Of Ignorance and Bliss

Whoever said Ignorance is bliss must be kidding. On the contrary everyday we find people being penalized for ignorance. In the court of law one can not plead ignorance of law as a defence. Same thing holds for violation of any rules in our daily lives – be it the traffic rules on the road or whatever else. In the world of Business or Finance too the ignorant and gullible are the worst sufferers of losses.

I was pleasantly surprised to find an endorsement of this principle from a completely unexpected quarter – YOGA VASISHTA, which is a very ancient Hindu scripture. The entire text is in the form of a dialogue between Rama and his ‘Rajaguru’, the sage Vasishta. Rama raises a number of philosophical issues and Vasishta answers them all through philosophical discourses as well as parables. I will very briefly narrate the relevant story below:

Once upon a time there lived a demoness called KARKATI in the Himalayan mountain range. She had a huge body and was always hungry. No amount of food would satisfy her hunger. Therefore she sat in penance to seek a boon. Brahma, the creator was immensely pleased and appeared before her. She wanted a boon which would transform her to a very small, invisible insect( a virus?) which could enter any body without effort and devour the same. Brahma granted the boon saying that she could enter anybody with unclean habits through their fingers. The demoness got the form she wanted and began invading bodies as ordained by Brahma. But soon the demoness realized that with such an invisible body, she was not in a position to eat large quantities. Therefore, she sat in penance once again. Brahma appeared again and blessed her with another boon. Brahma made her regain her huge form once again. A strange solution to her hunger problem was provided by the gods. The demoness could eat only the ignorant among the human species! In justification the demoness was told: “It is NOT A SIN to kill the ignorant for the sake of food. The ignorant serve no purpose in the world as they are condemned to suffer. They would always feel miserable and spread the same to others as well”.
Having got the boon, the demoness now went around looking for the ignorant. She found a king and his minister relaxing near a pond and threatened to kill them. The king was wise and responded to the situation with calmness. When the demoness explained to the king about the boon she obtained from Brahmaji, the king proposed to the demoness to eat all the ignorant subjects in his kingdom leaving behind the wise ones. Needless to say the demoness lived happily ever after devouring the ignorant and miserable people in the kingdom.

The story above is illustrative of how ignorance is NOT protected or supported even in our scriptures. One need not take the story as a sanction to kill the ignorant and the miserable. The story has to be viewed in the right context. It is to provoke and inspire people to rid themselves of ignorance for the purpose of happy living.
The basic point to note here is that in a kingdom, if killing is inevitable to accommodate the demoness with her boons, the ignorant are among the first ones to be sacrificed. Besides ignorance, uncleanliness is also condemned in the story.

Postscript:
My daughter discussed the story with me and she was unable to reconcile with the fact that the king was prepared to sacrifice the ignorant among his subjects. I explained that the story is merely symbolic. Ignorance itself is the demoness within which will eventually consume the ignorant. That is the law of Nature – ‘NIYATI’.
Charles Darwin,the well known English Biologist of the 19th century in his famous book ‘Origin Of Species’ talks about ‘Survival of the fittest’. Who are the fittest? The species which is blessed with evolutionary intelligence.

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Published in: on December 17, 2011 at 5:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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