Knowledge: the guiding light in life

By Aung Kyaw Lin

Everyone has heard a Myanmar proverb our elders repeat to encourage the pursuit of knowledge: Knowledge is a golden urn which no thief can steal. This proverb is much more than right. Secular and religious well-being can be achieved only on the basis of knowledge in this world. Myanmar scholars compare knowledge and learning to a light that provides guidance in life. They have said that the bright light of knowledge drives away the darkness of ignorance and folly, bringing rich rewards. The Buddha said that the light of knowledge gives a unique, unparalleled power, surpassing the light of fire, the moon and the sun. Loka Niti’s compiler explains that wealth or material possessions are not equal in value to knowledge. Knowledge cannot be stolen by thieves. Knowledge is your good friend in this world and the bearer of happiness in the afterlife.
It is only the gem of knowledge (Pinna Yadana) that is exempt from destruction at the hands of the five kinds of foes: flood, fire, ruler, thief, and one whom you don’t love or like. Material possessions, on the other hand, are vulnerable to the five kinds of foes. So, knowledge is the greatest and the most trustworthy. Loka Niti’s admonishment states that one should acquire complete mastery of any vocational skill as a means of livelihood. One should learn verbal and manual skills to perfection at the first stage of age. When discovered, one becomes well-known in society and higher in dignity.
The light of knowledge is brighter than the lustre of precious gems. Knowledge is the guiding light in life which dispels and disperses the darkness of ignorance. It can carry the one who is on the wrong track to the right track. A poverty-stricken person can become a prosperous one living in the lap of luxury through knowledge. Knowledge provides the power of reasoning, with which one can differentiate right from wrong. Even the Buddha attained the blissful peace of Nibbana (the cessation of all suffering) by the light of knowledge. So, knowledge is a ladder for those who are keen to achieve success in life. The night without the bright moon is not graceful, nor is the ocean without great waves.

Loka Niti’s admonishment advises individuals to attain mastery in a vocational skill for their livelihood. It underscores the significance of honing both verbal and manual skills from a young age, as mastery in these areas leads to recognition and elevated status within society.

Similarly, if a person is deficient in knowledge, although he is good-looking, his life is unworthy, like the scentless Pauk flower, as it only has a good appearance. The one who lacks knowledge has to do inferior jobs as a labourer in his life and live a life of great hardship. The one without knowledge will become another person’s servant; no matter how much wealth a person possesses, he is graceless in any formal gathering, like an egret among Brahming ducks (Hintha) if he is uneducated. In the admonitory poem of Puttovada, Sar-tone Sayadaw wrote: A foolish son of a Millionaire in Baranasi who had eighty crores of money was uneducated in youth. So, he had no power of reasoning to know right from wrong. He cannot distinguish between what is morally good and what is not. He squandered all of the money inherited from his parents on silly things by gambling, drinking, etc, and finally, all was lost. He died a tragic death and was thrown away onto a rubbish heap. The tragic story of such a foolish son serves as an example of an undesirable consequence of the lack of knowledge. So, one should strive for knowledge from childhood.
The light of the moon differs from that of a firefly. Likewise, there is a significant difference between the condition of the educated person’s life and that of the uneducated person’s life. It can be found that in this world, people who reach the apex of their goals are full of knowledge and well-educated.
Knowledge is the leading light for the future. Only knowledge leads to riches and blessings. One can do good for society and his own country only through knowledge. Therefore, you should light the oil lamp of knowledge for your own and other people’s interests. Only then will your life be a bed of roses.

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