|Vedanta Spiritual Library|
Unit - 19
Lesson - 1907: Source of Knowledge
By Raja Subramaniyan
We gain knowledge by converting the information received through our five senses. Knowledge cannot come through any other source. Therefore, the five senses are called Primary Source of Knowledge.
Each of our five sense organs is unique and the information received from one organ cannot be verified by using another organ.
Example: The color of the object is reported by eye and it cannot be verified by the ear or skin.
Therefore, we depend on our five senses heavily for gaining knowledge. While the source of information is limited to our five senses, there are six sources of knowledge.
Six sources of knowledge
1. Direct perception
What we can see, hear, taste, smell or touch come under this category. This is the only Primary Source of Knowledge and the remaining five are Secondary Sources of Knowledge.
Based on the direct perception and experience we infer fire by seeing smoke. Most of the scientific knowledge comes through inferences.
3. Deducing through comparison
We can deduce that the organization is not doing well by comparing the financial statement of the current year with the previous year.
4. Presumption through evidence
By seeing the wet road in the morning, we can gain the knowledge that it rained in the night.
5. Perceiving the absence
We gain the knowledge that there was a burglary in the house if we notice there are many valuables missing from the safe.
Based on reading books, watching television we can gain knowledge about places and objects without experiencing them in person.
All teachings from the teacher to the student come through this source.
Conversion of information into knowledge
Although we can receive information through the five senses without any limitation, how we convert the information into knowledge depends on our belief and faith.
If believe in something we do filtered listening and our knowledge will be of poor quality.
If we have faith, then we can hope to gain the right knowledge in any subject.
Faith Vs Belief
Belief and doubt are two sides of the same coin. When we receive an information either we believe or doubt it depending on our accumulated knowledge.
Example: A god-man converts sand into sugar. The disciples believe in the power of the god-man to do such miracles. The critics doubt the act and disbelieve the god-man.
Both the belief and the doubt do not have any scientific basis. They stem from the preconceived notion, which may be positively (belief) or negatively (doubt) biased. Similarly, those who believe in god are not any different from those who believe that there is no god. Both are believers and they may switch sides, depending on the circumstances.
Belief and doubt hinder the learning process. If one is stuck to belief/ doubt, he will not gain complete knowledge in any subject.
Faith on the other hand is an unbiased response to new information. It is neither believing nor doubting.
Example: While visiting an historical site, a tourist guide explains the life of royal family and shows various rooms within the palace. We will have faith in the words of the tourist guide, since there is no reason to doubt his words.
Faith means accepting the new information as truth, pending discovery. It is not a blind belief. Information will be received as if it is a truth with an implicit understanding that it will be validated whether it is a truth or not, after receiving the complete information.
A believer will look for positive aspects and ignore negative aspects so that the belief will become stronger. In the same way, a non-believer will look for negative aspects so that the doubt will become stronger. Neither of them have open mind to receive complete information. They filter the information according to their preconceived notion.
Whenever new information is received that contradict the accumulated knowledge, most people ignore such information or disbelieve it. A person who has faith will remain neutral and analyze both positive and negative aspects of the information with an open mind so that the truth is understood.
If he cannot understand a statement, he will question the source of information. If the source is reliable, he will question his own level of intelligence instead of doubting the information. If the source is unreliable, he will ignore the same.
Thus, belief and doubt prevent one from understanding the truth while faith leads one towards truth.
Faith Vs Trust
Trust is a validated faith.
Validation and verification are integral parts of faith. After complete validation, a faith will blossom into trust.
Example: The teacher teaches 4+4=8. The student has faith in the teacher and accepts the teaching. Suppose someone asks the student, "How do you know 4+4=8?" the student will respond, "My teacher told me!"
However, after sufficient practice in math, the student sees that the teacher is correct and develops a trust in the solution. Now the student does need to quote the teacher.
As long as we have faith, we will need the support of the source of knowledge. Once the faith is validated, it becomes trust.
Trust Vs Knowledge
Trust converts information into knowledge. The teacher helped the student to convert the information into knowledge because the student had faith in the teacher to start with.
If one were to believe or doubt the teacher, the information giving by him will not be received completely. Faith ensures receipt of complete information, which is essential for validation. It is not possible to validate incomplete information.
After validation, faith becomes trust and one is able to see the truth in the information through our experience. Then the information becomes knowledge. Thus, the faith is the starting point and an essential requirement to gain knowledge.
Without the faith, if we are to gain knowledge, it cannot come from teaching.
Example: An uneducated person has knowledge gained only from his experience.
If we are to depend on our own experience for gaining knowledge, we cannot progress much. Therefore, one needs to learn from a teacher with faith. Once knowledge is gained, the support of the teacher is no longer required. However, the respect for the teacher remains, since without him we would have taken longer time to gain the knowledge.
Faith determines knowledge
The knowledge one gains is in line with the faith one has. Depending on the influence of Aura, Energy and Matter, people have faith in various teachings.
People, who are Aura dominant, accept Vedas as a Primary Source of Knowledge. The truth revealed in the Vedas cannot be validated by any of our five sense organs.
In general, people gain direct knowledge only thorough the using their five senses. They do not give the status of 'Primary source of knowledge' to Vedas. Vedas is a primary source of knowledge because the information contained in the Vedas cannot be verified through any other source.
We treat our eyes as a primary source of knowledge. However, we are aware that eyes do not always report the truth. For example, although it shows that the sun is revolving around the earth, we know the truth is otherwise. If we blindly believe in the eyes, our knowledge will not grow.
Similarly, if we blindly believe in Vedas, we will not gain the correct knowledge. Vedas give lots of information. Firstly, we must accept that the Vedas is a primary source of knowledge. However, we must question the contents of the Vedas as we question the information received through eyes.
Lord Krishna says that many do not gain knowledge from Vedas either they do not treat it as a primary source of knowledge or they do not question to arrive at the central message of Vedas.
Benefit of faith
The quality of our life depends on our faith. The happiness and suffering directly determined by our faith. A freedom fighter considers that it is an honor to go to jail. If we think money is the most important thing in life, our life is accordingly shaped.
Ultimately, when we develop faith in the Vedas, we spend the required time and effort in completing Jnana Yoga. This will lead us to Joyful Living.
Type of faith
There are three types of faith based on AEM as discussed in the previous chapter. This can be seen from the type of actions they do, the type of gods they pray, their method of offering prayer, the purpose of praying to god differs according to their dominant element.
Lord Krishna explained that good-natured people would progress and reach him, while the evil natured people will make the life hell for themselves.
Chapter 17: Three types of faith Verses: 01 - 06
17.1 Arjuna asked, Oh Krishna, what is the status of those who do not follow the principles of scripture but who worship according to their own faith? Are they in Aura, in Energy or in Matter?
17.2 Lord Krishna said, according to the three modes of nature of a person the faith can be of three kinds--Aura, Energy or Matter. Now hear about these.
17.3 Oh Arjuna! According to the particular kind of faith, a human being lives his life. The human being is said to be of a particular faith according to the modes he has acquired.
17.4 Men in the mode of Aura worship the gods; those in the mode of Energy worship the demons; and those in the mode of Matter worship ghosts and spirits.
17.5-6 Those who undergo severe austerities and penances not recommended in the scriptures, performing them out of pride, egoism, desire and attachment, who are impelled by Energy, without intelligence, torture their bodily organs as well as their mind and Me who is residing within, are to be known as demons.