By Jamie Spatafore

Lack of true knowledge is the source of all pains and sorrows whether dormant, attenuated, interrupted or fully active.

All of the pain and sorrow that we think we feel are due to ignorance. How do we get rid of this ignorance? To say we are ignorant is to say that there is some kind of knowledge that we do not know. All of us will admit to having felt pain and sorrow at some point in our lives. We all have had that experience. It is unpleasant and we are not satisfied or happy until we are rid of that which we assume is causing our pain or sorrow.

Patanjali says that the only way to permanently get rid of pain and sorrow is to gain true knowledge. Easy enough to understand but what does he mean by true knowledge? Is he speaking about the type of knowledge found in books or lectures of teachers?

Let us break it down further. It has been said that for anything to be considered true it must be unchanging. It cannot be something one day and something else the other. It has to be the same from beginning to end.

If we accept that premise then we can immediately start pulling a few veils away. Let’s take this body. The moment it was born it starts to die. Nothing will stop this process. Sure, we can delay it by living a healthy, natural life but this body will eventually turn back to dust. It is not enduring is it? Then it cannot be the truth. To think that we are solely this body is avidya (ignorance). Instinctively we know this don’t we? Be honest with yourself for a moment. Do you see death all around you every day? Cousins, mothers, brothers all have passed away right before our eyes yet if we are being honest we will admit that we do not feel like we are going to die. Why is that? The proof is right in front of us yet we have this feeling that death will not happen to us. That is our instinct taking over and it is right. Sure these bodies will eventually die. This mind will die too. But that is only a fraction of who we really are. Sad to say that even though we instinctually feel this, it takes many, many years to come to a firm understanding of this knowledge. That is because we have spent many years telling ourselves a lie. It’s not only our fault. Society has moulded us to believe in this lie too.

Go outside on a sunny day and look at the sky. What colour do you see? Of course, you will see blue but I ask you this question: Is the sky really blue? Doesn’t it only have the appearance of being blue? If it were truly blue then when we are on a plane, the wings, tail, etc. will take on a bluish tone. This all sounds very childish and in the west, we call it “splitting hairs” but it is an important point. This is just one of the thousands of ways we lie to ourselves every day. I haven’t learned much in this realm but one thing I know from experience is you have to be totally honest with yourself in order to proceed.

The first step is to stop lying to ourselves. Stop believing everything society tells us. Stop believing people just because they are older than us.

We have to find this knowledge by ourselves. Sure your Guru can push you along, he/she can poke you a little bit if you get lazy but he/she can’t do it for you. The Guru can show you the way and even open the door but you have to walk through on your own.

Ok. What do we do? There are hundreds of teachers teaching hundreds of techniques. Which do we choose? Which do we follow? Don’t stress yourself so much about who is right and who is wrong. It has been said at the end of the day all are right and all are wrong at the same time. Those things are footnotes and not entirely important at the end of the road. The important practice is the remembrance. The important practice is the remembrance of who we really are. Actually, it is better put as who we really aren’t. We are not the body. We are not the mind. Sure they are a small part of this life but they are minute compared to our boundless infinite nature. This remembrance is the real sadhana and it is a thousand times harder than learning to do a handstand. However, it must be done eventually. Peace.