Spiritual knowledge elevates us above misery – and eliminates misery too
The Bhagavad-gita uses two metaphors for illustrating the transformational potency of spiritual knowledge. Just as a sturdy boat helps us to cross over an ocean, the boat of spiritual knowledge helps us cross over the ocean of misery (04.36). And just as fire reduces the debris put in it to ashes, so does the fire of transcendental knowledge reduce the impurities within to ashes (04.37).
Gita commentators explain that these metaphors are progressive in demonstrating spiritual knowledge’s potency. After we cross over an ocean, it still remains as it is. But when we burn something, it no longer remains as it is; it is destroyed, being reduced to ashes.
When we learn and live spiritual knowledge, we become increasingly absorbed in our spiritual core and in the supreme spiritual reality, Krishna. Such absorption enables us to tolerate and transcend the miseries of this world, even when those miseries continue to exist. By thus elevating our consciousness from the material level to the spiritual level, spiritual knowledge elevates us above misery.
Simultaneously, spirituality addresses the cause of misery by eliminating it. Much of our misery is caused by our own impurities such as shortsighted impulses, superficial desires, unnecessary anxieties and undue negativities. These impurities reside within us and impel us towards self-destructive actions.
When we live in the light of spiritual knowledge, the blaze of that knowledge burns away our impurities, enabling us to avoid self-defeating actions and to choose constructive actions. Just as the ocean remains, so too will the world remain a place of distress. But as we internalize spiritual knowledge, many of the inner impurities that increase our distress decrease substantially and even become eliminated.
Thus, our sustained attempts to mold our life according to spiritual knowledge take us beyond misery through both elevation and elimination.
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