Today morning I attended an Ashtaavadhaanam program. It is a program in which the performer displays great intellectual skill by answering different questions by experts in different fields simultaneously. The scholarship, memory, creativity and intellect exhibited by the person performing the avadhaanam and the people who put questions to him was astounding. In fact it was a shuddering experience for me. As I stepped out of the venue, I was reeling under what I witnessed. What I saw was an Ashtaavadhaanam – answering eight questioners. One of the people who participated as a questioner was a Shataavadhaani – one who has performed a program with a hundred questioners. My head reeled just to think of it.
As I was driving back home from the program, I was comparing everything and everyone I saw with what I had witnessed. I saw some beautiful girls. Their beauty was dust compared to the minds of the people in the program. I passed by towering shopping malls showing off vulgar wealth. They were all very small compared to the intellectual acheivements that I saw an hour back. I passed by the office of the Police Commissioner. It occured to me that even the Prime Minister of the country was nothing in front of those intellectual giants.
Then I started thinking was there anything greater that the intellectual achievements? I remembered that the avadhaani composed a verse depicting shrungaara (eroticisim). In one moment, the entire edifice came crashing down. I saw that renunciation was much much higher than all the intellectual achievements. I saw that a world renouncing monk, though be may not be physically handsome or wealthy or powerful or intelligent, was much greater than anyone else.
Then I went to a small shop to buy some things. I thought about the honesty of the simple unlettered shopkeeper. An honest shopkeeper though unlettered is much superior to a vain scholar. Even with all learning and intelligence if a scholar is not honest or is proud, then he is nothing. Moral value is higher than great learning. Moral values are based on renunciation. Blessed is the person who has the renunciation, irrespective of anything else. If a person has renunciation, he is great even if he has nothing else. If a person does not have renunciation, he is dust even if he has all the wealth or learning in the world.