Sri Ramakrishna would often explain to his devotees the true nature of God. He would say that God is beyond both knowledge and ignorance and that only a person who can transcend both can realise God. He would say that even to know too many things comes under the domain of ignorance and that pride of scholarship too comes under that category. According to him, the unwavering conviction that God alone is true and that he dwells in all beings is true jnana or knowledge. He would even speak of a higher idea of knowledge called vijnana. A person following the path of jnana or knowledge negates all his experiences as not the truth and ultimately attains Truth. He is called a jnani. Such a knower then comes down from the dizzy heights of knowledge and then asserts every experience as manifestation of the highest Truth. He is called a vijnani. He would explain through a beautiful example how one can go beyond knowledge and ignorance. Supposing a thorn gets embedded into one’s foot, a second thorn is needed to take it out. After that both the thorns are thrown away. One has to procure the thorn of knowledge and remove the thorn of ignorance and then set aside knowledge and ignorance since God is beyond both.

To drive home the idea, further he would quote an incident from Ramayana.

Once Laxmana said to Rama, “Brother, how amazing it is that such a wise man as Vashistha wept bitterly at the death of his son.” In reply, Ramachandra said, “Brother, he who has knowledge must also have ignorance. He who is aware of light is also aware of darkness.”

Thus, the ultimate truth, by whatever name it is called, whether as God or Brahman, is beyond knowledge and ignorance, virtue and vice, merit and demerit, purity and impurity, etc. In other words, the ultimate truth is beyond words and cannot be described correctly.

– by Swami Shantatmanandaji, published in the ‘Sacred Books of the East’ column, Sunday Guardian, 10th Aug 2013

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