Why study philosophy – 2?
Why we do something determines how we do it and how long we do it.
Suppose we study a subject such as philosophy to impress others. People are often impressed by hearing things that sound wise, profound, philosophical. When we want to be praised by such people, the question that drives our study of philosophy is: “Where can I find an impressive soundbite?” And if our soundbite doesn’t elicit praise, we soon stop studying philosophy.
While studying philosophy, when we seek to impress others, we deprive ourselves of wisdom that can help us improve ourselves. Philosophy improves us by explaining how we can better align with the nature of reality. After all, philosophy means ‘love (philo) of truth (sophos)’.
Indeed, the time-honored philosophical text Bhagavad-gita was spoken when Arjuna desperately needed to know the right course of action (02.07). Arjuna wasn’t at all concerned about impressing anyone. Far from it, he readily took the humble position of seeking spiritual knowledge in the middle of two huge armies. That too, at the start of a war wherein he was expected to shine as the foremost warrior. By not caring about impressing the world, Arjuna could get the knowledge he needed. And the Gita’s wisdom dramatically improved his state of mind: from confusion (02.06) to confidence (18.73).
When we study philosophy for improving ourselves, our driving questions are: “How does this speak to me? How can it expand my perspective? How can it guide my actions?” And we get many precious insights for making our life more purposeful, more meaningful and more joyful. The resulting fulfillment enriches us far more than the titillation of impressing others. .
Study philosophy to improve yourself, not to impress others.
Think it over:
- If we seek to impress others, how does that affect our study of philosophy?
- Explain Arjuna’s motive when hearing the Gita and how it affected his learning.
- When you study philosophy, what are your driving questions?
02.07: Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of miserly weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me for certain what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.
To know more about this verse, please click on the image
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