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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.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Brain’s problems

Brain is an amazing organ.
It is the seat of our mind.
Its main function is information exchange.
It has two components – one that keeps our internal milieu constant so we can live. This is like our thermostat with a servo mechanism. It receives signals and readjusts our chemistries without our knowing.
The other is for receiving signals from the outside world and responding.
It has to receive signals correctly, interpret them correctly, respond on time and with right movements, store the information and the experience and go back to retrieve them when needed.
It can deal with internal changes we are not even aware of, it can respond to external things we become aware of and it can also think of “non-existent” things, like ideas.
It can imagine things.
It uses language to imagine things.
Human brain has language capacity!
That is its boon and a bane!
The mind (brain) loves words.
If it imagines something, it gives it a name.
It is useful and necessary to do so.
Sometimes though, it is a handicap.
It tends to believe in some things just because there is a name for it, even when there is no proof.
It mistakes words for the things.
It likes to have an explanation for everything.
But not necessarily the correct one.
It wants a quick and easy answer most of the time.
Therefore, it accepts plausible explanation.
Once it thinks it has an answer, it stops thinking.
It clings to the first available “easy” answer.
It jumps to conclusion.
What is worse, it tends to justify its conclusions, even if wrong.
It is fickle.
It is always in conflict with itself – between its reason and its emotion.
Many things can go wrong with perception, interpretation and conclusions; indeed they do.
But, this brain is all we have. We need to work within its limitations.
We have to know its limitations.
Even for that, we have to use the same imperfect brain!
But, it is lots of fun! May be, it is not!!
I still think the brain is the most amazing organ of our body.