What is higher?

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.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to What is higher?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Gokul,
    I have also seen that I am sometimes mesmerised by the intellect of a few people. I think everything has it’s own place.
    I should remind myself not be fooled into thinking that eloquence, mental jugglery, powers of analysis etc are the same as character and sincerity.


  2. Gomu says:

    Hi Supriyo,

    Yes. Character, morality, detachment, renunciation, love for God, etc are much much higher than any intellectual prowess.

    – Gomu.

  3. Chandra sekar says:

    Dear Gokul,

    Thanks for sharing the Wonderful thought. Appreciate your effort to shift the Blog to Worldpress.

    If i was on the venue of Ashtaavadhaanam, i too wonder the extreme power of human excellence.
    My Question : Though, Intellectual has no high regard for spiritual progress, yet We [spiritual seeker] can some Inspiration/ Vairagya from theses kind of personalities ?
    In the same, I respect and love the character of the shop keeper as well the great Monks.

    If Avadhaani NOT composed a verse depicting shrungaara,will Your opinion is the same ?

    With love &regards,
    Chandra sekar
    Om Sat Tat.

    • gokulmuthu says:

      Hi Chandrasekhar,

      Nice questions.

      Any intellectual power is like any other physical or occult or technological power. They can be used for good and bad purposes. They can be used to get money, fame, etc. They need not improve the moral and spiritual strength. The person would have put a lot of effort to get the power. We can be inspired by that thinking , “If by putting effort in this art, the person has gained so much. If I put my effort on spiritual saadhana, I will gain a lot.”

      To answer your second question, yes. Even if the avadhaani had not composed on shrungaara, my opinion is the same. That was only a trigger point which just struck me. If that was not there, the same uselessness of the skill would have dawned upon me, may be slightly later.

      With regards,

  4. questioning mind says:

    why do u place such a high value on renunciation.The quest for renunciation is as good as a quest for intellectual prowess or material wealth.People choose different paths and a renunciate has just choosen a less trodden path.
    What is so virtous abt choosing renunciation over any other goal.A person who has choosen renunciation is not contributing anything to society( at least he/she is is not bound by any duty to contribute anything to society).In a way renunciation is one of the most selfish acts , so how is it more virtuos than other paths that one might follow.what good one might achieve by choosing renunciation.So long as we are alive…we exist on material plane.Dont you think its a nobler thing to value our existence on this plane and work towards its enrichment instead of demeaning it by renunciating it.

    • gokulmuthu says:


      I am not sure if you have interacted with monastics. I appreciate your view, because, I believe either you have misunderstood what I mean by renunciation, and/or you have had bad experiences with people who claim to be renunciates.

      Renunciation is absence of obsession to possess and control people and objects. Renunciation is not external. It is an internal quality. Renunciation is another word for unselfishness. It is a true renunciate who really values people and things for what they are. Others only try to impress or exploit people and objects. Only renunciates can be true to themselves and to others, because they have no personal axe to grind. Only renunciates can contribute positively to the society. Others only try to exploit the society or in the best case try to do business with the society by bartering services. Only a renunciate serves the society without expecting any return. All that you may call as virtue has its foundation in renunciation. The more renunciation a person has, the more virtuous he is.

      Please read Gita to know what renunciation means. There are beautiful explanations scattered all over the Gita about renunciation.

      With regards,

      • questioning mind says:

        thanks for the reply…I always associated renunciation with escaping the world.Also because most of the monks have abondoned their families and people rever them for that.

        I can appreciate the renunciation ( if it refers to a subtle detachment from all things) but not ,if it refers to just escaping into woods.

        Also, do u think that only monks can be true renunciates? I think…any one doing great work of art , earning money thru honest means, ploughing fields , cleaning toilets etc etc with a sense of gratitude and selflessness and putting his heart and soul in that…is a renunciate.what say?

        Just curious to know…do u practise renunciation in ur day to day life and does it give u peace? Is there a way it can done on a day to day basis.

        Btw….i will surely go thru Gita 🙂

        thnks again for the time.

        • gokulmuthu says:

          Inner renunciation is a sign of maturity. We all do it. As a child we were after balloons and marbles. Now we have renounced them. We have other pursuits. Throughout our life we renounce lower pursuits for higher ones. When a person is convinced that happiness and sorrow do not come from dualities in life like pleasure and pain, success and failure, fame and infame, profit and loss, etc, but that happiness and sorrow is only dependent on our attitude towards the world, that is the highest level of maturity. This conviction which manifests as the absence of selfishness and obsession. This knowledge is needed in the society.

          Just as we have teachers for different sciences, we need teachers and living examples of this truth and maturity. The inner renunciation and maturity of a person who lives in the midst of job, family, etc is not obvious and so, the society needs people who exhibit external renunciation too. So it becomes important that teachers of values take to renunciation formally externally also. Inner renunciation is needed for everyone. Outer and inner renunciation is needed for teachers of these values. Their life should be open books. People should be able to see how people can live happily without securities of bank balance, family, permanent home, etc, and without luxuries. These people are not those who are good for nothing who cannot stand on their own legs. They very well understand the vanities of life and serve as stabilizing factors in the mad rush of the world after wealth and pleasures. They are available to the people whenever they need some rest from the scorching heat of the world and need some sane words about the realities of life. They are counselors in life for people who approach them. They have no agenda of their own. They don’t judge people. They merely present the various options available and the pros and cons of them from their vast experience of the world and the experience that they have got by talking to people.

          Don’t think all the beggars on the road who wear ochre clothes are these kinds of monks. There are more beggars in the disguise of monks. That is the problem. There are some famous monks like Swami Vivekananda, Swami Chinmayananda, Swami Dayananda, Swami Sukhabodhananda, etc. There are thousands of genuine monks today in India silently providing solace and guiding people by giving them strength and wisdom to face life. The achievements of Shivaji can be traced to his Guru Samartha Ramdas, so much that Shivaji offered his kingdom to his Guru and ruled as a caretaker only. Similarly, Vijayanagar Empire arose by the guidance of Vidyaranya Swami. The freedom movement was fueled by monks like Swami Vivekananda’s fiery words and revolutionary ideas. Monks have a great role in the society at all times.

          Monks are teachers. When a majority of the people go in pursuit of lucrative jobs, there is a needed a band of teachers to make and guide these people. Monks do the same thing. They are teachers of morals and values. They are the repository of knowledge of human problems and their solutions. They symbolize the higher pursuits of mankind. Monks are there in all societies, in all countries, in all religions at all times. It is a part of nature. Just like a society needs farmers, weavers, carpenters, masons, soldiers, teachers, etc., a society needs monks also. If you don’t see the necessity of monks, you are looking farther enough.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *