The Types of Knowledge A Man Should Learn – Upanishadic Wisdom On Warsaw University Library Walls

Last week the world woke up to pictures of verses from the Upanishads as part of the symbolism of the building of the University of Warsaw Library. On request from the Center for Soft Power, librarian and custodian as she refers to herself, Lilianna Nalewajska went around taking pictures of these beautiful walls which she shared with us. "If you come to Poland, let me know, I will guide you around," she told this author.

Lilianna shared a scan from a leaflet which describes the verse. "It's the Rigveda 3.62.10; Mundaka Upanishad 1.1.4-6; Bhagavad Gita 13.7-11. The work and excerpts were selected and digitally designed by Joanna Jurewicz and the lettering is by Stanisław Michalik. It's not a painting but a copper board," she told us.

The scan she shared is a translation by T H Griffith, Patrick Olivelle and George Thompson which was selected by Joanna Jurewicz (who is an Indologist at the University of Warsaw. She won the Prime Minister's Award for Outstanding Scholarly Achievement (for the book Fire and Cognition in the Rgveda). She is also the author of Fire, Death and Philosophy- A History of Ancient Indian Thinking. The verse means:

(Picture by Lilianna Nalewajska)

"May we attain that excellent glory of Savitar the God: So May he stimulate our prayers. Two types of knowledge a man should learn - those who know brahman tell us - the higher and the lower. The lower of the two consists of the Rgveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda, the Atharvaveda, phonetics, the ritual science, grammar, etymology,  metrics, and astronomy; whereas the higher is that by which one grasps the imperishable. Knowledge is said to consist in the absence of pride and deceit, of nonviolence and patience and upright honesty, of service to one's teacher, purity, stability, and self-control, dispassion with regard to sense objects, and the absence of an ego-sense. There should also be an accurate perception of the misfortunes that inevitably come with birth and death, and old age and disease and sorrow, the absence of attachment or affection toward a son or a wife or a home, and all the rest; the constant practice of equanimity, whether events are wished for or not wished for, and there should be undeviating devotion, along with yoga focused on me alone, a preference for solitary places, and a distaste for large crowds. Finally, there should be constant attention to knowledge of the self, and a perception of the purpose of the knowledge of reality - all of this is called true knowledge. What differs from this is just ignorance."

Lilianna has taken pictures of the front wall of the building of the University of Warsaw Library. "There are eight huge copper boards with texts from different cultures and times. Those boards resemble open books. This is one of the symbolic meanings of the architecture. It was an idea of the architect of the building, Professor Marek Budzyński to show that a library is a very meaningful and important place. It was part of the project of the building to place the boards on the front wall," she says.

Professor Marek Budzyński says about the building architecture in a brochure: "I believe in the movement which is called sustainable development, and that is why the symbolic unity of the opposites of nature and culture is the main theme of the University of Warsaw Library project. This building, like any other, has its exterior and interior. The exterior shows the coexistence of the building with nature and culture, and has aspirations to be a Sign. It has a so-called “Ecological” roof and three facades with biologically active coating."

The fourth facade of the building, he says the “cultural” one represents relationships with the past, the diversity of civilizations, and with the Graeco-Roman and Judeo-Christian source of the Polish culture. It makes the building united with the organisation of the city. "The space of this world is, like any Euclidean one, formed on three mutually perpendicular axes defining relationships. The first one, is an area where contrasts meet, and where delicate proportions determine the success of the expected feeling of coexistence. The second axis, perpendicular to the first one, determines the relationship with nature, with the surrounding park climbing up the building and covering the space of the Library. At the intersection of the first two axes passes the third one, vertical, symbolically determining the relationship of culture and the Universe. This is the axis of ideas, faith and transcendental matters. Network of individual connections with the collections spans on
these three axes around the information hall. "

About the Indian students at the University of Warsaw, Lilianna says the university has a growing numbers of international students. "Quite many of them come from India. From the Report of the Rector of the university for 2020, I learnt that there were 59 long-term students from India (all together international students and doctoral students - 3810). But as far as I know many students from India study in some other public and non-public high schools in Poland."