What’s in a Word

Someone recently questioned why I post and publish my own writings. Surely ancient texts like the Bhagavad-gita have already distilled the essential truths for mankind. Can our insights and understandings significantly add anything to that? Could this extra information simply divert people from going to the original source? Is it not a little proud and presumptuous to think our explanations could be clearer than the divine word? I felt my defenses going up, and a thousand arguments began to circulate in my head, but I resisted confrontation and patiently listened. It was an opportunity to reassess. After all, it is a grave responsibility to re-present the teachings of great spiritualists and distinguished thinkers. One requires genuine purity and freedom from worldly ambition. 

Writing may be seen as an exercise in self development. It’s an opportunity to crystallize thoughts and test comprehension since explaining subject matter necessarily entails that one have a good understanding of it first. While communicating universal spiritual truths, our own weaknesses, faults and deficiencies become strikingly apparent. Scribing our thoughts on paper can reveal the mysteries within. It also helps one to become more conscious of the world around them. Everyday occurrences, interactions and conversations are pregnant with insightful life lessons. Being in writing mode helps one to tune in. We may read wisdom in a book, but we see it in action in the real world.

OK, but why publish such writings? When Swami Prabhupada first arrived in New York, he published his magazine “Back to Godhead” and repeatedly insisted that every issue contain articles written by his students. He was concerned that ancient truths be carried into the modern context in suitable language and with reference to the contemporary needs, interests and concerns of the world. Swami Bhaktivinoda, another prolific writer, explained how many people simply study books, collect information and then store those facts, like a magistrate imprisons a criminal in jail. He labelled it “fruitless retention.” Rather, he said, one should take such knowledge, apply it in one’s life, and then creatively share it according to personal experience and taste. Thus, our writings are not a challenge to the great teachers, but rather a humble attempt to fulfil their wishes, and in some insignificant way encourage people to excavate the ancient writings for their own transcendental gems.

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