KNOWLEDGE IS BONDAGE – Stacey Lawson – Originally published at Huffington Post

Stacey Lawson

BIO

Knowledge Is Bondage

Stacey Lawson | Posted July 29, 2008 | Living

We have come to believe in our society that acquisition of knowledge is the hallmark of an intelligent, accomplished person. We strive to better ourselves by taking in more information, learning more skills, processing more facts, assimilating more content, and applying more of what we know.

We are better off when we “know”, right? After all, when we don’t know, we are unsure of ourselves. We are uncomfortable and anxious not knowing. We perceive knowledge as giving us dominance over our environment and each other. Certainty gives us comfort and eliminates fear, so we desire to develop certain knowledge. We give it a top priority in our lives.

Let me offer a different perspective on knowledge from the wisdom traditions…

In the Siva Sutras, the enlightened being Siva, shares a pithy but powerful aphorism: “Jnanam Bandhah”, which translates from Sanskrit as “Knowledge is Bondage.” What does he mean? Siva manages to pack a mighty punch in this little statement. He uses each word with great diligence and precision, and the phrase is loaded with meaning.

First, Siva acknowledges that the process of knowing quite literally binds things together. From unbounded chaos, “knowing” binds information together which is otherwise disorganized. Like the binding of a book, we take many loose concepts with countless possible configurations and solidify them into a defined volume. The process of gaining knowledge requires the infinite to become finite. Finiteness gives us comfort because is manageable – we like things to be definite and bounded. However, by Siva’s standard, knowing is a degenerative process.

Second, knowledge limits our freedom. By forcing the infinite to become finite, we lose unity consciousness and are thrust into duality. As we freeze reality into a specific, defined configuration, we lose perspective of the whole. We perceive ourselves as separate from others. Knowledge is a concealing factor that makes us ignorant of our true nature. This identification with duality, caused by our reliance on the intellect and sense perceptions, is the source of human suffering.

Jaideva Singh, in his commentary on the Siva Sutras explains, “Man is bound…so long as he allows himself to be confined to the limited knowledge of his senses and mentation. When he recognizes his true nature, he is free.”

In the Bible, when Adam and Eve “fell” from grace, the first experience they had was “they knew.” Prior to the Fall, they were in unity consciousness – one with the Divine. That knowledge-free state was supreme bliss and freedom. The state prior to the Fall is not very different from the Buddha’s concept of emptiness and Nirvana. When we are free from knowledge, we can empty the mind and experience the bliss of our true nature.

Zen also touches on this notion with their phrase, “When you know, you don’t know, and when you don’t know, you know.”

So, various traditions describe this state in various ways – Nirvana or “emptiness”, Satori or “no mind”, Nirvakalpa Samadhi or “though-free, divine bliss.” In these states, supreme intelligence beyond intellectual knowledge is experienced. By dropping our attachment to knowledge, ironically, we can become all-knowing.

By declaring that knowledge is bondage, Siva is asking us to stop being a slave to our limited knowledge, and to become free. No matter how impressive our intellectual repertoire, it is childs play compared to the vast intelligence of the Divine. Give up identification with knowledge. Set yourself free from bondage. Be fluid. Be in the space of ‘don’t know’, and from there you will know everything.

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