The Importance of Self-Knowledge
The word for knowledge in Sanskrit is vidya. It comes from the root word vid, which means “to know.”
I received Self-knowledge from my grandfather, who was also my Guru, Baba Ayodhya Nath, from the lofty Upanishads, from the ages of 9 to 24, in the form of expositions on non-dual Vedanta philosophy.
Rare as it was, it felt like the ultimate knowledge to me; the highest, because this, alone, was leading me back to the underlying reality beneath my individual self and this manifest world.
The secret name of Self in the Upanishads is Satyasya Satyam - the truth of truths. It is knowledge of this supreme Self, alone, that removes the sorrow brought about by forgetfulness.
Hindus believe that there are two kinds of knowledge worth pursuing for two macro life goals. The first goal, of prosperity and well-being, signifies the progress or development of a human being in the material and social realm, called abhyudaya. It is undoubtedly dedicated to all-around prosperity. The second goal is for eternal bliss (not short-lived pleasures), called nihshreyasa. It deals with obtaining infinite happiness and contentment, which is, in fact, the natural state of the Self.
This worldly knowledge, known as Apara Vidya, makes us prepared for the first goal, of prosperity. Transcendental knowledge of Consciousness that underlies the individual, world, and God (known as Para Vidya) prepares us for the second goal of seeking abiding (non-worldly) inner happiness. It is also known as Brahma Vidya.
This second type aims at realizing Reality as it is and not as it appears to us in maya, the superficial world of appearances (as biology, chemistry, geography, neurology, medicine, health, religion, rituals, etc.). The latter fields of study are considered lower knowledge, since they have the phenomenal world as their main content and are ultimately rooted in self-ignorance and our identification with maya. They have a role to play, too, until we awaken; they help us survive and get by, and even thrive in maya (what with the degrees and paying jobs that come from such education!). However, only from knowledge of Self does our self-forgetfulness end.
Hence, one deals with a search for the absolute truth, while the other is content with studying relative phenomena.
Thus, Self-knowledge stands above and apart from all material knowledge in the Vedic tradition. The Atharva Veda guides all mortals: “Oh being, acquire knowledge. Along with all the parts of the body, make your soul powerful. Attain to liberation through the paths trodden by the learned sages.”1
The sages clarify that transcendental knowledge pertains to the immortality of the soul. This knowledge illumines within each one of us at some time or the other, and it facilitates the recognition that, “I am spirit.”
Transcendental knowledge propels the human being on a path of liberation from the material bondage of existence.
The Atharva Veda sages sing rapturously, “Just as from the high firmament, yea, out of heaven, a water drop with dew falls on the earth, and lends vigor and joy to mankind, so does the drop of Self-knowledge fall on me from the refulgent, Almighty God. Thereby, I am an emancipated soul.”2
The Importance of Awakening Scriptures
And how does one go about receiving this exceptional Self-knowledge? Once again, theVedas proclaim unequivocally: one can get it only by exposing oneself to a scripture teaching educational program. Lord Krishna himself explains this path in the Bhagavad Gita in Chapter 4, verse 34.
To awaken to the Self, one must go through an unswerving and methodical study of awakening scriptures for a length of time, to decondition the maya-saturated mind, slowly but steadily, and awaken to the truth of Self, irrevocably.
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1. Atharva Veda, Book II, Hymn XXXIV, 5
2. Atharva Veda, Hymns 664 and 1678
Acharya Shunya is a globally-recognized spiritual teacher and Vedic lineage-holder who awakens health and consciousness through the Vedic sciences of Ayurveda, Vedanta and Yoga. She is the driving force behind an online wisdom school and worldwide spiritual community, and the author of best-selling book on the Vedic art of mind + body + soul well-being and health, Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom (Sounds True, 2017) and forthcoming second book with Sounds True to be released in 2020, Sovereign Self. Acharya Shunya is a keynote speaker at national and international conferences, and serves as an advisor to the Indian Government in matters pertaining to global integration and cultivation of Ayurveda and Yoga. Receive her free online teachings and browse her current eCourse offerings here or see more about her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram. Subscribe to her YouTube Channel where she holds live Global Satsangs once per month. Study Ayurveda with Acharya Shunya in her online course, Alchemy through Ayurveda.