Virtue is Knowledge

I D Soni
In the Bavarian tongue there is a little proverb which says, “Our helper is sitting on the school-bench”. The present scenario in the country reveals that so many issues taken up are full of with controversies and quarrels of the day. The need of the hour is to have awakened and luminated heart to face the new challenges which are growing day by day. We have, therefore, to turn to students, young men and women as a future helpers of the country.
In ancient Athens, young men were fond, as our young men are fond, of music, drama, song. The young Athenian, like the young Indians had fine aesthetic perceptions. In Athens appeared a great one, one of the greatest in history, ‘Socrates’. He was a rishi, a yogi in the real sense. He realised that a new Athens, a new Greece must be built. He turned to the young as his helpers. He loved them. He taught them the great truth of life. He emphasised the value of ‘Vidya’, knowledge. “Virtue is knowledge”, he said. Yes, for sins are often due to ignorance. Therefore, while condemning wrong actions, do not hate the wrongdoer. Hate no man. The very criminals need our sympathy and love and not ‘punishment’. Virtue is knowledge. Therefore, it is imperative on our part to spread the message of knowledge far and wide. Our country may be having men of wealth and position. But more than these is ‘Vidya’, knowledge. More Schools, more Colleges, more Universities, more Vidya, is our need.
What is knowledge?:- Knowledge is the awareness, of a fact or a situation. It is a rich and unique possession that cannot be stolen or plundered by thieves. Knowledge does not decrease when it is given. In fact, knowledge is power. Our knowledge is the amassed thought and experience of countless human beings. The growth and survival of mankind depends upon knowledge. From the Stone Age till date, man has struggled to know the unknown. He explored land, water and space by virtue of his knowledge. Man has made progress in all the fields starting from science, technology to arts; etc.
At the dawn of civilization, man was at the mercy of nature. He lived the life of a ‘nomad’. He invented tools and weapons for hunting. Verbal communication also developed. He discovered fire and the wheel. These were the initial steps taken by utilising his knowledge he gained.
The successful discoveries and inventions encouraged man to contemplate on new ideas. His ability to rationalize, analyse and store the events in his memory enabled him to achieve success. Knowledge gave him the strength, confidence, sense of innovation and courage to make life worth living. He began to use the forces of nature for his own benefit. Thus, life became comfortable. He utilised his knowledge to improve his own life.
Knowledge gives us the feeling of strength and power. We can defeat ignorance and insensibility, by using our mental powers. We gain the highest position in society by having and using right knowledge. Ignorance is a curse and even a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Knowledge makes us efficient, honest and sincere. Knowledge develops in us human faculties. It leads to the excellence of the mind. It enables us to make sound judgement. True education which makes us charactered, self-reliant and self-less and right type of knowledge are durable for democracy. Restraint, tolerance, understanding and capacity to manage affairs come with knowledge. There is no end to the gaining of knowledge. It is only the foolish man who thinks he knows everything.
Power of knowledge :- “Knowledge is power”, said Bacon. Yes, but power must be disciplined; else ‘power’ is ‘greed’ or gratification of sense-desires. Knowledge is the goal of life. The real life of man consists of knowledge. Instinct, reason and inspiration are three instruments of knowledge. The gift of knowledge is the highest gift in the world. No action can give us freedom, only true knowledge can make us free.
Knowledge is irresistible: the mind cannot take it or reject it. When it comes the mind has to accept it; so it is not a work of the mind; only, its expression comes in the mind. Knowledge itself is the highest reward of knowledge. Knowledge alone can make us perfect. We gain knowledge of our own strength, ability, efficiency, calibre, flair, potential and talent by analysing and reasoning. All the knowledge that we have in this world, where did it come from? It was within us. What knowledge is outside? None. Knowledge was not in matter; it was in us all the time. Nobody ever created knowledge; we bring it from within.
Misuse of knowledge :- Man has been able to eradicate a number of diseases like polio, pox, plague etc. from the face of the earth. The human body can be operated upon for removal of cancer or for an open heart surgery. The discovery of a number of antibiotics and drugs has reduced the suffering of mankind. Agriculture has also been developed. The use of high yielding variety of seeds, fertilizers and improved methods of irrigation have increased crop yield. The invention of the devices of communication has transformed the world into a global village. Computer has changed human life altogether. All these have been the fruits of man’s quest for knowledge.
Sadly, with the passage of time, man started misusing knowledge. He started using knowledge to destroy the very forces that provided him sustenance. He interfered with nature and disturbed the ecological balance. He has polluted air, land and water. He has, thus, created unfavourable conditions for himself and others. Man has developed destructive weapons that can destroy completely the whole mankind. Man is also posing a threat to the existence of flora and fauna.
But which Vidya? Which knowledge? There is a knowledge which is like the will ‘o’ the wisp, a light that leads astray. There is Vidya which is used as a weapon of power against the poor. There is Vidya whose end is personal aggrandisement. A noble conception of knowledge inspired educational institutions in ancient India.
Current system of providing knowledge has failed because it has developed only the brain-power. The brain has been developed, science is marching on, technological progress has been made. But the problems that are before family, society, country and civilization, will not be solved by the developed brain alone, illuminated hearts are needed, awakened hearts are needed. Science has, no doubt, given us so many good things, it is true, but science has not awakened the heart of man.
There is, therefore, a need of a noble conception of knowledge which used to inspire educational institutions in ancient India. The educational ideal of Aryavarta was a synthesis of some good qualities to have a knowledge which may go a long way to be called “Virtue is knowledge”.
* Knowledge is ‘sangh’. Knowledge is much more than study of books. There are many learned fools. What is essential is ‘sangha’, i.e. Fellowship. Fellowship with a good teacher. They named him “Guru” in the ancient days. The meaning of the word “Guru” is, one who purifies. The Guru surrounded his pupils with an atmosphere of purity, the atmosphere of sympathy and love. Today, our students move in an atmosphere of fear. Fear devitalising. We must oppose to the entire cult of fear. We should not be harsh to the students. We must give them freedom to grow.
* Knowledge is Sadhana, i.e. self-discipline. Brahmacharya was the basis of our ancient education system. Brahmacharya is self-discipline. It is discipline of the senses, the mind, and the emotions. It is, in essence, the practice of a simple life. It means we should be simple in dress and diet. In simplicity is the secret of health, beauty, strength. Its secret is voluntary obedience, not compulsion which is bound to arouse rebelliousness and which may result in humiliation and disunion. True discipline is not interference with the pupil but an endeavour to influence him. True discipline is what, in the medieval books of Japan, was called Boshido, the “knightly way”.
* Knowledge is seva or service. And I believe in the value of seva with hands. Manual work has a spiritual value. It teaches humility. In ancient ashramas, students used to swept the floor, fetched water from the river and wood from the forest. Every one of us should do at least on act of service every day. And little acts of daily service will grow at last into deeds of sacrifice for which India’s history awaits. Our emphases should be on seva-service, compassion, love, sympathy. We must believe that knowledge is best built through altruistic living, through living for others. When we start living for others we grow automatically, spontaneously in qualities of knowledge. We must think of others specially of the poor, the orphans, the destitutes and needy ones.
* Knowledge is reverence for the Indian ideals. We must not forget the rich heritage that belong to us as children of the rishis, sages, saints of India. It is only in a synathesis of modern scientific knowledge and the ancient wisdom of our saints and seers that our true knowledge is lying.
*Knowledge is character building. We must say; meet failure with success! Work on in strength of body and mind and heart and the will-to-achieve! “Say not the struggle not availeth: say not the labour and the wounds are vain”! We must understand that knowledge without character is deadly sin. Our emphasis should be on unilateral good character. Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is good, then we will see that one who was once our enemy has become our dearest friend. Our behaviour in society should not be retaliatory but good under all circumstances. Our character is reflected in our behaviour and actions.
*Knowledge is spiritual unfolding, the most important place in true knowledge is to have emphasis on spiritual unfolding as it is very necessary to make our knowledge virtuous one. We must cultivate our spiritual qualities, we must open our spiritual nature. It is basically gentleness, it is compassion. Cultivate the soul. Man is essentially spirit.
In the end, I would say that avid reading habit develops curiosity to learning. True learning gives us creativity, creativity leads us to proper thinking, better thinking. Positive thinking provides quality based knowledge – a virtuous knowledge and this knowledge makes us great.