Hinduism speaks of different classes of aspirants. It advocates different paths for the aspirants pursuing the ultimate goal of life. These paths are generally known as Jnana, Bhakti, Karma and Yoga. The followers of the path of Bhakti feel themselves to be subservient to God’s will and try to practise an attitude of surrender to Him. But, those following the path of Jnana often assert their superiority over everything else. From the standpoint of Jnana or Knowledge they assume the attitude of knower of the highest truth and thereby feel that they are one with the supreme truth or Atman or Brahman. But, Sri Ramakrishna would often caution even those following the path of Jnana to be humble and not to question God’s superiority. To illustrate this idea he used to narrate a story from our Puranas.
Once, there was a spiritual aspirant who was the follower of the path of Jnana or Knowledge. He wrote a beautiful hymn on Shiva and felt very proud of his achievement. He felt that he had written an extraordinary hymn which even Lord Shiva himself would not better. Just at that time he had a vision in which Shiva’s Bull appeared. It bared its teeth in a threatening fashion. The composer of the hymn was terrified and at the same time astonished. He saw that each tooth was a word of the hymn. What he had imagined as his own wonderful composition was virtually in the mouth of the bull in the form of teeth. Sri Ramakrishna used to ask, “Do you understand the meaning of this? These words had existed from time immemorial i.e. without beginning or end. The writer had only discovered them.”
Thus Sri Ramakrishna would say that an attitude of humility is essential even for a Sadhaka following the path of Jnana or Knowledge.