We don’t think twice about taking a shower every morning. It’s just something we naturally do. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t feel ready to face the day ahead. Great sages explain that just as we bathe in water every day to cleanse the body, we should similarly bathe in the words of the sacred texts on a daily basis to cleanse our consciousness. That philosophical bath wakes us up to reality, cleans out unhealthy qualities, and ultimately becomes something we enjoy and look forward to. It’s absolutely essential for our spiritual health.
In the Bhagavad-gita
, Krishna uses four beautiful metaphors to emphasis the value and power of reading Vedic scripture.
Jnana-agni – ‘the fire of knowledge’ We enter this world with a karmic ‘bank balance’ and subsequently undergo the roller coaster journey of life. Our experiences are meant to teach us a better way to live and interact in the world. Thus, the ultimate purpose of karma is educational. However, if we can read the scriptures, assimilate transcendental knowledge, and internalize those spiritual truths, then such karma is no longer required. Thus, knowledge acts as fire and incinerates our karmic reactions.
Jnana-plava – ‘the boat of knowledge’ This world can be compared to a choppy ocean. Just as a series of violent waves can capture and drown a swimmer, the misfortunes, reversals and inevitable sufferings we face can unsettle and ‘capture’ us. Thus, spiritual knowledge is likened to a boat that carries us through hardship. It builds our inner strength to embrace and overcome whatever life sends our way. Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. Eventually, this boat carries one to the spiritual realm where permanent relief, peace and spiritual joy are actually found.
Jnana-dipena – ‘the lamp of knowledge’ Walking in the dark is dangerous; we struggle to reach our destination and probably receive a few painful knocks on the way. The lamp of knowledge illuminates our path and warns us of the possible obstacles and impediments that we may encounter on our spiritual journey. Amidst so many pressing demands, the shining lamp of knowledge keeps our consciousness awake to the ultimate goal of life, ensuring that we make decisions which will advance us towards our ultimate destination: Krishna in the spiritual world.
Jnana-asina – ‘the sword of knowledge’ Leave your garden unattended for a year and weeds will take over. Unfortunately, the longer you neglect them, the harder they are to uproot. The garden of spirituality also has its fair share of weeds in the form of doubts. Am I missing out on something? Have I made the right decisions?Does God really exist? If we leave those doubts unattended, they also take root. Thus, knowledge is compared to a sword which cuts the doubts and helps one remain determined, patient and enthusiastic in their spiritual pursuits.
As with chanting, it’s best to read daily, either a certain number of pages or for a certain amount of time. We can make a thorough study, noting interesting or difficult passages, or we can simply read our way through, confident of our spiritual purificati on. It’s a good idea to offer respects to Krishna and His representatives before we begin reading. We can pray that the words we read will penetrate our heart and transform our character. Srila Prabhupada
explains that besides reading, we should discuss spiritual topics with others. This is actually the best way to assimilate knowledge.