The power of knowledge was realised by our forefathers at the advent of the civilisation. Rishis and Munis gave up the leisure’s of their homes and faced the hostilities of life in search of ‘Nirvana’.
“And seeing ignorance is the curse of God.
Knowledge the wing wherewith we fly to heaven. —Shakespeare (Henry IV)
The Reader’s Digest Encyclopaedia describes knowledge as “Familiarity, awareness or understanding gained through experience or study” which is “the sum or range of what has been perceived, discovered or inferred”. Knowledge is that enlightened torch which lights the way to success, and that weapon which not only shields one from enemies, but also clears the path to prosperity and fortune. In short, it is synonymous to ‘Power’.
The power of knowledge was realised by our forefathers at the advent of the civilisation. Rishis and Munis gave up the leisure’s of their homes and faced the hostilities of life in search of ‘Nirvana’. It was this power of knowledge that motivated Siddhartha to become Gautam Budha, turned Kalidas into the greatest Sanskrit poet of Indian Literature, and gave birth to the philosophies of Vedas and Puranas.
The purpose of knowledge is to know all what is knowable and eliminate differences. Today in the world when histories are rewritten, maps redrawn, and the power equations are ever changing the need to broaden one’s outlook, acceptance of novel or unheard things, a detachment from past glory and looking forward to future has a paramount place.
Knowledge gives the confidence of knowing and ‘To know is to win’ as Mahabharat says, “The way of knowledge is superior to the way of action.” It is a dynamic process, for it entails to progress—scientific, technological and economic, but to mental, physical and spiritual as well. Thus, it helps in both internal and external development of the individual. It makes one aware of the happenings around him, and also gives him the power of understanding, reasoning and analysis.
Knowledge has played a very important part in the life of man. The need for conserving knowledge was realised even by the prehistoric man. The knowledge of using stone tools, domestication of animals, agriculture and the discovery of wheel were passed on from one generation to another. The first symbols from the language were pictorial and inscriptions can be seen in the prehistorically caves.
As man settled down to a more civilised life, the knowledge gained by him in past worked as channels of water, nourishing his very soul, and propelling him to success. With each era, his knowledge became his only tool for progress. New inventions and discoveries changed lifestyles and also the form and mode of communication. Pictures and figures gave way to writings on palm leaves and Tamrapatras.
With change in times, new scripts and languages were developed, and so developed cultures, and with each era, knowledge of past metamorphosed life into a better form, with each civilisation zealously conserving its own style. But slowly as cultures intermixed, so did ideas and knowledge, and the influence of one culture showed its impact on others.
Each civilisation benefited from the experiences and knowledge gained by others. No wonder the Harappan Civilisation had influence on the Mesopotamian Civilisation and the Greek influence was seen in Indian culture. Knowledge gave momentum to progress, and transformed cave man into a more civilised and progressive man.
Knowledge paves the way to ‘Realisation’ and history is witness that it is the ‘Mother of Renaissance’. The French Revolution, Russian Revolution and the American War of Independence were all a great success, because they were guided by the great scholars of that time Rousseau, Voltaire, Karl Marx, etc. who influenced the entire world by their ideas. And Indians were not left behind.
Started merely as a possession and succession issue of the small rulers, the Indian struggle for Independence soon became a mass revolution, not only in political domain, but in social arena as well.
The great social reformer Raja Rammohan Roy was a great scholar, well-versed with Persian, Sanskrit and world history and this knowledge gave him the power to defy the social norms set by the then conservation Indian society. Swami Vivekananda also saved India from the clichés of social evils and put India and Indian Philosophy to the international forum.
The torchbearers of Independence movement Pt. Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Netaji Bose, to name a few, were all great thinkers and scholars. Their erudition and wisdom not only changed the course of Indian history but also determined the path taken by the world in Post World War era.
Knowledge knows no bounds. It is necessary to have an understanding of a wide range of things affecting the web of our life. This is an era of ‘Internationalism’. The world has shrunk arid the events in one part of the globe have a direct influence on other parts as well.
With computerisation and new changes in the field of Information Technology, where skills are changing at the split of a second, it is necessary to be aware of new improvements in the world forum. Today battles are won not by men or arsenals, but by superior know how and better war strategies.
After the Second World War, the gap between countries is fast reducing and many international organisations have come up to bridge differences between more and lesser-privileged nations. The world itself has shrunk, and the political boundaries are losing significance. In such conditions, one needs to have a more liberal outlook. The knowledge of history and culture, not only of our own country, but also of others is important. Knowledge should make us more tolerant and open to other’s views.
After liberalisation, the Indian market was opened to competition. The political and social events in other countries affect our economy and culture too. The issues discussed at the world podium Economic, Social, Political, Spiritual, Environmental and Technological have a direct influence on our path of progress. It is not only necessary to be aware of these issues, but also be able to understand and analyse them to fully benefit from them.
The path of attainment of knowledge is not without thorns. “The three foundations of learning: Seeing much, suffering much and studying much” (Catherall). A sincere and consistent effort is required to have the fruits of knowledge. The ancient Gurukuls required students from all classes of society to stay and study away from homes.
To ‘make our lives sublime’ we have to remind ourselves that success does not come in a silver bowl, and one has to forgo many pleasures of life to achieve fame and prosperity. Great deeds are achieved by Great men because “They were toiling upwards in the night while their companions slept’.
And a mere scanning of surface won’t yield result, for ‘to search pearls, you have to dive below’. One has to be thorough in the information gathered to properly utilise it.
“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring.” —Pope (In Essay on Criticism)
Knowledge leads to logic and reason. It is important not only to know ‘what and ‘where’, but also ‘how and ‘why. Half information and shallow knowledge leads to misinterpretation of facts. To have a complete knowledge is to have the whole picture clear. Otherwise it would be like the legend of the blind that interpreted the elephant according to the parts they were holding.
Knowledge is a power to those who can dare and utilise it. Knowledge elevates one from the level of a common man to that of a learned erudite. The greatest scholar of Indian history Kautilya’s once said. ‘A king is admired only in his own territory, but a scholar is admired and respected worldwide’. Gandhiji said, “It is knowledge that ultimately gives salvation”.
India, in her 4000 years of glorious history has a mosaic of varied cultures and religious faiths, which have enriched her soil with their plethora of knowledge. It is ironic that a country, which in past forced great annexure and thinkers to bow down to her feet with awe and respect, today nourishes a third of world’s population which is still engulfed with pangs of illiteracy, caste and religious violence and poverty.
To make India a Superpower and return her past glory, it is important to rise from selfish aspirations and utilise our energy and knowledge in the national interest.
Knowledge makes us aware, rational, open minded, tolerant and progressive. Knowledge paves the way to success and leads to self realisation and finally to self actualization. Otherwise our life would be what an anonymous poet described:
“All life moving to one measure,
Daily bread and daily butter,
Life of toil, life of sorrow,
Hand to mouth and nothing tomorrow.”