As human beings we are gifted with the faculty of thinking and learning. If we want to know about arts or science, a means of knowledge is absolutely essential. The sense organs, by means of which we know shabda, sparsha, rupa, rasa and gandha (words, touch, form, taste and smell), are the means of knowledge which enable us to perform daily activities. We are fully aware of their vital importance.
As parents, we willingly spend vast sums of money to educate our children in the best universities to enable them to live comfortably, earn name and fame etc. To acquire this knowledge, we are ready to invest precious time, energy and resources. In return, we gain degrees, secure a well-paying job, get good employment benefits, status among our peers and so on. But does this knowledge have the power to dispel all our fears and make us free?
We all have fears about the future. Fear of the future, of the unknown, does not disappear automatically. We also have a tendency to grieve over the past. We lament over the past, fear the future and are confused in the present. This sorrow, confusion and fear cannot be removed by acquiring more and more degrees.
Vedanta reveals that all our sorrows, fears, anxieties, stress and confusion are not because we do not know Physics, Maths or other subjects but because we do not know ourselves. It is only knowledge of ourselves that liberates us from all sorrows and leads to the state of fearlessness.
What is the root cause of all suffering? If it is lack of money, wealthy people should be free from any distress; if it is absence of a university degree, those holding degrees, should be free of sorrows; and if it is unemployment, the well-employed should not have problems. But, it is not so.
The pages of history reveal that many great spiritual masters, who could not even write their names, were totally free from all fears. Even though they lacked objective knowledge, they were endowed with the knowledge of the self. It is absence of this knowledge alone that leads to suffering, confusion and fear.
In Vivekchudamani, Shankaracharya states that all our suffering is only due to ignorance of our true nature. Just as ignorance of physics can only be removed by learning about physics, ignorance of the self can only be removed by acquiring self-knowledge.
For this, Vedanta, the Upanishads, alone are the means. All different forms of knowledge have their respective textbooks. Similarly, the science of spirituality, adhyatma shastra, also has its prescribed textbooks.
Lord Krishna, enumerating his glories in the 10th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita declares that among all branches of knowledge, self-knowledge is the highest knowledge. Knowing this truth, one is enlightened and totally fulfilled; never to be deluded again.