What happens when you smell a flower?
You say it smells sweet (or something like that), right?
When you put a drop of honey in your mouth, you say that honey is sweet, right?
What if it was not right?
Today I was browsing Kaushitaki Brahmana (कौषीतकि ब्राह्मण) and came across some text – interesting piece even if slightly turned around in meaning.
न वाचं विजिज्ञासीत वक्तारं विद्यात् न गन्धं विजिज्ञासीत घ्रातारं विद्यान्न रूपं विजिज्ञासीत दृष्टारं विद्यात् ….न कर्मं विजिज्ञासीत कर्तारं विद्यात् न सुखदुखे विजिज्ञासीत सुखदुखयोर्विज्ञातारं विद्यात् … न मनो विजिज्ञासीत मन्तारं विद्यात् …।
For the uninitiated: we all know there are four Vedas, right? Right. Each of the Vedas have four – let’s say, subsystems, or modules. Samhita, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads.
The Sanskrit text above translates thus:
Let’s not try to find out what speech is, let’s know the speaker. Let’s not try to find out what smell is, let’s know the one who smells. Let’s not try to find out what form is, let’s know the seer… Let’s not try to find out what action is, let’s know the doer. Let’s not try to find out what pleasure and pain are, let’s know the one who knows pleasure and pain… Let’s not try to find out what mind is, let’s know the one who possesses the mind.
Yet, the way our senses and our understanding of sensory signals work, we do precisely the opposite. We smell the smell (perfume) of the flower and we claim to have smelled the flower. We taste the sweetness of honey and we say we tasted honey. We experience (some/few/one or two) qualities of a person and we say we know a person. We have experienced a bit of life and we say we have known the life. How accurate is that?
Sometimes (much more than ‘some’ times) we fall prey to stereotypes and generalizations. we seek the sweet middling tendencies, universally applicable ‘truths’ and deny the other person any deviation from that ‘normality’. Although the passage above is about knowing the Brahman, I read it in a more worldly fashion. Think about the empathy and sensitivity to the uniqueness in the other it implies.
We think that ‘scientific’ approach is superior, but that is also miserable. In the name of science and ‘systematic’ approach to creating knowledge, we get tempted to take abstractions at such higher levels that they no longer apply to the chunk of reality we have in our hands. There is nothing wrong with grand theories, but in the name of grand theories, we misplace the actual point of interaction between ourselves and what we experience. And all the while, we think that we have a universal, objective truth. We think that ‘the reality’ is objective, and one for all. We establish standards and ‘cut-off’ s of ‘normality’ and brand the deviations.
It might be fine at times, and necessary at some others. But a habit of making a conclusion at a level higher than where the experience occurs is a gross error. While we do smell the smell, we do not smell the flower. Saying that we smell a flower is a gross denial of all the parts of a flower that either do not smell or have a smell that human nose cannot register. Think of what it means when applied to our interpersonal ties with others.
Does this paragraph not knock on the doors of dynamics of leadership and interpersonal relations?? What do you say?