धृतराष्ट्र उवाच धर्मक्षेत्रे कुरुक्षेत्रे समवेता युयुत्सवः। मामकाः पाण्डवाश्चैव किमकुर्वत सञ्जय।। dhritaraashtra uvaacha dharmakshetre kurukshetre samavetaa yuyutsavah / maamakaah paandavaashchaiva kimakurvata sanjaya // Dhritarastra said : Assembled in Kurukhetra - the field of dharma, determined to fight it out, what did Pandu’s sons and mine do, O Sanjay? Bhagavad Gita //1:1//
It all started with a simple question. Dhritarashtra was just eager to know what happed in the war. He was worried about his sons. Little had he imagined that in this process he would be one of those few who first heard the deep knowledge of Yogeshwara Sri Krishna imparted to his dearest friend Arjuna just before the start of the Mahabharata War.
Lord Krishna had been Arjuna’s friend since childhood. But he does not give Arjuna the knowledge until unless he is asked, asked in the right context, asked with a desperate attempt to know.
It is interesting to note that most of the ancient texts especially related with spirituality are in question answer format. Bhagavad Gita is part of Mahabharata which is itself a recording of questions and answers. It all starts when a Rishi of Naimisharanya asks the son of a great Rishi about his recent travels.
Whence comest thou, O lotus-eyed Sauti, and where hast thou spent the time? Tell me, who ask thee, in detail?Mahabharata Adi Parba
Questioning does not end her. The layers of questions and answers continues through out the narration of Mahabharata.
Ramayana too begins with the question of Maharshi Valmiki to Narada Muni:
Is there anyone who is endowed with excellent qualities, prowess, righteousness, gratitude, truthfulness and who is steadfast in his vows? Who is that one gifted with good conduct, concerned with the welfare of all, learned in the scriptures, can do things which others find impossible, and who is incomparably handsome? Who, being established in self, has conquered anger? Who is that brilliant one who is free from envy? Who is that person when excited to wrath, let alone the enemies, even the gods are afraid of? O Maharshi, being curious, I intend to hear about such a man about whom you are capable of narrating.
In the first chapter of Vishnu Purana, Maitreya asks his Guru Parashara about the origin of universe. All the eighteen maha-puranas and twenty seven upa-puranas follow the same pattern. Some parts of the Upanishads are in question answer format.
This format is great for exploring a topic in depth. It also shows that without curiosity knowledge is not effective. In Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna says to Arjuna that this knowledge should not be given to a person who is not interested.
Question is a great way to give context to the topic. Immediately we know what it is about. When we read in this format, along with the curiosity of the questioner our own curiosity is also aroused.
Great western philosopher Plato used a similar method. Most of his writings are in the form of dialogues between his master Socrates and others. In ‘The Republic’ Socrates is not only the questioned one he is also a questioner. However, Socrates questions not to know but to make his disciple find out the answer himself.
All questions cannot be answered. Some ancient seers had realized this. In Rigveda, the oldest text, there is a hymn that is very popular with the agnostics. It is about the origin of the universe and is known as the Nasadiya Sukta. Its ending stanzas go like this:
But, after all, who knows, and who can say Whence it all came, and how creation happened? the gods themselves are later than creation, so who knows truly whence it has arisen? Whence all creation had its origin, the creator, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not, the creator, who surveys it all from highest heaven, he knows — or maybe even he does not know.
Whether the question can be answered or not, questioning is the beginning of wisdom. According to our ancient seers the most important question is ‘Who am I?’. This has been highlighted in many of the indic texts including Yogavashistha. This question is said to be the key to the enlightenment of Shri Ramana Maharshi.
So, questioning is the key. If you get the answer, you will get knowledge. If you don’t, there are chances, you will get enlightened.
This is the alphabet Q post of Blogchatter AtoZ Challenge 2021. My theme this year is ‘The beauty of Sanskrit and Sanskrit texts’, where in I explore selected compositions in Sanskrit and also some unique aspects of Sanskrit language and texts. Join with me in my journey to understand India’s spiritual and intellectual heritage. All the posts of AtoZ Challenge 2021 can be accessed here.