What we know doesn’t define us as much as what we want to know

Suppose someone who is in a disaster-hit area knows the path to a safe, prosperous area. Naturally, they will be respected for their knowledge by all those who want to get to safety. However, if they become proud of their knowledge and use it simply to get praise from others and not to chart and follow a way out of danger, they will court disaster. 

Gita wisdom explains that the material world is a disaster zone where distress and death can befall at any moment. Beyond this material world is a supremely safe zone: the personal abode of the all-attractive ultimate reality, Krishna. 

Those with such spiritual knowledge can chart the way from material consciousness to spiritual consciousness – not just for themselves but also for others. However, they may become proud of their knowledge, exhibiting it by quoting complicated verses and esoteric points, and delighting in the resulting praise. By their actions for thus seeking pleasure in this world, they show that deep down, they don’t believe essential spiritual truths such as the following: this world is distressful, and Krishna is all-blissful. Their desire is not to go from the world to Krishna, but to show the world how much they know about Krishna. Because of such misdirected desires, their knowledge becomes nullified (Bhagavad-gita 03.32). 

In contrast, suppose others who don’t know many esoteric scriptural points still want to know about life’s essential truths and ultimately about Krishna. Their wanting to know those truths will not only increase their knowledge but will also take them toward spiritual realization. As their desires are directed toward Krishna, they will be elevated and eventually liberated (03.31).

Thus, on the spiritual path, we are defined not so much by what we know as by what we want to know. 


Think it over:

  • How can spiritual knowledge become nullified?
  • When following a spiritual path, what are we defined by? Why?
  • Contemplate whether your spiritual knowledge is changing the direction of your desires. 



03.32 But those who, out of envy, disregard these teachings and do not follow them regularly are to be considered bereft of all knowledge, befooled, and ruined in their endeavors for perfection.

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