The Pundit (Part One)

There once lived a pundit in a village, and he was proud of his religious knowledge. He would preach to the people passing by in the street, and they would usually stop and listen. One evening, however, everyone seemed to be in a rush and no one had time to hear his discourse on God except for one small boy who was making his way home, carefully carrying an oil lamp in his hands.

‘Boy,’ began the pundit, ‘you have an oil lamp. Do you know where the flame in your oil lamp came from?’

The small boy stood and thought for a while. Then he did a strange thing. He extinguished the flame in his lamp and replied, ‘No, but maybe you can you tell me where the flame has gone?’

It was a poignant lesson from a small child. The pundit was struck by the limitations of his own intellect, and as a result his spiritual search began in earnest.

Guruji says that most people’s minds and senses are involved with the physical world, and they don’t want to think too deeply. When it comes to matters about God, they are content to discuss and reason with their intellect, but they are not interested in gaining actual experience.

However, the brain and intellect are limited when it comes to cosmic consciousness, and therefore religious and spiritual perception remains superficial and incomplete. “As I have told you before, mind cannot see everything at once. It can only see half a truth at one time. This is typical of the senses, they can confuse you. It will never be possible to explain or convey what God is through language or words. No one can draw a picture of God, because no one has ever seen Him with their physical eyes.”

On the other hand, those who genuinely want to understand will reach a point in their lives where the spiritual journey will direct them inward. Guruji adds, “The desire to meditate should come in a natural way, by itself from inside. Then it is real. We can never force anyone to do Kriya. And it is artificial to copy other people. Therefore we never practise Kriya in a group.”

Guruji was telling us the story of “The Pundit” in three parts during one Satsang, and this first part reminded me of how my spiritual journey started in India – when I first met Guruji. That story is written in my book Footsteps to Freedom, Four Spiritual Masters of Kriya Yoga and a Beginner, and if you have read it you will know how the biographies of the masters’ in Guruji’s lineage are intertwined with the questions I asked Guruji as a beginner in yoga, learning first-hand all about the inadequacies of the intellect! And you’ll understand why the stories and examples which Guruji told led me to the inevitable conclusion that bookish knowledge doesn’t stand up to the wisdom and authority of a spiritual master.

“I can try to explain what yoga is,” Guruji would say. “But we can only understand by practice. My Guruji* was always giving emphasis to do practice; this is the most important thing. This is the place where there is only one, where there is no separation. So don’t just be satisfied with listening and reading. And remember how Kabir Das (the mystic poet) never studied books, he was not academic. His words came through realisation.”

*Guruji’s Guru was Sri Satya Charan Lahiri, the grandson of Sri Lahiri Mahasaya.