Illusion of Knowledge

There is a small story about four disciples, who were ordered by their Guru to meditate silently without speaking for a week.

They happily started their meditation and none of them said a word the whole day. When the sun set and dusk started settling over, an insect came inside the room and started circling around the lamp, making noises. The lamp started flickering.

The first disciple blurted out,
“Oh, no! The lamp will be out.”

The second disciple said,
“Hey! We are not supposed to speak!”

The third quickly reprimanded,
“What is this? Why did you two break the silence?”

The fourth disciple smiled and said, “Wow! I’m the only one, who hasn’t spoken.”

This is what is happening around us, so common now-a-days. We don’t know what we are doing, but we are ready to judge others.

A tea-seller was serving tea to his customers, but always talking about economics and politics of the country and world, as if he knew each and every thing under the sky, but the only thing he didn’t know was how to make a good tea.

Coming back from this distraction to the main story, each disciple broke the silence, but for a different reason, e.g. distraction, judgement, anger and pride respectively.

The first monk got distracted by the insect, but the second was more worried about others following the rules than practising himself. The singular burst of anger by the third one ruined the effort. And the fourth one took pride in being superior to the others, thus proving his own ignorance.

All of them could have maintained silence. What was the provocation? An insect! One of them could have simply driven it out. Just see, one disciple had broken the silence, but other three started reacting to others without thinking for a while what they themselves were doing.

But one-upmanship is in our DNA. We want to show what great things we are doing, that must be noticed by others. Otherwise people will consider us dumb and the things will go waste. That’s the psychology working behind this kind of behaviour. That’s the psychology behind posts showing status and displaying pictures in the social media including Facebook and Instagram.

We should learn to see, listen and observe without impulsively reacting, just to show that we are superior to others in respect of knowledge and experience. Socrates had said that the only wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.

I conclude with this quote of Stephen Hawking:
The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it’s the illusion of knowledge.

Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge

–Kaushal Kishore

images: pinterest


    1. Thank you, Joanna, for your appreciation. We should believe in our karma, our own sincere efforts. Karmanye vadhikaraste ma faleshu kadachana.


      1. This is in Sanskrit, Joanna. Lord Krishna in Gita says, “you have the right to work only, but never to its fruits.” Let not the fruits of action be the motive.


  1. I remember when I went and studied psychology, first I thought I didn’t need much training but after training I felt like I had learned how little I knew about the human mind and human nature.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said, Morag! As we gain more knowledge, we simultaneously realise our own level of ignorance. Thank you for sharing your own experience!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You have taken this story to a new level. Forgive me, but it reminds me of a joke I heard in my childhood, which admittedly is based on a questionable premise. This story involves three hermits who, for some unknown reason, shared a cave. After they’d lived there for 10 years, one hermit said: “That was a beautiful white horse that just rode by outside.” Fifteen years later, another responded: “That was not a white horse; it was a gray horse.” Twenty years after that, the third hermit said: “If you two keep up this constant bickering, I’m leaving.”

    Liked by 1 person

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