Devotees would often come to Sri Ramakrishna wishing to learn and discuss about scriptures. Sri Ramakrishna would encourage them. But when these devotees complained about not progressing much in their spiritual lives, Sri Ramakrishna would clearly explain to them the reasons for their lack of progress. He would clearly draw a line of distinction between theoretical scriptural knowledge and actual realization based on intense sadhana or effort.
To illustrate this idea, he would draw the attention of the devotees to the method of learning of how to play on drums. There is a typical drumming instrument called tabla, in India’s culture of music. The teacher, when he instructs the students, makes them chant or repeat the different word symbols for different beats. These are called bol and they correspond to the respective beats or tala. If a student repeats the bols while playing on the drum the different talas, he learns faster. Hence, the knowledge of the bols is helpful, rather necessary for learning different talas of tabla. But if the student only keeps on repeating the bols without practising the talas with his hands, he cannot make any progress in his effort to master the playing of tabla. Hence, while the theoretical knowledge of the bols is necessary and helpful, the real mastery can be achieved only by relentless practice using the hands.
In the same way, the knowledge of the scriptures is very helpful in the path of spiritual striving or sadhana. Through this an aspirant comes to know the different paths, their differences, etc. He also discerns and finds out the path most suited for his nature or temperament. This helps him make the right choice. Further, this also helps him from going astray and in avoiding pitfalls. But for spiritual realization, intense practice or effort is absolutely essential. Then and then only can an aspirant march ahead and ultimately reach the spiritual goal of life.
by Swami Shantatmananda, Sunday Guardian, 10th Jan 2015
(Photo courtesy: Vishal Misra)