~ Abai Kunanbaev ~

Word Thirty-Two

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Those who seek learning should know certain essential conditions without which they cannot achieve their goal.

First, do not attempt to do so for the sake of profit. You should love learning for its own sake and strive for it. If you value knowledge as a supreme blessing, each new truth you uncover will bring peace and satisfaction to your soul. Memorize well what is new to you, and you will feel the desire- for new quests, and a love of knowledge will be born in your heart. Then your memory will absorb whatever you have seen and heard.

But if you have another purpose in mind, seek knowledge only with the aim of getting rich, your attitude to learning will be the same as that of a woman to her stepson. If your soul and your mind are well intentioned towards learning, it will be benevolent in turn— it will surrender to you readily. But it will show half-hearted benevolence to a half-hearted person.

Second, study with clear and noble aims, not to acquire learning so as to be able to argue with other people. Now, arguments within reason help to strengthen one's convictions, but, excessive zeal for them can only spoil a man. For lovers of wrangling will launch into disputes not for the sake of ascertaining the truth but rather to show off their knowledge and get the upper hand of other people. Such arguments breed envy, add not a whit of humanity, and do not serve scholarship—on the contrary, they simply confuse people. This is the vain occupation of troublemakers. He who leads hundreds astray from the right path is not worth the little finger of one who has brought just one man back to the path of truth.

True, disputation is one of the paths to knowledge, but a person who gives himself entirely to this runs the risk of becoming conceited and arrogant, an envious gossip. Such a person will be not averse to slander, backbiting and vituperation, which only lowers human dignity.

Third, if you have succeeded in your pursuit of a truth, do not turn back from it even on pain of death. But if you are not convinced of your knowledge, do not imagine that someone else will appreciate it. If you do not value your own knowledge, how can you expect recognition from utter strangers?

Fourth, there are two tools that aid the acquisition of knowledge. One is mulakhaza [the subtle art of polemics] and the other, mukhafaza [firmness in defense of one's views]. It is necessary to strive constantly to perfect these, for without them it is impossible to reinforce and develop your knowledge.

Fifth, I spoke previously of four harmful attitudes of mind, and among these we named careless sloth or idleness. My soul! I enjoin you, to beware of this evil! It is pernicious both for God and for man, both for reason and for honor. It is the arch enemy of everything! But there is no place for this evil where conscience resides.

Sixth, human character is a vessel containing intelligence and knowledge. Develop your character therefore! By indulging in envy and frivolity, by allowing yourself to be influenced by the words of others and momentary passions, you may forfeit your strength of character. Learning will be of no avail if the vessel that receives your knowledge is not sound.

To attain your goal and be faithful to your duty, you should foster constancy of purpose, determination and strong will, for these help preserve the sobriety of your reason and the purity of your conscience.

Everything should serve the cause of reason and honor.

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