Decades ago, when my dad had just completed his engineering degree — the highest level of education that anyone had ever achieved in his family back then — he used to be a chubby young man.
One afternoon, at home in Delhi after years away in hostel, he was lying side by side chatting with his mom on her bed. My grandmother was a graceful woman all through her life; she never raised her voice. Mostly dressed in white saris paired with pearls, there was an air of ethereal calm about her. Even when she disapproved of something you did, she expressed it softly, regally, so that you yearned to earn her approval in future.
While having this conversation, my father recalls the topic veering to his weight. In her typical gentle fashion, his mother said, “What is the point of all your education, son, if you cannot even master control over your body?”
Moved to action, my father lost several kilos and made sure his weight stayed in the normal range — where he continues to be five decades later.
At one of the study lectures I attended, the teacher talked about the ‘application of knowledge’, over and above the acquisition of it.
She likened it to having two separate bank accounts. “You are born with a certain amount of ‘loan’ from the universe; call it past karma or debts to be paid. Let’s say this amount is Rupees 50,000. Now, once you find a guru, begin on your path of self-discovery, and start acquiring wisdom, this is like earning money in another account. Let’s say you earn Rupees 70,000 in this account.”
To all appearances, she continued, it appears as if the knowledge / wisdom you have earned would cancel your debts. “But this is not automatic,” she went on. “If you do not make a conscious effort to take the money from one bank to the other, your debts stay right there. In other words, you have to work on your karmic weaknesses using the knowledge you have acquired. Otherwise, your knowledge merely turns into arrogance and you don’t progress on the path to enlightenment.”
How do we know what our karmic debts are? “Look at your habits. They are a sign of your karmic tendencies. The good habits are to be strengthened. The bad habits are symptoms of old karmic weaknesses (such as lack of self-love). Use your knowledge to attack those tendencies. Only then can you say the debts have been cleared.”
Nearly 50 years ago, my angelic grandmother advised my father to use his education to fix his negative tendencies. On Fathers Day 2014, I am inspired to do the same.
Immersing yourself in knowledge is a wondrous gift; but using it to shine the sharp torchlight of awareness on your own soul is a priceless blessing. Let us start counting ours.