Questions and Answers: Door of Gaining Knowledge: Ancient Indian Perspective


Questioning and answering is one of the important aspects in knowledge gain. Traditionally in India the important scripture begins with a question and then the gush of philosophy is an answer. I would rather not call it as philosophy, but I shall name it as life guideline.

Name important Darshan Shastra, Purana or Upanishada, such guideline is outcome of the curiosity and the question asked to someone who can quench the thirst of philosophy.

Upanishad literally means near someone who tells you. It’s a dialogue which begins after a question is raised by a curious mind.

In Bhagwad-Geeta the divine song is an outcome of the question asked by Arjuna. Infact it’s a series of questions asked by individuals to someone who can see greater. A blind Dhrutrashtra asks question to his charioteer Sanjay who has vision, Sanjay describes the question answer session of ignorant Arjuna and Great Yogi Shri Krishna to the blind Dhrutrashtra.

Astawakra- Geeta is considered as supreme gem of Indian philosophy, which is an outcome of a question asked by Janaka to Sage Ashtawakra.

Arjuna-Lamets-about-Killing-Family-Members-on-the-Battlefield-of-Kuruksettra-620x350A curious mind and the urge to seek answers for these questions have given a large number of gems of philosophy and its application has changed the face of history and mankind.

I wonder how the culture of not asking questions has emerged in India. How the attitude of not questioning the status quo, not questioning and finding out the reasons of something we do. I wonder how the belief and faith of not questioning a faith has got wide spread across the continent. Somewhere under the camouflage of “respect” Indians have stopped asking the questions and became largely a culture of followers.

The base of Indian philosophy is Knowledge, and the base of knowledge is questioning and base of questioning is curiosity. During ups and downs and transitions of India, we have forgotten the need of learning.

In India “Dnyan” or “Jnyan”, means knowledge is considered as prime. In the ancient, medieval  scriptures we see that the any treasure of wisdom begins with question.

Kanad in his Vaisheshik Darshan Shatra, Maharishi Patanjali in his yogasutra, starts with a Sanskrit word “Atha” meaning from here onwards, which itself indicates the subject begins with a pretext, and the pretext is a question and curiosity. There are many dialogues between Shiva and Parvati, which began with the questions asked by Parvati to Shiva.


In one of the speech Dr Abdul Kalam mentions “Learning gives creativity, Creativity leads to thinking, Thinking provides knowledge, and Knowledge makes you great”

I wonder and question myself, why we Indians have left that path of Knowledge and we have become followers? The culture which has given great treasures of spiritual, practical, architectural, literary knowledge to the world, is somewhere on a transition of confused path.

Debates, conflicts and questioning have always been integral part of India. If one questions the status quo, India never ever has behaved fragile or timid.

Now a days we all becoming over sensitive society, which is talking about diversity but never wants hold on the principles of it. We are becoming an over fragile and we are clinging to un-necessary emotions. The fighting spirit or finding the truth is remaining far away. We have started believing that “my thought process is the only right one and others do not see it correctly”.

We talk about inclusion but we do not demonstrate it?

Somehow questioning has become a tradition of questioning an authority and thus we have stopped asking. We are the people who have ideals in our scriptures, who have given life for not answering correctly, which clearly can be seen in “Yaksha Prashna” episode of Mahabharat.

And a culture which proclaims philosophy of questioning

अपृष्ट्वैव भवेन्मूढः ज्ञानं मनसि चिन्तनात् | अपूर्णः कुरुते शब्दं न पूर्णः कुरुते घटः |

One turns foolish by accumulating knowledge in mind without asking and without contemplating. A vessel, not full, makes noise, but not one that is full.

Once upon a time when multiple belief systems had Vad and Samvad (discussions and debates), such as Dwaita, Adwaita, charwak etc, the belief was not to degrade anyone, however understand their perspective at the same time let all of them flourish together.

Bhartruhari mentions his ignorance towards knowledge gaining, and he finds out the knowledge can only be gained thru

यदा किञ्चिज्ज्ञोऽहं द्विप इव मदान्ध: समभवम्
तदा सर्वज्ञोऽस्मीत्यभवदवलिप्तं मम मन:।
यदा किञ्चित्किञ्चिद्बुधजनसकाशादवगतं
तदा मूर्खोऽस्मीति ज्वर इव मदो मे व्यपगत:॥

When I had little knowledge, I had become blind by pride like an elephant (during rut). Then my mind was proud, thinking that I am an omniscient. As and when I realized bit by bit in the association of wise men, by seeking knowledge, my pride waned like a fever, as I came to know that I was a fool, actually.

Well Bhartruhari realized it and wrote the entire book named as Niti Shatakam. Let all of us gain bit by bit knowledge by asking

Compiled by : Dr Sandeep Sadanand Chaugule

Note: Photographs are suggestive, writer do not claim any ownership of the photographs.

2 thoughts on “Questions and Answers: Door of Gaining Knowledge: Ancient Indian Perspective

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s