let it happen. That’s a kind of knowledge. That’s a kind of conditioning. How do I protect myself from absorbing that?

A.P: That knowledge is there. Now what do you mean by its absorption? You too, start honking.

L4: Also when I come to India I expect that to happen.

A.P: You expect that to happen, because of your knowledge. That will happen whether or not you expect. But what do you mean by its absorption?

L4: Probably to be surprised if it’s not happening.

AP: And if it’s not happening then you find something unusual. And you have absorbed it all the more if you yourself start honking unreasonably. Now, must that happen? Is it not possible to live in middle of disease and yet live free of disease? That is what is meant by living free of knowledge because knowledge will come, eyes will open and see, these ears will hear. this mind will think, information is streaming into you from all sides; that’s what your senses do. Now is it possible that you are in a hospital where everybody is diseased and you are healthy? It is possible. That is the spiritual life: to be in the thick of disease and yet be healthy.

L6: Sir, what we call as love in our lives is absolutely conditional love. But the danger comes when we expect the conditional love to be unconditional.

AP: Very nice. So if it is conditional, does it mean it deserves condemnation? No. it only deserves acknowledgement. I am not a smaller man because this love is conditional. Of course, it is conditional. When you start labeling the limited as the limitless, it is then that you will miss out on the limitless. It is when you start labeling ordinary attraction as love, then you will totally miss out on love. So if it’s conditional, it’s alright. It is conditional. Full stop.

Does it mean it is bad? Does it mean that I am a smaller man? The spiritual mind resists itself from stepping forth and concluding. It says it is raining; it does not say it’s awful. It’s just raining! It may even say it’s awful but then it does not absorb that awfulness and become awful itself. First of all, it would want to not to name the happening. And even if it names the happening, it will not internalize the name. Internal, there is only the ‘ Atman .’

When you internalize anything else, then you have covered the truly internal Atman which you have truly internalized. The only internal one is the Atman . When you internalize anything else, then you have made the Atman identical with what you have internalized. Now there will be confusion and suffering. So never internalize anything. Internally-just a pure void, a full void.

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