Sunday, 15 October 2017

The need for Vijnanam

 (adapted from my article “Jnanam and Vijnanam” published in Medha, annual journal of Sydney Sanskrit school)

Lord Krishna tells Arjuna in the beginning of chapter 7 of Bhagavad Gita
ज्ञानं तेऽहं सविज्ञानमिदं वक्ष्याम्यशेषतः।(Jnaanam te’ham savijnaanam idam vakshyaamyasheshatah)
यज्ज्ञात्वा नेह भूयोऽन्यज्ज्ञातव्यमवशिष्यते।।(Yajjnaatwaa neha bhooyo’nyaj jnaatavyamavashishyate)
I shall completely impart to you this Jnanam along with Vijnanam gaining which knowledge nothing more remains to be known in this life.
Let us explore the two words Jnanam and Vijnanam in the context of Lord Krishna’s advice to Arjuna and the need for Vijnanam  to foster religious unity in our faction-ridden world.
In the closing verse of previous chapter, namely chapter 6, Lord Krishna stated that that the yogi who devoutly worships Him with his mind fully focussed on Him is the best of yogis. In the following verse, which is the first verse in this chapter,  Lord Krishna stated how He can be known in full without any doubt.  We should remember here that Lord Krishna is not speaking these words as the son of Devaki and Vasudeva but as the cosmic Supreme, who has taken the mortal body for the protection of the virtuous and destruction of the wicked and for the establishment of Dharma (Ch.4 – 8).
Cosmic Supreme is defined in Upanishads as BrahmanBrahman which means “Big one” is only an indicator and not a name and it only means It is bigger than whatever big you can think of or however big you can conceive.  Hereafter we will refer to the Cosmic Supreme, as Brahman only.  Brahman is spoken of as being of two natures, one with the three gunas, satva, rajas and tamas unmanifest, called Nirguna Brahman or simply as Brahman and the other with these three gunas manifest called Saguna Brahman or Iswara. The three gunas together are known as Prakrithi or nature and also as Maya. Maya does not mean an illusion, as ordinarily understood, but refers to the phenomenon which is valid for all our ordinary experiences but is proved false on investigation. When something is referred to as Maya what it really means is that it is not really what it appears to be. A common everyday experience of Maya is sunrise and sunset.  The time of sunrise and sunset is given in print media, displayed on TV screen and we also experience sunrise and sunset.  But does sun really rise or set?  No, it is only the earth’s rotation that creates this phenomenon and all of us are aware of this fact, even while talking or referring about sunrise and sunset. That is why Swami Vivekananda referred to Maya as a simple statement of facts as it is.  The Nirguna Brahman, which is the One without a second, and which is the Absolute Truth, is referred to by Lord Krishna, in verse 5 of the same chapter as His Higher nature that forms the adhishtanam for the whole Universe.  The knowledge of this Nirguna Brahman is referred to here as Vijnanam, visesha Jnanam and Jnanam refers only to the knowledge of Saguna Brahman or Iswara.    It is Vijnanam that makes Jnanam complete and whole as Iswara’s higher nature is Nirguna Brahman.   Only with Vijnanam we can truly imbibe the spirit of the pregnant Rig Veda mantra ‘एकं  सत्  विप्रा  बहुधा  वदन्ति ‘ (Ekam sat viprah bahudha vadanti) meaning “Truth is one, learned men call it by various names”  
We will now examine how Vijnanam, the knowledge of Nirguna Brahman can contribute to religious harmony and unity of humanity.  Kena Upanishad first reveals pure Consciousness, also called Athma, as the power behind all our powers of cognition. The pure Consciousness is an independent principle which is not part, product or property of the body and it enlivens the body- mind complex, which is made of pancha bhuthas.  The pancha bhuthas are inert by themselves and so the body mind complex as their compound is also inert.  It is only the blessings of pure Consciousness that makes the body mind complex sentient.  Later the Upanishad goes on to equate this pure Consciousness with Nirguna Brahman.  From this we conclude that Nirguna Brahman as pure Consciousness, enlivens all body mind complexes, irrespective of sex, age, race, religion. colour and nation.  So when you have Vijnanam, you realise that the consciousness principle that enlivens your body mind complex is the same One that enlivens all other body mind complexes.  You also realise that whatever be the external differences the internal power that makes people move and function as sentient human beings is the same.  This power is the Nirguna Brahman, the pure Consciousness, referred to as Sat in the Rig Veda mantra. It is One only without a second and it is this One which is called by many names in its other nature as Iswara.
Kena Upanishad also makes it clear that the forms which are worshipped, are only that of Iswara and not that of Brahman.  Iswara is the one that is commonly referred to as God and worshipped in different forms or symbols under different names.  This Iswara only is the srishti, sthithi, laya karanam.  Since it is worshipped in different forms or symbols, the worshippers of each symbol or form feel theirs is the true God and all other representations are false/inferior Gods, when worshippers’ knowledge stops with Iswara without extending to Nirguna Brahman, the higher nature of Brahman i.e. with Jnanam without extending to Vijnanam.  So people with Jnanam only without the Vijnanam are only aware of the dividing factors that separate them and miss the uniting principle. So Jnanam alone without Vijnanam had been and is the breeding ground of religious fanaticism and intolerance, This and the resulting zeal for conversion has been the cause for fights and wars, not to speak of present day terrorism, in the name of religion. With Vijnanam you see not only the One Brahman in all, but also all in One Brahman, and know this Brahman is none other than your own real Self.
Burt Harding, one of the advaita teachers of west, presents the same idea in different words.  He says in his satsanghs that human being is a mix of human and Being.  Being is the Oneness principle, the word he uses for Brahman, which is same in all human beings, irrespective of their race, religion, colour, sex or sect or nationality.  When people’s knowledge stops with the 'human' only, without the knowledge of the 'Being', there is emphasis on factors that divide humanity.  When it extends to 'Being' and one discovers that his real Self is the Being that is Oneness and not the human, which is ego, then one sees the intrinsic unity of all people i.e. pure consciousness and does not see others separate from oneself.  Deepak Chopra, another advaita teacher, calls this knowing state of mind as the state of Unity Consciousness. Vijnanam leads one to this Unity Consciousness that is necessary to achieve the principle of real brotherhood among humanity. 


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