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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gnana and Vignana

Dear Asha, Ajay, Ravi and Ariana,

This essay is on spiritual Knowledge and Specified Knowledge.

I was reading a remarkable book by Bal Gangadhar Tilak on Gita Rahasya. There he defines gnana as spiritual knowledge and vignana as specified knowledge. He then refers to Bhagvat Gita Chapter 13 Sloka 30 to define these two types of knowledge.

The first line is: yada bhuthapruthakbhavam ekastham anupashyathi. This line refers to the diversity of forms residing in the One. “Realising that there is only one indestructible Parameswara, Who pervades all the perishable things of the world is gnana” says Tilak.

The second line refers to the many forms coming out of that One and says: thatha eva cha visthaaram brahma sampadhyathe sadha thadha. In translating this sentence Tilak says: “Understanding how the various perishable things come into existence out of the one permanent Parameswara is vignana”.

This became a point of reflection for me today during my walking meditation. Based on all of my reading, limited as it is, and all of my reflection, the first sentence says that there has to be an original source for all of this. All of us must have a “part” of this source since the cause is inherent in the effect as pointed out in the Chandogya Upanishad. It is possible to reflect on that Primordial Force and feel It intellectually and emotionally. That is spiritual knowledge (gnana) and is within the grasp of all of us. Mystics say they have experienced It also. This is not easy for the vast majority of us.

The second question asks how the One became many. It is not possible to answer this question definitively. One can only speculate. Many have speculated. This is the vignana. I do not wish to dwell on this issue. We will never know. It is better to be humble and stay innocent and look at the mystery with awe, respect, compassion and humility.

Therefore, I prefer reflecting on the One Source from which all of us came and try to merge with It, if am fortunate enough. I do not wish to be distracted with all the theories on how that One became many.

On a related topic, in common usage, we define vignana as science and gnana as knowledge in general. It is interesting to note the similarity between these Sanskrit words and English words such as ignorance, diagnose, knowledge etc. The root word is “gnocere” in Latin and “gignoskein” in Greek and “gna” in Sanskrit.

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