Early in my spiritual quest, Swami Kriyananda was trying to help me balance a tendency to be overly rational. He patiently explained what I needed to do, and I said, “I understand, Sir.” He replied, kindly but firmly, “I don’t care whether you understand or not, I want you to change.”
I’ve never forgotten that bit of advice, and it illustrates a mistake made by many. We don’t have to understand something in order to change it, anymore than we need to understand electricity to be able to change a light bulb. In fact, analyzing situations is often a defense mechanism the ego uses to protect itself from needed change.
The quest for knowledge has its place. It is helpful on the material plane and can get us a diploma or a job. But, as seekers, we are trying to transcend this plane, and for us the realm of reason is too restrictive. A hot-air balloon can lift us above the hills, but it cannot take us to the stars.
People who are too rational may actually hinder their spiritual growth. They can suffer from a “Zeno” complex. Zeno was a Greek philosopher who posed this paradox: For an arrow to hit a target, it must move from the bow to the target. But, in the minutest instant of time, the arrow is frozen and unmoving. If the arrow is motionless at every instant, and time is entirely composed of instants, then motion is impossible. I’ve known people who spend so much time analyzing things that, if not frozen in time, at best they plod slowly and timidly through life, becoming dry and forgetting to enjoy the here and now.
What we really need is not mental understanding but wisdom, which entails the marriage of head and heart. Normally wisdom grows gradually, as the mind learns discrimination, and as the heart becomes expanded by love and softened through pain. A shorter path to wisdom can be found by concentrating at the spiritual eye in deep, silent meditation, and by attuning oneself to a truly wise guru.
At times we need to toss thinking aside and let activity become our teacher. Swami Kriyananda encouraged me to paint because, as he put it, “It will help you develop your intuition.” He knew that unleashing the creative flow would lift me above the dry desert of an overactive intellect.
Just as a snake must shed its old skin, we grow by casting off old self-definitions. We already have what we seek: We have been one with God since the very first breath of creation. We don’t need to learn anything in order to know Him, but only to remember and realize what we truly are. Open your heart to Him, and He will come. When we still the tumult of thought and eddies of emotion, it is then we can hear His whispers. In this eternal quest, understanding is overrated.
In divine friendship,