Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

j~nAnam / (a)parokSha

Definition - S. N. Sastri

The word 'j~nAnam', which means 'knowledge' is used in two different senses in Vedantic works. In taittirIya upaniShad 2.1.1 brahman is defined as 'satyam j~nAnam anantam'. Here the word 'j~nAnam' means consciousness which is the very nature of brahman and is therefore eternal, having no beginning or end. The word 'j~nAnam' is also used in the sense of 'a particular cognition', in which case it is an action which has a beginning and an end. Taking this second meaning of the word 'j~nAnam' an objection could be raised that if j~nAnam is the nature of brahman it would also be transient. Such an objection has been considered in the bhAShya on this Upanishadic statement and it has been pointed out that, while the nature of brahman is eternal consciousness, particular cognitions arise because of this consciousness illumining the mental modification (vRRitti) in the form of the object. Shri Shankara refers to these particular cognitions as 'semblances of consciousness' and says that they can also be referred to as j~nAnam'.

In bRRihadAraNyaka upaniShad, 3.4.2, the word 'dRRiShTi' which means 'sight' is used as a synonym of 'j~nAnam'. Shri Shankara points out in his bhAShya that this sight is of two kinds. He says:--

This sight is of two kinds, empirical and real. The empirical sight is a function of the mind as connected with the eye; it is an act, and as such it has a beginning and end. But the vision of the Self is like the heat and light of fire; being the very nature of the witnessing Consciousness it has neither beginning nor end. This eternal consciousness is the very nature of the jIva also, as stated in brahma sutra 2.3.18, since the jIva is none other than brahman.

he particular cognitions, which are transient, are brought about by the pramANa-s [means of knowledge] such as pratyakSha [perception]. The eternal Consciousness is realized as the jIva's own nature through the mahAvAkya-s such as 'Tat tvam asi'. This realization is known as 'aparokSha anubhUti' [immediate knowledge gained through the pramANa-s]. It is called aparokSha because it is not parokSha or mediate. Though it is also direct knowledge, it is not called 'pratyakSha' in order to distinguish it from all worldly knowledge attained through pratyakSha pramANa. To point out that it does not fall under the categories generally understood by the terms pratyakSha and parokSha it is called aparokSha.

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012