By Swami Harshananda
Brahmajñana literally means ‘Knowledge of Brahman’.
The Vedānta system of philosophy posits Brahman (‘the Unlimited One,’ ‘the Infinite One,’ ‘the Absolute’) as the origin of the entire universe including the inanimate nature and the living beings. The universe evolves out of it, is sustained in it and involves back into it. Its essential nature is ‘sat-cit-ānanda,’ ‘existence-consciousness-bliss’. It is un-caused and eternal. It is also the very essence of the human beings. Since the human beings do not know this Brahman that is in them or behind them, they are undergoing a lot of suffering caused by the vicious circle of birth-death-rebirth, technically called ‘sansāra’. Mokṣa or liberating oneself from the bondage of this sansāra, is the ultimate goal of life. This mokṣa can be achieved only by brahmajñāna.
Though the word ‘jñāna’ means ‘knowledge,’ ‘brahmajñāna’ does not mean an intellectual understanding of Brahman. It is anubhuti or direct experience of Brahman, not only as the substratum of the entire creation, but also as the innermost core of oneself. Once this direct experience comes, there will be no more identification with the body-mind complex which alone was responsible for sansāra.
In order to get this experience, one has to cultivate the sādhanacatuṣṭaya first. This is to be followed by approaching a competent spiritual preceptor from whom one has to listen (śravaṇa) to the Vedāntic truths, reflect (manana) upon them and meditate (nididhyāsana) upon them. This will ultimately lead to brahmajñāna or the direct experience of Brahman often equated with ātman, the Self and result in mokṣa.
- See SĀDHANACATUṣTAYA for details.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore