Parables of Rama

by Swami Rama Tirtha | 102,836 words

Stories in English used by Swami Rama to illustrate the highest teaching of Vedanta. The most difficult and intricate problems of philosophy and abstract truths, which may very well tax the brains of the most intellectual, are thus made not only simple and easy to understand but also brought home to us in a concrete form in such an interesting and ...

Story 84 - Two ways of Acquiring Knowledge

The Two Painters

A different version of parable No. 82

They say, at one time a prince was going to get one of his most glorious palaces painted in a marvellous way. Many painters came hoping that he would select the very best painter for the job. He gave them an examination. Two walls stood side by side parallel to each other, and two painters were employed to paint these walls. Curtains were hanging on these walls so that the work of one painter could not be seen by the other. About two weeks were allowed to them to finish their work. One of the painters reproduced on the wall all the scenes of the Mahabharata, the grand book of the world, and his work was most marvellous and glorious indeed. As to the other painter, I will not tell you yet what he was doing. Two weeks passed, and the king with his retinue came to the scene, arid the curtain was lifted from the work of the first painter, and there were thousands and thousands of pictures upon the wall. Everybody who looked at the wall was wonder-struck. They stood, all surprised, in a most wonder struck mood. How glorious was the work! All the spectators cried out. "Give him the reward, select him for the highest work which you want to be done! Let him be the victor, let him be rewarded." Then the king ordered the other man to lift up his curtain, and when the curtain was lifted, all the people stood there with bated breath, their lips half open, their breathing suspended, and their eyes wide open with amazement. They could not utter a word; they were pictures of .amazement and surprise. Why? What had this second man done? Everything on the wall of the first man was inscribed on the wall of the second man, with this difference that while the first man's paintings were relatively rough and rugged*and uncouth, the second man's paintings were so smooth, neat and clean, and so soft and polished, that even a fly in its attempt to sit upon the wall would slip away. So beautiful was the work! and further, they saw that in the second man's paintings there was a curious beauty of the paintings, which were inscribed three yards within the wall. How had this work been done? The second man had been polishing, purifying and smoothing his wall to such an extent that he made it transparent, and it became a veritable mirror, a looking-glass. Like a looking-glass, it took in all that the first man had done, but everything was painted within it. You know that the picture within a mirror is reflected within it as far away as the object is without it.

Thus there are two ways of acquiring knowledge. One is the cramming and outside painting work, taking in picture after picture, and idea after idea, and pumping into the brain thoughts and ideas of all varieties, Geology, Astrology Theology, Philology and all sorts of Ontologies and nonpracticologies. This is one way of acquiring knowledge. You can acquire superficial knowledge, just as that man painted the wall by all sorts of colours used on the surface. But there is another way of mastering the knowledge of the world. It is a purifying process. It is not stuffing in, but taking away. This process in trying to make the walls of your mind or intellect transparent, smooth, thin, by rubbing and scrubbing them as it were; by purifying your hearts, by making your hearts transparent; then all the knowledge of the world will be reflected in your mind; you will be inspired with the whole universe.

MORAL: Cramming or stuffing in is one way of acquiring knowledge, while the other way is to purify the mind as a mirror, so that the knowledge of the whole universe is reflected in it.

Vol. 3 (211-212)

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