By possession of knowledge he acquires an understanding of words and their meaning; thereby he will not perish in the forest of the fourfold Saṃsāra; as a needle with its thread will not be lost, thus the soul possessing the sacred lore will not be lost in the Saṃsāra; he performs all prescribed actions relating to knowledge, discipline, austerities, and conduct, and well versed in his own and in heterodox creeds he will become invincible.
~ The Uttarādhyayana Sūtra, Chapter 29 Verse 59
Mahavira was the last Jain Tirthankar or spiritual teacher to teach its philosophy and is believed to have attained moksha (nirvana) at the venerable age of 72. The Uttaradhyayana Sutra is said to be a compilation of the last thirty-six lectures given to young monks by the sage. Intended to instruct young disciples in their duties it still stands as a source of inspiration, wisdom, and guidance for man today.
Words, their meaning, and the intentions behind them have consumed much of my thoughts the last few weeks. I struggled to expand on my study, following the path Ramakrishna and Confucius set me on until I discovered The Uttaradhyayana Sutra and began to consider the words of Mahavira. It seems to me what this sage is teaching here is that we need more than just knowledge and understanding to succeed in our journey through life. Once obtained (knowledge & understanding), it is how we act upon that knowledge that matters.
In the end, it’s not what we know, but what we do with the knowledge we obtain that will determine our success, failures and ultimately our fate.