When my oldest daughter learned how to speak, which was at a very young age, she had an insatiable tendency to inquire about the nature of things. “Why is the sky blue?” “Why don’t the animals have houses?” “Can we eat dirt?” And on, and on, and on. She literally drove us crazy with all her questions. But, apparently, she was simply trying to figure things out so that she could efficiently operate in this world. For her, it was easier to ask her parents, whom she had faith in, than to experientially try to figure everything out.
Similarly, when we inquire into the Absolute Truth, we must be like an innocent child:not dumb, but honest in our inquiry. In other words, we must have a sincere desire to know the Truth, and a desire to dovetail our life so that it is in sync with the Truth. In the Bhagavad Gita, the Supreme Lord states:
“Just try to learn the Truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the Truth.”
So, finding a self-realized spiritual master is essential to learning the truth. But we’ll save that discussion for another blog. For now, let’s concentrate on the seeker, and the qualities she must possess in order to be successful. An honest inquiry inherently contains the element of humility, or submissiveness,and it must be tinged with a devotional, or service aptitude.
When an intelligent person wants to buy a car, he first tries to learn everything there is to know about it. He reads the trade magazines and consumer reports. He interviews those who already own that brand of car. He learns all about its features, accessories, performance, handling, etc. Then, when he is convinced he has found the right car, he inquires into what it will take to obtain it, as well as what sacrifices are necessary to purchase the new auto. Similarly, one who is tired of worldly life, and feels a need to acquire knowledge of Transcendence, is moved by the spirit of honest inquiry tocatapult her lifeout of the material realm into one of actual spiritual existence.She then begins by reading Transcendental literatures like the Bhagavad Gita, SrimadBhagavatam, the Bible, etc. Then she searches for a self-realized spiritual master, and humbly inquires into the nature of the Truth: its qualities, names,forms, pastimes, and so forth. Finally, when convinced of thesuperiority of Transcendental life over material existence, she inquires into what must bedone to enter that Transcendental condition.
However, there are two kinds of inquiry. The first is called Pariprasna. Pariprasna is fundamentally based on a serving temperament. This inquiring attitude is the first step in one’s spiritual growth, and when regularly followed, it accelerates into a habit of service. In other words, Pariprasna is the result of self-surrender and sincere submission, and it is inherently tinged with a serving attitude, as opposed to an enjoying attitude. This serving attitude is the key to spiritual success. When regularly implemented under transcendental guidance, a person’s material existence will graduallytransform into a spiritual existence, in the same way that a caterpillar, through metamorphosis, gradually turns into a beautiful butterfly.
On the other hand, there is another kind of inquiry which can be called idle curiosity or, more precisely, the desire to satisfy idle curiosity. This form of inquiry is lacking a serving temperament, and originates from a desire to gratify the senses, of which the mind is chief. In the beginning, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the two, but the honest inquiry of Pariprasna will swiftly propel one along the spiritual path, whereas idle curiosity will gradually degenerate into atheism. The foundation of Pariprasna is love and service, whereas the foundation of idle curiosity is lust and enjoyment of the senses. The honest inquirer simply wants to know the Truth and dovetail her life in the service of that Truth. The curious inquirer will sometimes make an outward show of honest inquiry or service, but inwardly hopes to gain money, women, fame and other trappings of material life. Such an inquirer can often maintain the outward show for months, or years, even lifetimes, but eventually he will give it up when he realizes that the Truth will annihilate his self centered, sensuous desires.When this happens, he must, by necessity, either gravitate towards a faith more conducive to his propensities for sense gratification or become an atheist, where he can guiltlessly pursue unlimited sensual pleasures.
The person who inquires out of idle curiosity, may spend many life times rotating from one faith to another to another. However, in each and every case, he brings his materialistic consciousness and desire to be number one with him, instead of undergoing the necessary internal change of consciousness from enjoyer to servant. Thus he finds fault in the principle rather than in himself.
How can he get out of this fruitless cycle? Only when he learns how to submit and surrender. This self-surrender will serve him as a vast reservoir where the nectarine utterances of the self-realized soul and the sweet passages of revealed scripture will be retained and preserved. Then the stream of elixir will awaken in the heart and manifest as loving service, and open the door to Transcendental Truth and the blissfulness which lies within
Let us all give up our idle curiosity, learn how to surrender, and in the mood of Pariprasna, inquire into the Absolute Truth.
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