Understanding and exploring the Universe: brahmavidyA and brahmajnAna

In the vedic literature we come across a term "Rshi" (R pronounced as "rew" in "drew"). This is a special term meant for an individual who could be considered a "seer".  A "seer" is one who can "see through".  Since "seeing through" is not a normal human skill, some early commentators believed that a Rshi must be endowed with some extra-human skills. With the development of science and exploration of nature, now we understand that "seeing" is a function of observing and analyzing in a structured manner.  The structure could consist of the discovery of the natural laws and building up a consistent theory that can explain the observable universe.  


Here one discovers the laws and finds joy in observing the application of the laws.  All science, technology, space exploration and medicine is achieved through the application of these laws.  We discover more laws as we explore into newer avenues of nature.  "Rshi"s who contemplated on the observable universe created a knowledge system which got built on six branches of knowledge called vedAnga.  "Rshi"s who wished to contemplate on the origin of the universe had to think harder and eventually created vedAnta, a set of books on the creation of the rules of the universe.  These rules are caused by Chit as we spoke in the earlier segment.


While there is no real theory as to why the original cause should be called Chit, lately there is research to suggest that all sounds have built-in meanings and so Chit as pronounced possibly has the suggestion of cosmic consciousness built in integrally to its sound.  Referring to the previous paragraph and the last week's material, the exploration of Chit is vedAnta and the exploration of Sat is vedAnga.  The pronunciation of "Sat" possibly carries the meaning of what's existing and we may explore further on these words when we discuss the creation of words. By the time the creation of vedAnga and vedAnta, a grammatical language was already in use in India and the Rshis used the words from this language to create the terminology of their respective knowledge system. The question for vedAnga was to understand the universe as it's organized and the question for vedAnta was to understand the identity of the human being in the cosmic process.


Since vedAnta deals with the origin of the universe, the challenge to reconstruct is enormous and certain basic formula needs be assumed.  The assumption that is made is that the universe operates through Sat, Chit and Ananda; and that we can explore Chit through Sat.  Such exploration when successful can give us Ananda! The latter is an empirical observation and not an assumption.  Ananda is our basic nature and all we do is to create a link to it through our living and contemplation. As we have said, we live in Sat, and Sat is knowable.  Discovery of Sat is done through our senses and then connecting various strands of information to create a coherent system.  This system is called vidyA (knowledge).  


All vidyA is one and we call them different depending on our perception and specialization. There is a saying in Sanskrit "ekam sat viprA vahudhA vadanti", "Truth(knowledge) is one, people speak of it in various ways."  Our perception can be empirical or genetic and some times different persons may interpret the same facts differently. However all converge to an empirical truth if it existed.  We must remind ourselves that all such "truth" is a part of the design conceived and implemented by Chit in the cosmic process.  More we discover, more knowledge remains to be discovered.


Chit however remains unknown to us, like we don't know why some laws or objects exist (why should there be gravity, or heat or light or any other basic element?). The contemplation on Chit leads to intuition (jnAna).  jnAna may tell us which laws are required and if we are lucky we may predict some new laws through our intuition.  Intuition is subjective and open-ended; various thinkers make different intuitive models leading to different conceptual models in the world. One interesting conceptual model is if there is a God and how does He/She/It relate to human beings.  In the western theory, God is an external entity and evaluates the actions of the human beings.  In the vedAnta theory, everything including us is a part of Brahman; and Brahman is pure joy, Ananda.  In the vedAnta theory any suffering is only a perception and is a part of the cosmic joy.  In a similar manner any happiness is also a perception and is a part of the cosmic joy.  Since this joy is not achieved through the senses, its understanding is a part of our intuition, and if followed rationally it becomes a part of our knowledge. Brahman when used as a relation to other words becomes Brahma, so we have two words: brahmavidyA and brahmajnAna.


When we analyze the concepts of Brahman through our tools of inquiry in brain and the senses, we create brahmavidyA, the knowledge of Brahman.  Since Brahman and its manifestation have unlimited expanse, brahmavidyA is unlimited in scope and extent. Through extremesharpness and high intellect we cultivate the knowledge through the guidance of teachers and through the residency in schools.  The exploration of brahmajnAna however is a solitary journey and could be based on rejection, renunciation and deep austerities to create the necessary out-of-sense experiences.  In eastern religions it has been called the path of liberation where the existence is understood and analyzed in all of its dimensions.   In the worldly life, liberation is a state of pure joy. A third word brahmakarma is used to connote the meaning "actions on behalf of Brahman".  Our life and doings are by default an offering to Brahman and we exist in order to perform duties on behalf of Brahman is the message from the Bhagavadgita. Understanding this message is the path to liberation.
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