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Beyond Knowing: The Power of Jnana

J Nandakumar

J NandakumarSep 08, 2021, 11:32 AM IST

Beyond Knowing: The Power of Jnana

Bharat devised  her indigenous thought system not just for knowing but for realising what we know. While keeping Moksha as the ultimate goal, which is to be achieved through Para Vidya, Indians have also excelled in Apara Vidya since the dawn of their intellectual evolution 


Sa Vidya Ya Vimuktaye! Knowledge is that which liberates. This one line encapsulates the very essence of Bharatiya view of knowledge, which is inherently immortal, infinite, and value-based. Here a question naturally arises that cannot be left unanswered in pursuit of unfolding the much neglected Hindu epistemology: Why do we hold our knowledge system immortal? The answer in words of one syllable is, it is Arsha Vidya, the vision of Rishis. 

What is perfection? or What is the highest level of human existence?  Endowed with clarity of mind and purity of living, it was our Rishis, the greatest minds of all times, who sought answer to the fundamental question that surfaced in primordial minds. Through a life of self-discipline and meditation they endeavoured to find out the truth and revealed its timeless exposition to the humanity through impressive and vibrant dialogues and profoundly beautiful poetry. This novel and integral approach coupled with ardent devotion to Rita, the eternal principle of natural order, is what which has made our literatures and knowledge system immortal.

For us, unlike the Western perspective, knowledge is not just fact, information, or skill acquired through experience or education. In addition, it should be capable of liberating the humankind. It is not just about knowing but realising. It is inherent in Indian thought and ingrained in the very name of our nation, Bharat. As it connotes Bharat is the nation that finds joy in ‘give and take of knowledge’.  Max Muller, in his book India: What It Can Teach Us?, has aptly put it in his own words, “If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered over the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant, I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans, and of the Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw the corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human a life... again I should point to India.”

The western view of knowledge system can be comprised into an organised structure and a dynamic process, which involves generating and representing content, components, classes, or types of knowledge. Adding on to the Western view, as noted academician Kapil Kapoor observed, we have always attached a great value to knowledge in India that is ancient and uninterrupted like the flow of Ganga and from Veda to Aurobindo knowledge or Jnana has been at the centre of all rational and speculative inquiry in Bharat. 

Bhagavat Gita (4.33, 37-38) also views knowledge as the great purifier and liberator of the self. As far as India’s knowledge tradition is concerned, three terms have greater prominence in the discourse. They are Darshana, Jnana and Vidya. Darshana is the point of view or Philosophy that leads or yields to Jnana or Knowledge. When knowledge gathered about a particular domain is organised and systematised for purposes of, say, reflection and pedagogy, it is called Vidya or discipline.

India is home for an incredibly large body of intellectual texts. We can claim world's largest collection of manuscripts which cover almost all domains of knowledge. For us, not a single stream of knowledge was treated untouchable, so the insights and inferences of our ancient thinkers are found fitting even for the modern superstructure of knowledge.  


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