What is knowledge in Yoga?

What is knowledge in Yoga?

The Nature of True Knowledge and the Self

In the ninth verse of 'Forty Verses on Reality' (Ulladu Narpadu) by Sri Ramana Maharishi, he discusses the concept of turning the mind inward. The following verse elaborates on what constitutes true knowledge.

Sri Ramana asserts that there is no separate existence for knowledge apart from ignorance. To gain insight, one should inquire, 'Whose knowledge is this? Whose ignorance is this?' By doing so, you can come to understand the primal Self, which is the essence of true knowledge.

Understanding Jnana and Apara Vidya

Jnana, the knowledge of Brahman or the Self, is the core of true understanding. In Tamil, it is referred to as "arivu." This knowledge naturally arises along with the triputi—the knower, the knowledge, and the known. Without these three elements, worldly or scriptural knowledge cannot exist.

The act of knowing involves questions like 'Who?' 'What?' and 'How?,' implying the existence of the knower, the process of knowing, and the object known. Such knowledge exists in the realm of duality and is categorized as "apara vidya" or worldly knowledge. However, apara vidya is essentially a form of ignorance, as even when knowledge is present, ignorance accompanies it. Worldly knowledge cannot exist without its counterpart—ignorance.

Jnani and Ajnani

A simple-minded sadhu once observed scholars questioning Sri Ramana Maharishi, and he marveled at the profound answers he witnessed. Feeling his own lack of knowledge, he asked, "Swamiji, these scholars possess extensive learning, ask deep questions, and comprehend your responses. I, on the other hand, know nothing and am ignorant. Is there hope for me?"

Sri Maharishi replied, "Your ignorance is unlearned, while theirs is learned; that's the only difference! When you inquire into the 'I' and understand its nature, true knowledge will awaken within you. Similarly, if these scholars calm their restless minds and realize their own Self, their doubts will vanish, and they too will find peace."

The Essence of Knowledge of Brahman

True knowledge of Brahman lies in understanding one's own Self. All other forms of knowledge are a blend of sensory perceptions and ignorance. Even if one possesses knowledge about a particular subject, they may remain ignorant about many others. Omniscience is unattainable in the realm of worldly knowledge.

Who Qualifies as a Pandita?

According to the scriptures, a person should not be considered a pandita solely based on their worldly knowledge. One becomes a true pandita when they possess knowledge that reveals the nature of the Self. As Sri Adi Sankara emphasized in the Gita Bhashyam, a pandita is someone who comprehends the knowledge that leads to Self-realization.

The Role of a Guru

A Guru's purpose is not to impart new knowledge but to redirect a seeker's attention toward the Self, the 'I.' The world consists of chit (the 'I,' pure awareness) and idam (the known, objects). In essence, it is 'MY world.' The knowledge we commonly refer to is information gathered through the senses and processed by the mind. However, this process starts with an illusory 'I,' making the entire framework flawed from the beginning.

The Nature of True Knowledge

True knowledge, in Vedanta, refers exclusively to pure awareness, the essence behind all knowledge and experience. This awareness is synonymous with consciousness and is what the Vedas call "jnapti." The experience of 'I am' represents the light that illuminates both knowledge and ignorance. By focusing on the question 'Who am I?' and recognizing the 'I' as the personal element and 'am' as existence, one can discover their true nature.

Universal Experience of Self

Every person, without exception, experiences the Self ('I') in every aspect of their lives. Even when someone claims 'I do not know,' they are conscious of their own existence, as they must be conscious to make such a statement. Thus, ignorance cannot persist within the Self, just as darkness cannot exist in the presence of the sun.

In conclusion, Sri Ramana Maharishi aptly remarks: "All are jnanis; there is no ajnani at all." Ignorance finds no place in the Self, just as darkness is dispelled in the presence of light.

— Nochur Sri Venkataram

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