What is jinána? There are two types of jinána: mundane knowledge or Apará-jiṋána and spiritual knowledge or Pará-jiṋána. Mundane knowledge may be defined as the internal projection of the external physicality. And Pará-jiṋána or spiritual knowledge is the internal projection of the internal or cosmic spirituality. This is all jiṋána.
In a discussion about jiṋána we must also say something about “Smrti” or memory.
It has been said “Anubhuta vishayá sampromoshah smrti”. Smrti is the capacity to recreate an image in the mind of something which has already been perceived.
Now what is the meaning of “Anubhava”? In Saḿskrta if the word “Ańu” is written with guttural “ńa” it means “tiny or molecule” and if it is written with dental “na”, it means “following” or “after” – such as “Anugata” which means “follower” – that is, “who is following”. So “Anubhava” (Bhu + Al = Bhava which means “to become” and “Anu” which means following) means “to become the same afterwards”.
Imagine you have just seen an elephant. The feeling in your mind will become “elephant-like”. This is your perception. You have experienced what an elephant is like. After seeing the elephant your mind becomes “elephant-like”. This “becoming” is “Bhava” - from which the word “Anubhava” comes. So by “anubhava” one’s mind becomes the same object which one has earlier seen. The mind may recreate or become that which was once heard. For example, suppose someone is singing the tune based on “Ashá vari” “Rága”. On hearing that rága, your mind will start dancing accordingly and you will feel the tune being sung in your mind.
Similarly imagine you eat some food and say “it’s too spicy”. What happens then? Your mind also become “very spicy”. We often say “I feel bitter about the way he behaved”. Good heavens, how can the mind be bitter? There are many bitter fruits and vegetables which can be eaten as food. But when such food is tasted the mind also becomes bitterish, and only then do you realize that such and such an item is “bitter” – you identify ucche – you identify karala. All these kitchen vegetables taste bitter.
So only observing is not perception or an experience. Any sensible object, when it is perceived in the mind, gets the same feeling as that of the object. In other words the mind becomes similar and identical to that object. Hence once the mind has become an object it can revive that same perception later by applying will-force, this is “Smrti” or memory. “Anubhuto Vishayá sampromoshah smrti”.
Now one whose mental power is weak, whose nerve-cells are feeble, who has little will-power, who cannot make his or her mind singularly pointed or concentrate sharply, has a short memory. He or she is unable to remember what has been seen or though after a lapse of time.
On the other hand some people can remember the pin-drop sound which they heard fifty years ago. They have kept that sound alive in their memory. But there is a difference between this memory and apara-jiṋána. Apará-jiṋána is the internal projection of external physicality – that is, the outside world gets projected in the mind. Now there is a basic difference between this Apará-jiṋána and memory. In memory we have only the feeling of the bitter taste. For example a man has heard the singing of a “Dhrupada” song and he at once perceived and built that Rága and the song of Dhrupada in his mind. This is called perception. But afterwards when he recreated an image of Dhrupada in his mind that became his memory. But that does not mean or prove that he “knew” or “understood” what a Dhrupada song is. Jiṋána is the knowledge or understanding of what Dhrupada actually is. So memory and jiṋána are not one and the same.
Now what is knowledge? This knowledge can be the internal projection of external physicality or the internal projection of internal (cosmic) spirituality. These are the two types of jiṋána. Now this projection can only be had when the sense of the object’s existence is still vividly alive in the mind. In other words when one has the full knowledge about a song, when and how is it sung, etc., that is called jiṋána. Once one has understood it one may recreate that Dhrupada song in the mind anytime at will, one has simply memorized it, it cannot be said that one has the full knowledge about the song Dhrupada.
So the difference between the two is vast, but dialectically speaking there is little difference. Now those who can easily recollect any perception they had in the past may be called “recollector of their memory” or Dhruvásmrti. For example every human should mentally ideate “Japakriya” 24 hours a day. Yet nobody does it, they always forget. This what normally happens. Imagine while cooking one says, “I’ll have to add salt to the curry” but no sooner has one uttered the words, “to add salt” one forgets to do so. So people are always forgetful. But those who have developed a memory capable of retaining information do not forget anything any more. That is, they always mentally remember God. Then what happens in that condition? They get their memory firmly implanted – firmly based in a solid foundation – and they never forget. And that condition of never forgetting anything, is called Dhruvásmrti. And memory then stands firm and sure. Then you have full control over your memory according to your wish. Such people are called Dhruvásmrti – they can always remember God and thus feel a special kind of Ánanda or bliss in their minds. That Ánanda is called Dharmameghánanda. In the sphere of jiṋána when people make their minds singularly pointed – when they reach the pinnacle of intellect then they can, at will, place and establish the mind on any particular point or vindu. What happens then? This outer world – the external physicality, the material existence comes under the purview of their memory. That is, whenever they wish they can recollect or evoke anything in their mind. So in that state of affairs the fun is that the whole world then becomes their special point or vindu for concentration and recollection by becoming one and the same with the singular minded individual. So if that individual wished to know some thing he or she will not need to go through any books and scriptures. By simply closing his or her eyes, he or she will be able to perceive what is written in what particular page of a book and in what library. People will think – “Oh God! What a learned person he or she is. Just see how much he or she has studied.” But actually he or she did not know anything, he or she did not learn anything. He or she only perceived the whole world in his or her mind and has kept the recollection of the universe alive in his or her memory, and he or she started recollecting things such as “this is that” or “that is that”. And the people will be wondering how clever that person is. No credit or bravado is there – the entire physical world. This is only possible when one can make an internal projection of internal spirituality. That is, when one attains God, one becomes omniscient. Brahmavid sarvavid átmavid brahmavid. So how can one acquire true knowledge? If you want to know all – know one. Then only everything will be known to you. People wish to know everything but the human cranium is small, and the brain even smaller. So how much can one know? Also whatever one learns today one forgets tomorrow. Yes, one who was a Mahámohapádháya, a pandit, would no longer be able to remember the “sabdarupa” of “Nara” if after leaving his or her original occupation he or she became engaged in agricultural work. This is the situation that usually happens. So the main thing is “know all – know one”. What is the use of reading and forgetting so many books? If one reads more books one will forget more things and make more mistakes. So what is the use? No permanent benefit is derived from being a book-worm. I encourage the general education – laokika education – so that people can understand the shallowness of laokika knowledge. So it has been said in the scripture.
Átmajiṋánaḿ vidurjiṋánaḿ jiṋánányanyáni yánitu;
Táni jiṋánávabhásáni sárasyanaeva bodhanát.
The word “knowledge” in old Latin is “Keno”. From the old Saḿskrta language the word has become “know” in modern English. Although the letter “k” is not pronounced in “know”, “knowledge”, etc. it is still kept because the root word was “keno”.
Excepting self-realization or Átma-jiṋána – all other knowledge is of no value. Every object has two types of shadow: the umbra and penumbra. Shadows are unsubstantiated knowledge – they are not real jiṋána. They are only the shadows of the things. By observing the shadows you cannot identify or recognize the original object. You cannot distinguish between a Bakul tree or a Lichu tree by observing its shadow. To identify two trees you will have to observe and examine their leaves, and not their shadows. Similarly all mundane knowledge is only a shadow it will not help you recognize the real thing.
Hence the more quickly people understand the real truth the better. And until they realize that real truth they should be content for the time being with apará jiṋána or mundane knowledge.
13 December 1978, Calcutta