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The Faculty of Knowledge 1

The subject of today’s discourse is “The Faculty of Knowledge”.
In the mechanical sphere, knowing, or the functional side of knowledge, occurs with the perception of special types of reflections and refractions, but in the psychic sphere, it occurs as a result of the subjectivization of objectivity or objectivities.

For example, if a particular type of vibration hits an object or plate it meets some resistance and may get reflected or refracted, as in the case of an echo; or a certain portion of the vibration may pass through the plate. In the mechanical stratum, knowledge, or the faculty of knowledge, is thus attained. But in the psychic stratum, knowledge involves the subjectivization of any external objectivity or objectivities. We take an external object inside ourselves, be it an elephant, a horse, a vocalized word, a touch, or anything else with which we come in contact in the outer world, and assimilate it in our psychic existential “I” feeling. This is the process of knowing – it is something related to the psychic sphere. So, knowledge has two aspects – first, the aspect of reflections and refractions, and secondly, the psychic aspect; that is, the process of attaining knowledge in the psychic sphere.

The word jiṋána (knowledge) is derived from the Sanskrit root verb jiṋá (to know). In very ancient Sanskrit, which is otherwise known as the Vedic language, this root verb jiṋá was not very popular. Perhaps you know – especially those of you who study philology, or deal with the science of phonetics and vocabulary – that a language in its infancy starts with a very limited vocabulary. Later, the more the community using this limited word-stock advances in different spheres of practical life, the more enriched the vocabulary becomes, but if that community lacks the will to advance, their vocabulary will not grow. The ancient Vedic language, which was originally spoken in central Russia by the Aryans, gradually developed as the Aryans moved from country to country, undergoing innumerable experiences and realizations as they went. The natural outcome was the enormous development of their vocabulary. In that ancient dialect, the root verb jiṋá was not in common use; another verb, vid, was used.

I have just said that as a community passes through various phases in different spheres of life, its collection of words simultaneously increases. The language of monkeys will serve as an example. It is a fact that monkeys have their own language. Among the different species of monkeys there are those who remain in the jungles and forests. As they hardly ever come in contact with human beings, they have little knowledge and few words in their stock, perhaps thirty to forty words. They do not need to create compound words; they manage well enough by uttering certain significant expressions using sounds such as kiun, kun, kin, kain. There is no necessity for them to formulate compound words by joining kiun and kun, for example, otherwise they would have done so, thus creating the compound word kiun-kun to give a new meaning. But there are a large number of words in the languages of those monkeys which live close to human habitation. They come in frequent contact with humans and are required to fight battles of wits (to escape death, for instance). Certain varieties of monkeys have, in fact, as many as seven hundred to eight hundred or even nine hundred words in their dialect. Of course, they do not have a codified dictionary. They acquired as many words as they needed to move in different domains. In the case of humans, very undeveloped communities such as the Zulus, the Pygmies and the Maoris have a very limited stock of words. On the other hand, there are certain languages which have enormous vocabularies of over 500,000 words, such as the Sanskrit, French, English and German languages. In Bengali there are about 125,000 words, and in Gujarati nearly 100,000. Other languages have less than 100,000 words in their vocabularies.

A community which develops in a particular environment creates an increasing number of words relating to that domain. For example, in Bengal, which is close to the sea, there is a particular type of sea-creature called timi (whale). In North India, where there is no sea nearby, the English word “whale” is more popular than the Bengali word timi. Again, another sea-creature, the lobster, has numerous synonyms such as galdá, bágdá, kuco, kádá, mocá, etc.; as so many varieties of lobster are available only in Bengal and not in North India, in North India the words are not in currency either. In the case of sharks, there are two words used in Bengali, háunar and kámat́. The one that inhabits rivers is called kámat́. In North India there is no salt water, and there is neither háunar nor kámat́. A shark that lives in the sea is called háunar, while the one living in a lake, [not] in a salt-water area, is known as kámat́. In English there is only one word to describe both, “shark”.

When the Aryans began to spread out in all directions from their original homeland, their vocabulary also began to develop and their language began to flourish. In ancient Sanskrit, even in Rgvedic Sanskrit, the vocabulary was very limited. The root verb vid became inadequate as it was discovered that there were various other ways of knowing. For example, one can gain knowledge by reading books, by listening to others, or by undergoing some kind of training, etc. Thus, knowing can be done in several ways. Long ago, when Bengal was a sovereign country, the military personnel who used to impart training to their recruits were nicknamed jáná. Even today there is a Bengali title jáná for those people whose forefathers were military officers. The verb vid, no doubt, meant knowing, but that did not carry the full import of what the speaker wanted to convey. To cite another example: previously, people would use the verb vid to describe both the farmer’s knowing when the harvest should be reaped, and the scholar’s discovery, after much research in his psychic laboratory, of a very intricate theory. The problem was, however, how to differentiate between these two types of knowledge. Hence, the root verb jiṋá was evolved in those ancient days, which meant subjectivization of objectivity in a mechanical way through reflections and refractions. The verb jiṋá invented by the ancient Aryans, was changed into keno in Old Latin language. In Sanskrit the pronunciation is jiṋá, in Bengali jiṋa, in the Rgvedic language jiṋa, in Old Latin keno, and in Modern English “know”. (As the original spelling of the word was “kenow”, we still spell the word with a “k” at the beginning without actually pronouncing it.) Those who learned the science of Tantra Yoga and Rája Yoga from Lord Shiva, cultivated the physical and psychic aspects of knowledge – the expressions and waves of vibrations. Consequently, the Shaivites became followers of the cult of knowledge (jiṋánamárga) whereas the non-Shaivites became the followers of the cult of devotion (prapattimárga). You should know the difference between the two.

The first question that the jiṋánamárgiis pose whenever they see an object, whether psychic or spiritual, is invariably, “What is this?” Their next question is, “What is its source or origin?” Then they proceed further along that line to another source of knowledge where both reflection and refraction end. That is, the mind of the inquirer reaches a point where it fails to comprehend that plate on which the processes of reflection and refraction operate. The point where the mind loses its capacity to analyse or compare further is the Supreme Point; and this is the Shaeva cult of knowledge. Judged in this light, Ananda Marga philosophy also supports the Shaeva cult as it strives for the further enrichment and advancement of the cult of knowledge. It encourages the development of intellect and wisdom, and thus motivates people to acquire more and more knowledge. This is a great boon for humanity, as the highest treasure of human beings, which distinguishes them from the other creatures, is their intellectual superiority. Had there been no intellect in humans to distinguish them from other creatures, there would be hardly any difference between humans and animals. Therefore, this philosophical consciousness, which can also be called “Ananda Marga consciousness”, will lead humanity to greater intellectuality. And the constant pursuit of intellectuality leads one to its furthest point, the place where intuition begins. Hence in the realm of spiritual practice, it is immensely helpful. The path of sádhaná is not devoid of intellect or intuition; rather it is based on intuition. It gives no scope for superstition or blind faith. Instead it facilitates the maximum all-round progress of humanity and the manifestation of the highest human excellence.

The other cult, the non-Shaeva cult, which I prefer to call prapattimárga, is said to have a serious defect: it hampers, at the very outset, the development of humanity. It states that whatever is happening in this universe is due to the Cosmic will, without which not even a single blade of grass can move. This doctrine is called prapattiváda. A jiṋánamárgii says in refutation, “Well, it is a hundred percent true that nothing in this universe, not even a blade of grass, can move without His will. This is exactly what we wish to discover in jiṋánamárga: that He desired it, and then the blade of grass moved. What is the harm if we want to find out how His desire causes everything to happen?” And here lies the difference between the two cults, and the superiority of the Shaeva cult over the non-Shaeva cult.

27 April 1980, Calcutta
Published in:
A Few Problems Solved Part 7
Ananda Marga Philosophy in a Nutshell Part 5
Discourses on Neohumanist Education