Harvard PhD holder and knowledge of Vedas

By: Mahesh Ahuja

A young man in his mid-twenties knocks on the door of the noted Guru. He said: “I’ve come to you because I wish to study Vedas.”

“Do you know Sanskrit?” the Guru asks.

“No,” replies the young man.

“Have you studied anything from Hindu philosophy?”

“No, Guru. But don’t worry. I just finished my doctoral dissertation at Harvard on Socratic logic. So now, I would just like to round out my education with a little study of the Vedas.”

“I seriously doubt,” the Guru says, “that you are ready to study Vedas. It is the deepest knowledge ever known. If you wish, however, I am willing to examine you in logic, and if you pass that test I will teach you Vedas.”

The young man agrees.

Guru holds up two fingers. “Two men come down a chimney. One comes out with a clean face; the other comes out with a dirty face. Which one washes his face?”

The young man stares at the Guru. “Is that the test in logic?”

The Guru nods.

”The one with the dirty face washes his face“- he answers wearily.

“Wrong. The one with the clean face washes his face. Examine the simple logic. The one with the dirty face looks at the one with the clean face and thinks his face is clean. The one with the clean face looks at the one with the dirty face and thinks his face is dirty. So, the one with the clean face washes his face.”

“Very clever,” the young man says. “Give me another test.”

The Guru again holds up two fingers. “Two men come down a chimney. One comes out with a clean face, the other comes out with a dirty face. Which one washes his face?”

“We have already established that. The one with the clean face washes his face.”

“Wrong. Each one washes his face. Examine the simple logic. The one with the dirty face looks at the one with the clean face and thinks his face is clean. The one with the clean face looks at the one with the dirty face and thinks his face is dirty. So, the one with the clean face washes his face. When the one with the dirty face sees the one with the clean face wash his face, he also washes his face. So, each one washes his face.”

“I didn’t think of that,” says the young man. It’s shocking to me that I could make an error in logic. Test me again.”

The Guru holds up two fingers. “Two men come down a chimney. One comes out with a clean face; the other comes out with a dirty face. Which one washes his face?”

“Each one washes his face.”

“Wrong. Neither one washes his face. Examine the simple logic. The one with the dirty face looks at the one with the clean face and thinks his face is clean. The one with the clean face looks at the one with the dirty face and thinks his face is dirty. But when the one with the clean face sees the one with the dirty face doesn’t wash his face, he also doesn’t wash his face. So, neither one washes his face.”

The young man is desperate. “I am qualified to study Vedas. Please give me one more test.”

He groans, though, when the Guru lifts two fingers. “Two men come down a chimney. One comes out with a clean face; the other comes out with a dirty face. Which one washes his face?”

“Neither one washes his face.”

“Wrong. Do you now see why Socratic logic is an insufficient basis for studying Vedas? Tell me, how is it possible for two men to come down the same chimney, and for one to come out with a clean face and the other with a dirty face? Don’t you see? The whole question is nonsense, foolishness, and if you spend your whole life trying to answer foolish questions, all your answers will be foolish, too.”

May we all have the wisdom to ask, and answer, the wise questions!

It is a symbolic story but it truly reflects the insufficiency of the mental preparedness of Western scholars to first unlearn many idiotic concepts of Western Thought and then preparing oneself with humility to learn the spiritual knowledge in sacred books like Vedas.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Santanu Dey
    Jan 22, 2017 @ 17:11:36

    When I passed my typical Indian Engineering degree (I’m talking of a period some 45 years ago) and was selected for a job in a production unit, on the very first day I was assigned to a shop foreman who was vastly experienced in the job but not with a formal degree like me. Obviously I had my ego on my side, which was badly dented when I saw the senior foreman avoiding interacting with me. After a while I asked the older man very politely the reason for his not taking me in his confidence and prompt came the reply “first you unlearn what you have been taught in your books, then and only then I’ll be easy with you.” I got a big lesson that day and tried my best to respect him for his gray hairs and in the days to come learned a lot from the man – a knowledge 10 such degrees that I passed couldn’t have given me.

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  2. Trackback: Sheldon Pollock (शलजम पालक) finds himself in the “Trump-Land” | Indian People's Congress

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