Sunday, March 4, 2012

141 Monday Musings – The futility of knowledge

141 Monday Musings – The futility of knowledge

Kabeer the mystic Bhakti poet was a big critic of institutionalized religion and all forms of ritualism. Of the many dimensions of ritualism that directed his ire against, one was institutionalized form of knowledge - the kind which is read or studied from books, the ones which if followed blindly, without regard to context or reason, can defeat the purpose of its pursuit. Kabeer went on to criticize the champions of such knowledge of those times in an acerbic tone, laced with disdain and sarcasm, ultimately drawing attention to the futility of such pursuit and such knowledge. Usually the metaphor of 'pandit' or 'maulvi' is used in abundance by him as a symbol of the repository or proponents of such knowledge in those times. For today’s times we can easily contextualize them to any fixed or rigid knowledge or protectors of such knowledge, who or whom refuse to adapt, learn or move on with times.

Kabeer says,
Pandit aur masalchi, dono soojhan nahi
auran ko kare chandana, aap andhere mahi
(the Pandit and the torchbearer do not understand, that they may be providing light to others, they themselves are in the dark)

Kabeer bahman ki katha, so choran ki naav
sab andhe mil baithiya, bhave tah le jaav
(Kaeer those who speak from only books are like a boat in the hand of thieves - all like blind people rowing it, it shan't reach the shore)

Padhi guni pathak bhaye, samjhaya sansaar
aapan to samjhe nahi, vritha gaya avtaar
(The teacher, who read only from books and tried to explain the mysteries of the world, did not understand those mysteries himself and wasted his life)

In today’s times, when all around us recorded knowledge reigns supreme, but that recorded knowledge has its own limitations. Wisdom, intellect, imagination and awareness are made to play second fiddle for not only children but also adults. Kabeer must be rediscovered as must be wisdom and imagination.

As my friend Pankaj Dubey often says, Knowledge is what already exists, imagination is what can be.


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