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Ignorance Is The Cause Of All Human Suffering

Ignorance is the cause of all human suffering. Wisdom or Truth is the remedy. But hearing the Truth alone will not suffice. Truth must be understood and practiced. As Sri Ramakrishna used to say, by repeating the word medicine, the disease will not be cured. The medicine must be swallowed for it to take effect. And in the Upanishads we find the same idea expressed when it is said that Truth must first be heard, then meditated upon and then realized. By meditation Vedanta means not only the act of concentrating the mind seated in a certain posture, but also making Truth practical, carrying it out in our life and actions. This same process Sri Krishna expounds in the Gita. So after communicating the Truth to Arjuna He teaches him how to apply it in his condition of life. ‘Pleasure and pain, victory and defeat regard alike, and then engage in the battle, so shalt thou not commit sin.’ (Bhagavad Gita 2.38)

The first step then is work with discrimination. That leads to purification of the mind. Thus, the mind is prepared for jnana, or wisdom. With jnana comes renunciation and meditation.

In the last verse of the sixth chapter Sri Krishna said: ‘Among all the yogis, to Me he is the highest, who, with his inner Self absorbed in Me, worships Me with unflinching faith.’ That is the conclusion, the summing up, of all that has gone before. Arjuna was in sorrow and despondent. This terrible project before him – he in a way responsible for the horrible slaughter of human life about to take place – had troubled and confused his mind. Emotion and sentiment overruled his reason and he was about to withdraw from the battlefield, thinking thereby to escape a great sin, a cruel and passionate deed. Sri Krishna convinced him of his folly, presenting before him Truth in its different forms.

The ideal has been placed before us. ‘Among all the yogis, to Me he is the highest, who, with his inner Self absorbed in Me, worships Me with unflinching faith.’ (Bhagavad Gita 6.47) The question, then, is how can we worship God with faith, our soul resting in Him? How can we cultivate that faith, how can we train our mind that it may be contented to rest in God?

Knowledge brings love, faith and devotion. We cannot put our entire trust in a stranger. As long as God is a stranger to us, our faith and devotion can be only half-hearted, and will at times be interrupted by doubts and misgivings. We must know God to be able to put our faith in Him. Our mind will rest satisfied only in that which we know and love.