Without inner knowledge, outer knowledge can become useless

Suppose we live in a locality where thieves ambush people walking through the streets. We need to know how to protect ourselves from those thieves. If instead we get caught in learning about trivia such as the city’s celebrity gossip, that would be tragically self-defeating.

In real life, our pursuit of knowledge is similarly lopsided. In preparing for life, we pursue knowledge with great seriousness. We learn a lot about our outer world, including practical skills to earn a living and news about what is happening where. While we busy ourselves with such outer knowledge, we find ourselves ambushed by some mysterious inner forces; certain dark desires, emotions or moods come upon us and make us act in shortsighted, self-destructive ways. 

The Bhagavad-gita depicts the danger of the lack of inner knowledge. Arjuna, the greatest archer of his times, was ambushed internally when he was about to fight the biggest battle of his life. Overcome by delusion and dejection, he put aside his bow and refused to fight (01.46) — an action that could have rendered useless all the archery knowledge that he had acquired lifelong. Similarly, all the outer knowledge we acquire will go waste if we don’t learn how to counter inner ambushes. 

Thankfully, the Gita provides systematic knowledge about the dynamics of our inner world. Within us is our mind, which acts as our enemy (06.06) as long as it is driven by self-destructive desires (03.37). The Gita equips us with various philosophical insights and spiritual practices that empower us to prevent inner ambushes. 

By understanding the Gita, Arjuna became ready to face life’s challenges (18.73). The Gita stands ready to similarly empower us all. 

One-sentence summary:

Let’s seek inner knowledge as seriously as we seek outer knowledge; otherwise, inner ambushes will render all our outer knowledge useless. 

Think it over:

  • How is our pursuit of knowledge lopsided?
  • How does the Gita illustrate the danger of lack of inner knowledge?
  • Have you ever been ambushed internally? How can you use Gita wisdom to protect yourself?

***

01.46: Sanjaya said: Arjuna, having thus spoken on the battlefield, cast aside his bow and arrows and sat down on the chariot, his mind overwhelmed with grief.

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