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Knowledge & Experience

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Experience is not wanting, for experience is the nature of yourself. All experiences are strung together in the experience of yourself. You are a conscious person, and that consciousness that obtains in you as yourself is called ‘experience,’ anubhūti or anubhava, which is always present as the self-evident ‘I’ in all forms of experience. Therefore, it is not to be experienced; it is to be understood.

There is no question of first gaining knowledge and then later converting it into experience, because knowledge is final. Lack of experience of myself is not the problem here. I can only lack experience of what I do not have, and ‘I am’ is experienced all the time. What I lack is only recognition of what the self is. If that self is mistaken for anything other than what it is, then the resolution of the mistake means correcting the error about myself. It is knowledge.

‘Bhagavad Gita Home Study Course’ Ch.18 v.48 Swami Dayananda © Copyright Arsha Vidya 2017

What has to be accomplished is not knowledge of the consciousness which is ātmā but the removal of the superimposition of the anātmā, that is, the nāma-rūpas, on the ātmā. With such straightforward statements as these, one wonders where do people get the idea that there is a super–consciousness that is to be known? They say that beyond the body is a mind, beyond that a buddhi, and beyond all that a super–consciousness that you should realise. But Śaṅkara says very clearly here that you need not gain knowledge of the consciousness that is ātmā. Why? Because that is one thing which is present all the time. When you see something or hear something or smell something and when you do not experience anything at all, consciousness, which is ātmā, is present.

Being known to everybody with all these superimpositions, ātmā is not to be known as we usually understand ‘knowing,’ but is to be known in a special way, that is, by removing all the erroneous notions about it. It is already known but with confusion, and therefore, removal of the confusion is what is called ātma-jñāna. There is no objectification of the ātmā. That is why it is said in the Kenopaniṣad that he who says he knows the ātmā does not know the ātmā. Of course, he who says he does not know the ātmā also does not know. But, even though he says he does not know the ātmā, the one who says so is the ātmā. Ātmā is always prasiddha, evident, to one. And therefore, knowledge of the ātmā is not one of an aprasiddha viṣaya at any time.

‘Bhagavad Gita Home Study Course’ Ch.18 v.50 Swami Dayananda © Copyright Arsha Vidya 2017

You may have a doubt whether you require a separate pramāṇa for gaining the knowledge of the ātman. Is not your experience enough? Anything that leads you to knowledge is called pramāṇa. Experience, however, is not conclusive in giving knowledge as it is not a pramāṇa. Whenever you say that experience gives knowledge you mean that you have learnt from the experience. Mere experience is not a pramāṇa. Memory also is not a pramāṇa. Perception and inference lead you to immediate and indirect knowledge respectively. But neither of them is capable of removing the ignorance of the ātman because they cannot objectify the ātman. So, you require śabda, the words of scripture as a means of knowledge.

‘Mundaka Upanishad’ mantra 2.2.9 Swami Dayananda © Copyright Arsha Vidya 2017
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