Reading : Need and Limits
The 'educated' man reads the scriptures, puranas, and saints' writings with great relish, and also narrates them enthusiastically to others. And yet he does not endear himself to God, because he merely talks about them, never acts up to them. Saints' works should be read as carefully as letters from near and dear ones, treasuring every word, and with a view to carrying out what is expressed in them; for the author writes in order that propositions expressed therein should be practiced. If it is a translation or a commentary, the writer will, knowingly or unknowingly, construe the original text according to his own view or interpretation; so the reader should always keep the original text in sight; to read the original text oneself is always the best. The text is like the mother's milk, while a translation is like the feed from a wet nurse.
With many, reading becomes a passion; much of it is not only futile but confusing. Indiscriminate reading particularly of newspapers is futile. Only he should read who clearly understands and digests what he reads. Others should read only with moderation.
What one reads should be absorbed thoroughly by contemplation. Reading is only profitable if accompanied by practice; the true meaning then becomes clear, and the sadhaka makes real progress. The reading of the basic philosophical books like the Upanishads, the Bhagavadgeeta, and such others, understanding their purport, is essential for a clear notion of the logical basis of our upasana. The Bhagavadgeeta, indeed, can be considered the basis, the mother of treatises on philosophy. It correlates and coordinates worldly life and spiritual life, performance of duty and renunciation. We should bear this in mind when studying it. Philosophy is of no use unless put into practice. Anything that is accepted or proved as wholesome must be acted upon in practical life.
Suppose we are walking by the highway to go to a certain place. We meet a knowledgeable person who points out a foot path or a cart-track which is a much shorter route. We take that path and reach the destination much sooner. Similarly, if on the spiritual path we are obstructed or halted by an unknown defect, or by a recalcitrant mind, a book like the Bhagavadgeeta often offers a useful corrective. We thereby become aware of the defect; and this is the first step in the process of reformation.
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