The Value of Book Learning

Once some very learned Sanskrit scholars were sitting in the old hall discussing portions of the Upanishads and other scriptural texts with Bhagavan. Bhagavan was giving them proper explanations and it was a sight to remember and adore! At the same time, I felt genuinely in my heart, ‘Oh, how great these people are and how fortunate they are to be so learned and to have such deep understanding and be able to discuss with our Bhagavan. Compared with them, what am I, a zero in scriptural learning?’ I felt miserable. After the pundits had taken leave Bhagavan turned to me and said, “What?”, looking into my eyes and studying my thoughts. Then, without even giving me an opportunity to explain, he continued, “This is only the husk! All this book learning and capacity to repeat the scriptures by memory is absolutely no use. To know the Truth, you need not undergo all this torture of learning. Not by reading do you get the Truth. BE QUIET, that is Truth, BE STILL, that is God”.
Then very graciously he turned to me again and there was an immediate change in his tone and attitude. He asked me, “Do you shave yourself?” Bewildered by this sudden change, I answered, trembling, that I did.
“Ah, for shaving you use a mirror, don’t you? You look into the mirror and then shave your face; you don’t shave the image in the mirror. Similarly all the scriptures are meant only to show you the way to realization. They are meant for practice and attainment. Mere book learning and discussions are comparable to a man shaving the image in the mirror”. From that day onwards the sense of inferiority that I had been feeling vanished once and for all.

Ramana Smriti

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