Column: Yogi Ashwani


Gyan is gyan; there is no synonym for gyan as is with any other word in Sanskrit. It is not knowledge, enlightenment, or wisdom. All these are limited. There is no limit to gyan; it takes you beyond, from your present limit. It comes from experience. When you experience a particular state or thing you are not bound by that state but are over it, and then you have the gyan of it. Knowledge gained by reading books listening to discourses etc is not your own experience; it only limits you and shadows your mind. Only your Guru can give you gyan because only your Guru knows what you are, what your limits are, and what your capacity is. Taking into consideration these factors he gives you the experiences which take you beyond your present state.

To understand this better lets take the example of a little boy who when asked what he’d like to be when he grows up says he’d like to become a dacoit, or may be a truck driver. From the level of the child, these are exciting options, nice uniform, colourful headgear, and loud behaviour. The parents of course embarrassed, reprimands the child and tutor him to give a more respectable answer like, I’ll be an engineer. The child after a few occasions of either being cajoled or reprimanded will eventually start responding in a manner that does not embarrass his parents. Yet, in his heart he would still wish to be a dacoit or a driver. He is unable to understand his parent's reasoning. As he grows at some point the gyan dawns on him. He no longer wants to be a dacoit. It may not be an engineer that he wants to be but may be a doctor. 

Gyan is not the same thing as intellectually understanding a concept. As expectant mothers one can read many books on child rearing, how to or how not to hold the child, or how to change diapers. The mother to be can be anxious about her own preparedness for handling a baby. At some point though, which could even be before she has the baby, all that information seeking suddenly becomes unnecessary or redundant. She just has the gyan of the subject. There is no anxiety or nervousness, just a healthy anticipation along with a complete comfort that all can and will be managed.

Gyan can come from anyone or anything. You could get the gyan of an object by looking at it. It is the level of preparedness of the person that determines what level of gyan he would get. Looking at an idol of Shree Ganesha, three different people could get the gyan of three different aspects. One could just see the statue as a pretty form and think of how it would blend into his home décor. Another may actually see the lines, the curves, and the fluidity of the depicted pose and may just get the gyan of a dance form by seeing the Lord in a dancing posture. Yet another person may look at it and perceive the energy that is Shree Ganesha, and in that moment have the gyan of it.

Gyan actually is Guru kripa. When you are no longer separate from your Guru and everything you see or do is because of your Guru, then every interaction, everywhere, every moment, is a possibility in getting gyan. When not one with Him, you could listen for hours to the words he speaks and yet the gyan would not dawn upon you. Gyan is not about intellectually understanding the words he speaks but absorbing the force behind those words. It flows from the eyes of the Guru. Look into his eyes and even if there is a certain level of preparedness through the purifications of the practice and a sense of surrender, then even if no words are spoken, the gyan shall come to you. Gyan can happen anytime, anywhere, because the Guru is omnipresent.
Till the end of dwaparyug there were no books. All the gyan of the shrotras, smiritis and tantras were passed from the Guru to his shishya through shaktipath. Only when dwaparyug was ending did the rishis realise that it was the beginning of the end of creation i.e. this present Mahayug. It was clear that now the Guru would no longer be held in the revered position that is due to him. This was an indication that there would now be a disharmony in the gyan which was to flow from the Guru to the shishya. There was fear that due to this barrier between the Guru and shishya, gyan would be lost to the future generations. 

So then books were written, at the end of dwaparyug, Puranas were written to provide the beings of kalyug the path of salvation. At the present level of evolution the fears of the ancient rishis have completely manifested. Nowadays, intellectual knowledge which is from books is supposed to be supreme. There are intellectual debates on Vedic philosophy. “Who knows more?” is the dictum. All this is indicative of nearing the end of kalyug.

You can understand this article intellectually, debate on its various facets, and attempt to comprehend the magnitude of what is being said. Or you could by the grace of your Guru just get the gyan of it. That’s it.

—The writer Yogi Ashwini Ji is the head of Dhyan Foundation, Delhi.
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February 2010

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