In Sanskrit, there are two specific words for knowing. One is gyan, another is vigyan or visheshgyan. All that you can perceive and know through the five sense organs is gyan: knowledge. The word “vigyan” is loosely used today, but what it means is visheshgyan or an extraordinary way of knowing. If you perceive that which is beyond your senses, if you are able to assimilate that knowing, that is visheshgyan.
There is common sense, there is sense, and there is something beyond sense. With common sense, you can handle your survival process. You don’t have to be brilliant to survive well. You just need common sense. Actually, a street-smart person could con someone who is very intelligent because someone who is very intelligent may not have the wily nature of one who is walking the streets every day. Common sense is restricted to a certain habitat within which it works.
It happened once, the Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO, was interviewing people for a job. Shankaran Pillai applied. He is very street smart and has a lot of common sense. The interviewer asked, “Which is closer, Moon or Mumbai” They were in Bangalore. Shankaran Pillai looked up in the sky and he said, “Moon.” The interviewer was startled. “What? How do you say that?” Shankaran Pillai said, “Well, I can see the Moon, I can’t see Mumbai.” When you are on survival mode, this kind of sense works pretty well. But if we try to use this everywhere, we will become one big mess. If you want to transcend, you need a different kind of sense.
Why is going beyond one’s senses and knowing needed? If you use the word “need” in terms of whether something is necessary for your survival, it is not needed. If you had been born a chimpanzee, it is definitely not needed. But you have evolved into a human being. Wanting to live like a chimpanzee does not work anymore.
Human intelligence and awareness has come to a place where it cannot limit itself to the ambit of survival. It has to look. This is not a problem, it is a possibility. Every possibility seems like a problem to those who are not willing to take on the possibility. This is a phenomenal possibility but most human beings are treating it like a problem. And they are trying to solve the problem by constantly raising the bar of survival.
Look back at your own lives and see what your idea of survival was 25 years ago, 15 years ago, and today. The bar has constantly been raised. In every segment of society, survival has been raised to a place where even billionaires are struggling to survive among their community. I have, at close quarters, seen multi-billionaires still behaving like beggars. Their mindset is that of a beggar who sits on the street every day, thinking, “How many more pennies can I gather?” The numbers are different but the experience of life is still the same because you raised the bar of survival.
No other generation has had as many conveniences and comforts as we do today. Nobody ever had homes as big as we do, nobody ever drove chariots with 500 horses – even the emperors couldn’t do that. Instead of leaving this as survival and seeing the rest as an exploration of life, we are just raising the bar. If we keep raising the bar, one thing that is definitely going to be hit is survival because the planet cannot take it. The Living Earth report says that if every human being on the planet must have what an average American citizen is enjoying right now, we need four-and-a-half planets. But actually, we only have half a planet left, not even a full one. Every generation, every step, every few years, the bar of survival is going up.
In your life, you must fix it somewhere – how much is survival. You must fix it now, not after 25 years: “This is my survival. Then what do I want to do? What is it that really matters to me in my life?” When I go to the United States, I find that in the most affluent nation on the planet, people cannot change the course of their life when they wish. Everyone is enslaved for a minimum of 30 years because they have a 30-year housing loan, a 5-year car loan and so many other things. Even if they find something really compelling that they want to pursue in their life, they can only do it after 30 years. They are just fixed.
This is not a good way to structure our lives. The idea of affluence is that you have the freedom to change the course of your life and do what you want to do. You don’t have to be stuck with what you thought was the best thing when you were 20. But a whole lot of people are stuck at 14, not even 20. They still get excited about someone’s body parts when they are 50 or 60. That is a tragic way to live because the essence of life is that we are able to explore as much as we can when we live here, to know and experience everything possible that is there in this piece of life that you call “myself”. If that doesn’t happen, you are just running on the treadmill. You may get exercise but it doesn’t get you anywhere.