(Salvation through knowledge)
In modern concept
The philosophy of Jnana Yoga - as written in Sanskrit language, and ‘Gyana’ as it means in Hindi for knowledge, is the most complicated topic to write and discuss as the word ‘knowledge’ itself is very subjective and differs from person to person depending upon one’s perspective of life. A university professor may be very knowledgeable as far as teaching is concerned whereas a farmer may be equally knowledgeable in case of farming and agriculture. Both have a common denominator i.e. the knowledge of their vocation and the difference is in the numerator which is the purpose of the knowledge. None can say in real terms that they are more knowledgeable than others. Knowledge is limitless and its intrinsic value and importance cannot be assessed by its nomenclature. Similarly a lawyer, doctor, engineer, businessman or others engaged in their respective professions may think themselves an expert in their field, but may be less knowledgeable as far as the knowledge of other vocations are concerned and as such they can be also termed as illiterate or partially educated persons.
Generally, people have the tendency to underestimate other people as less Gyani (knowledgeable). This is the pseudo extension of their ego or false pride and reminds me of the story of six blind persons and an elephant. All of them touched different parts of the elephant and described the elephant according to the body part they came in contact with, and ridiculed other fellow blinds for giving the wrong description. Therefore, beyond one’s experience and area of expertise, a person cannot be considered as knowledgeable. Furthermore, the value and importance of knowledge depends upon social, political, economic structure and its demand and supply in a society which changes with the time. In an agrarian society a farmer would be more wealthy and respected than the university professor and vice versa.
Hence, a question may be raised on defining the characteristics of the knowledge in order for a person to be considered as Gyani (knowledgeable). What are the broad categories of knowledge and what is the difference between worldly knowledge and eternal knowledge? Is worldly knowledge which we acquire from our external senses; is the real knowledge or that which we acquire from the internal senses, the true knowledge? What is the difference between them? And what are the pros and cons of acquiring worldly knowledge and the eternal knowledge? Unless we clarify these questions, it would be difficult for an ordinary person like me having minimal knowledge to digest the philosophy of Jnana Yoga. It would be also difficult for people like me to aspire for salvation through knowledge without knowing its fundamentals.
The knowledge which we acquire in this world is generally meant for becoming an expert in a particular field so that we could profess that knowledge in order to educate others, earn our livelihood or bring a change in the society materialistically, financially, socially and/or scientifically. These efforts directly or indirectly bring material gain, worldly success, self- glorification, personal benefits, a sense of achievement, and accomplishment. One may argue that these successes are necessary to be recognized in the society which also brings material happiness in life. But a question arises - does material success bring real happiness in life? If it is real happiness and success, then it should stay in our life all the time, but does it? The definition of success also differs from person to person. One may consider financial success as the real success whereas for another, the sense of extraordinary achievement is the real success. Yet for another, helping others without any material gain is the real success and so on.
Now, the implantation of worldly knowledge into our personality has its own cost and they are not free of frills. It costs our mental peace, physical and mental wellness, happiness and harmony. Worldly knowledge ultimately puts all of us in a race course to compete for our survival in this materialistic world. In the process, we overstretch ourselves and inherit stress, anxiety, sufferings, blood pressure, heart attacks and other physical and mental ailments.
While acquiring worldly knowledge, our nature and character also changes. Chances of losing our natural qualities are high and we may become egoistic, selfish, proud, ruthless, angry or arrogant (with some exceptions), and in some cases it is so overwhelming that one may find less difference between an illiterate and an egoistic educated person in terms of behavioural character.
The worldly knowledge provides the means to survive in the outer world whereas inwardly knowledge or eternal knowledge provides an opportunity to know and understand our inner world and our true selves without disturbing the harmonious balance with nature. It entails who we are, from where we have come, what our true nature is, and how to be mentally and physically fit to obtain everlasting bliss. The implementation of worldly knowledge may result in stress, mental agony, worries and frustration whereas the inwardly knowledge brings peacefulness of mind, tranquility, stability and happiness. It helps us in moving closer from consciousness to pure consciousness or in Vedic terms - from Atma to Param-atma. This inwardly knowledge is also called Aatmic Gyana or knowledge of self.
Now, an ordinary mind may think why to bother about knowing our own self and what we are going to get out of it ultimately? In this materialistic world when everybody is looking for an opportunity to grab something for immediate gain or climb the ladder of material success, what are we going to gain out of such spiritual knowledge or practice? In this world, it seems that ultimately what matters is who is more successful materially.
Another point of view may be that talking about spiritual philosophy or Aatmic Gyana is for the people who have already enjoyed the materialistic world and are undergoing retirement age. They are already out of binding social and family responsibilities. Therefore, knowledge of knowing the self may be a good pastime for the people who are living a retired life. They have plenty of time to think inwardly and do some soul searching for improving their karmic energy for the next life. Knowingly, I have raised this question against this celestial knowledge so that I could invoke a debate and get the right answer from the readers of this blog. I have also not quoted any scripture on this topic in order to avoid plagiarism.
However to answer the above questions - Aatmic Gyana helps in exploring the world inside our minds and understanding our true nature or self. Once we are able to understand this knowledge, then our perspective towards life changes. It provides containment, detachments, and control on our ego, anger, greed and selfishness. We rise above ourselves and become more kind, loving, tolerant, generous and giving. This knowledge helps us in becoming better human beings. It frees us from all mental and physical ailments as the body and mind come in harmony with the nature and the universe. Therefore, it is not necessary that a person having top university degrees or having mastered several subjects may also have this knowledge unless specially studied and practiced.
For me, the true knowledge or Aatmic Gyana is the knowledge which makes me understand my true nature, character, who I am and what is the source of my ‘I-ness’ or belongingness, while working for the livelihood of my family and betterment of the society. If one has realized some Aatmic Gyana then in spite of having all responsibilities, pressures and pains of life, one can still remain calm, enjoy whatever one has with containment, but with the sense of detachment, keep striving for the best while remaining honest, sincere, kind and loving, patient and tolerant in all situations, to be egoless in order not to make another person small, devoid of false pride and just be a better person. I personally believe that worldly knowledge and inwardly knowledge both are necessary for a person to become materially as well as spiritually successful. To become an ideal human being, one has to discharge his or her duties as per his or her karma, while meditating inwardly to acquire the Aatmic Gyana.
For those who believe in worldly knowledge and material success as the main source of all pleasure forget that if they are the doers and makers of their destiny, then they should have control on its perpetuity. History tells that those who have been powerful and mighty are now weaker and suffering and if they have been the maker of their destiny then they should remain powerful in all times to come. Therefore, none of us are truly the makers of our destinies. So, who is the maker of destiny and how are we enjoying or suffering in this life? If it is the influence of our Karma which determines our path in this life then who is the controller or record-keeper of the Karmas? To understand our inner self or pure consciousness, as well as if there was a past life, then there may be a life in the future. As such, how we can make our next lives better and how we can connect with the divine for salvation, is the Aatmic Gyana (Knowledge of self), and instruments to understand this knowledge is Jnana Yoga.
Looking forward to your valuable comments,
(The view points expressed in this article is purely mine and in no way it has any relevancy with published or unpublished materials worldwide. Therefore, I look forward for an excuse for mistakes in my thought process. However your comments will further enlighten me in understanding these intricate philosophies).
Suman Saran Sinha
Certified Management Consultant
September 1st, 2011