Are We Living in a Self-Knowledge Amnesia?

The spectacle of corruption in our country is depressing. Pick up any newspaper or turn on any news channel or simply reminisce any single day of our life experience. We are sinking in the cesspool of corruption. How long can we hold our breath? Sooner or later either we surface above for fresh air or we gulp it. What is wrong with us any way? Why are we so selfish? What do we need so badly that we are ready to sell the future of our fellow citizens and the nation to benefit us? We are certainly smart people. We have ample intelligence to understand what we are doing and its eventual outcome. Yet our greed overwhelms all our rational ability. 

The Supreme Court said yesterday that the spread of corruption in our country is mind boggling. If there is a peace anywhere it is in the villages and jungles. I have a message for our honorable judges. Come and live in our villages. I live in one of them. Villages are where most of our poverty resides. Most of our villagers are essentially uneducated farm labors living at or below the poverty line. They bear the biggest brunt of the corruption rampant in our country. They are at the bottom of the totem pole with no recourse but to tolerate. May be the jungles are the only remaining bastion of peace. Unfortunately they are shrinking fast as well.
There is no escape from corruption. We cannot escape from ourselves. We have to look ourselves in the mirror and face us. There is no use looking to the left or right – just look at ourselves. In the words of Harry Truman “We have met the enemy and it is us”. If it hurts us to read this, then there is still hope for us.
I realize that there are exceptions to everything I am stating. But that is precisely the point. The exceptions should be the norm.
The empowered segment of our society is certainly well educated. We have learned how to attain intellectual excellence. However, we pour all of it to gain material excellence. We seem to have little time or interest in applying it to gain spiritual excellence. The term spiritual is not being used here in any religious sense. It relates to Spirit which is universal in nature. The moment we think beyond our selfish interests and feel concerned about others, we have entered the domain of spirituality. To be sure, we are very religious people. We have mastered religious rituals and harnessed every possible logic of how they can absolve us of any guilt (if we feel any). I am not anti-religion or anti-ritual. They both have a place in our lives. The problem here is limiting religions to mostly rituals and confusing rituals with spirituality.
A good friend of mine Dr. Rajshekhar Krishnan once told me about the Self-knowledge amnesia that we Indians suffer with. He took the domain of knowledge and split it in two: 1. Self knowledge and 2. Domain knowledge. If we are to draw Self-knowledge as the horizontal axis and the Domain knowledge as the vertical axis, the plane defined by the two is what is called “Karma-Bhoomi”. Any productive work (for us as individuals and country as a whole) done in the Karma-Bhoomi is the area under the curve as we traverse along both axes. Staying on and traversing along any single axis alone would not produce anything of value.
Domain knowledge is where we excel in. We are technically world class engineers, physicians, managers and professionals. However, we have not yet found how to excel in the Self knowledge. Worst yet whatever little Self knowledge we have we do not apply it in the field of Domain knowledge.
Let me give an example. I live in a village in eastern U.P., one of the most impoverished areas in our country. The villagers here are very simple and religious people. We often hold Tulasidas and Valmiki Ramayana recitals and discussions in our campus and invite all the villagers. We talk about how Lord Rama reached an exalted state of Self knowledge and applied it in his daily life actions (Domain knowledge). If we love him, we should try to follow his path in our daily life. They all listen to it faithfully. They get emotional and shed tears as they weave through Lord Rama’s trials and tribulations during the exile. Yet next day morning when they go to work, they are comfortably engaged in everything otherwise. They have convenient Self knowledge amnesia.
To be certain, it is commendable to gain Intellectual Excellence and Material Excellence. However, they are only stepping stones to Human Excellence. The third leg of the tri-pod, the Spiritual Excellence is largely missing and at best poorly understood and applied. As we benchmark ourselves, we find that the world at large has its own problems. We are world class in Intellectual Excellence. We are fast challenging to become world class in Material Excellence. However, we are far from being world class in Human Excellence. That has been and continues to be our tragedy.
Read Also: Part II of this article.


More by :  Dr. Gopal Singh

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