Life is hectic. I like to read spiritual literature on a daily basis but quite often it’s just not possible. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna uses a number of metaphors to describe the power of transcendental knowledge (jnana).
Jnana-agni – “The fire of knowledge”. The Vedic literatures explain how we enter this world with a karmic ‘bank balance’. Day-to-day experiences are not just random occurrences or token challenges disposed by an insensitive God who wants His subjects to suffer. Rather, the purpose of karma is educational. You could call it cosmic sensitivity training. Experiences and events are meant to teach us a better way to live and interact with the world. If one accrues such understanding by reading books, and imbibes such knowledge within themselves, then such karma is not required. Thus, knowledge is described as the fire which can burn up all of one's karmic reactions.
Jnana-plava – “The boat of knowledge.” The world we live in is compared to an ocean. We may occasionally go for a dip, but eventually we need to return to our natural habitat. Salt water and dangerous creatures make things a little uncomfortable. Similarly, although there is undoubtedly some pleasure in this world, nobody can escape the harsh realities. There are distresses caused by one’s own body and mind, distresses caused by other living beings and distresses caused by nature. Spiritual knowledge is the boat which protects one from the sufferings of this oceanic world and simultaneously carries one across to the spiritual realm where unending and ever-increasing happiness is found.
Jnana-dipena – “The lamp of knowledge.” Walking in the dark is quite dangerous. You struggle to reach your desired destination and in the process you get a few painful knocks. The lamp of knowledge acts to warn us of the possible obstacles and impediments that we may come across in our spiritual endeavours. Amidst so many worldly demands, the lamp of knowledge also keeps our consciousness awake to the ultimate goal of life, ensuring we reach the correct destination at the end of our sojourn in this world.
Jnana-asina – “The sword of knowledge.” Leave your garden unattended for a year and many weeds will manifest. The longer you neglect them, the harder they are to uproot. After a while you may just give up. Similarly, the garden of spirituality will have its fair share of weeds in the form of doubts. Am I missing out on something? Have I made the right decisions? Will I be able to continue on this path for the rest of my life? Leave those doubts unattended and they become quite deep-rooted. Thus, knowledge is compared to a sword which cuts the doubts, and helps one remain determined and fixed on the spiritual journey.