Knowledge and Ignorance


          He who realizes knowledge and ignorance together, overcomes death by performing works and obtains salvation by attaining true knowledge.  Yaj. XL, 14


What is Knowledge:

          Knowledge is that which gives us the correct and true idea of a thing.


          Ignorance is that which does not give us the right notion of an object, but, on the contrary, gives us quite a different idea of a thing from what it naturally is.


Yoga defines four type of Ignorance, or incorrect knowledge:


1.                 To believe the unstable world and the decaying body to be permanent ie. To regard the phenomenal world to be everlasting and eternal, and to make the physical body angelic with the view to keep it on for ever by means of psychic energy or the influence of Yoga, and a similar groundless belief, is the first phase of ignorance.

2.                 The belief of purity in impure objects, practices of telling lies and stealing and other vices.

3.                 The idea of pleasure in the real form of pain – excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures.

4.                 Thinking the body to be soul and the soul to be body.


Knowledge:  is to know a thing as it is in nature.

1.                 Transient object as transient, everlasting things as ever lasting.

2.                 An impure object as impure, a pure one as pure.

3.                 Pain as pain, pleasure as pleasure.

4.                 The non-ego as the non-ego, the self as the self.


Steps for salvation:

1.                 Performance of virtuous deeds – holy works, righteous devotion, sacred knowledge.

2.                 Worship of God with its true characteristics.


Steps for Bondage:

          Unrighteous works, such as lying, the worship of stocks and stones, false knowledge bring the bondage of sin.


Three things you are never without:

1.                 knowledge

2.                 thought

3.                 action.


The important thing is correct knowledge, correct thought, correct speech, correct actions and correct worship of God leads to salvation.


Means of Salvation:


1.     Obedience of God’s commandments.

2.     Freedom from unrighteous works.

3.     Freedom from ignorance

4.     Freedom from bad company, evil thoughts or associations,

5.     Freedom from improper sensuousness or indulgence in wicked pleasures;

6.     Genuineness

7.     beneficence

8.     knowledge

9.     impartial justice

10. devotion to the cause of virtue

11. remembering God, praying to Him, meditating on Him

12. Introspection

13. acquiring knowledge

14. teaching

15. honest profession

16. advancement of knowledge

17. adoption of righteous means in affairs

18. doing everything with impartiality, equity and righteousness.


Detail means of salvation:


1.                 a)  Virtuous life – one who wishes to be away from pain and to enjoy happiness, must stay away from wickedness and act upon the dictates of virtue and piety.

b)    one must ascertain the duties to be done and acts to be omitted, and learn to discriminate virtue and vice, truth and falsehood thoroughly by keeping the company of good persons.

c)     The knowledge of the 5 planes of life, called the Panch Kosh, that compose the human existence, should be required.


5 Planes or sheaths:


                                                              i.      Anna Maya Kosh (the alimentary organic system) (physical body):  Containing skin, muscles, bones, nerves, arteries, blood, semen, all made of the earth and water elements.

                                                            ii.      Prana Maya Kosh (the vital system) (aerial frame):

1.     Prana (outbreath)

2.     Apana (in-breath)

3.     Samana (digestive process which starts from the navel and distributes essences of food to different parts of the body).

4.     Udana (vital action) which passes the food and drink down the throat and contributes to strength and valor.

5.     Vyana (the energy) which helps the ego to set also functions of the body to work and produce other motions.

                                                          iii.      Mano Maya Kosh ( the animal system) contains the will, consciousness and five active senses:

Five Active Senses:

1.     Speech or voice  - the power of articulation

2.     feet -  the power of  locomotion.

3.     hands – the power of prehension

4.     excretory organs the ability to excrete

5.     generative organs – the ability to generate.

                                                         iv.       Vijnana Maya Kosh ( the intellectual system) contains the intellect, memory and five cognitive senses.

 Five Cognitive Senses:

1.     ear - the power of hearing

2.     skin – the power of feeling or touching

3.     eyes – the power of seeing

4.     tongue – the power of tasting

5.     nose – the power of smelling

   These are the means of the soul to acquire knowledge.


                                                           v.      Ananda Maya Kosh (the spiritual system) manifesting love, cheerfulness, greater or less degree of joy, happiness and the material substance as the vehicle.


Through these five systems, the soul performs all her actions, devotion and acquisition of knowledge.


States of Body:


1.                       Wake phase.

2.                       Dream phase

3.                       Slumbering phase of the mind.


d)    Four kinds of bodies:

1.                       Visible physical body made of 5 elements:


a.      Air

b.     Water

c.     Fire

d.     Earth

e.      Akaash (Space)


2.                       Invisible, elemental body made of 17 elements:


a.      Five Prana

b.     Five Cognitive senses

c.     Five properties of elements

d.     Will (mind)

e.      Intellect


This invisible body accompanies the soul in her transition of birth and death.





3.                       Substantial body – found in the slumbering phase (dreamless sleep).  It is same for all souls.

4.                       Turiya body (highest spiritual state) soul is absorbed in the enjoyment of happiness on the realization of God through trance.


2.                 Second step for salvation is (vivek) judgment or distinguishable:

To know truth and falsehood after a careful discrimination, and then to choose the righteous acts and reject the evil ones is called the right judgment.

     Steps to right judgment:

                                                              i.      Right knowledge of all living beings and God – their characteristics, nature and actions.

                                                            ii.      Then obedience of God’s commandments.

                                                          iii.      Engagement of mind in devotion

                                                         iv.      Absence of conduct contrary to His commandments.

                                                           v.      Righteous use of nature.




3.                 Third Means of salvation is six fold merit:

i.                    Shama – checking the mind and the internal sense from running riot into wickedness and always applying them to righteousness.

ii.                  Dama – withdrawing the senses and the body from lusting after wicked actions such as adultery and other vices, and employing one’s self in the control of the senses and other virtuous works.

iii.                Uparati – Indifference – which always keeps us away from vices and persons doing wicked deeds.

iv.               Titiksha – forbearance, endurance and constant application to the attainment of salvation after abandoning joy and sorrow consequent upon adoration and insult, profit and loss to any extent.

v.                 Shradha – staunch faith in the teachings of great men noted for veracity, learning, and holiness.

vi.               Samadhana – concentration of the mind.



4.                 Mumukshutwa (intense desire for salvation) love for no other thing whatever than salvation and its means of attainment, just as the hungry and thirsty think of nothing else but food and drink.


Four Minor means of Salvation (anubandha):

1.                       Adhikari: one who possesses the merit of proficiency in the aforesaid four means of salvation.

2.                       Sambandha: A correct knowledge of the obtainable, i.e., salvation, which consists in the realization of the Supreme Being; and of the means of obtainment, i.e. the knowledge of the Vedas and other scriptures, and acting upon this knowledge.  In other words, it is the relation between the knowable and knowledge.

3.                       Vishayi: the person whose subject of study is the realization of the Supreme Being, which ties up of all genuine scriptures.

4.                       Prayojana: an object or purpose, or intense desire for the attainmkent of the happiness of salvation, which is the summum bonum, after a thorough emancipation from pain of all description.


These are the secondary essentials of mental perfection or salvation.


Four Accessories:

          These are orther accessories, called the shravana chatushtaya:  four stages in the path to salvation, which should be observed after the means:

1.                 Shravana: listening attentively and patiently to the teaching of a learned person specially. Great attention is required to be paid to spiritual knowledge, for it is the most profound of all kinds of knowledge.

2.                 Manana: reflection, thinking in retirement of what one has heard, enquiring into the matter which is doubtful, interrogating when the speaker and the audience think the question  proper, and acquiring tranquility (harmony).

3.                 Nididhyasana: experiment, examination. When attention and reflection remove doubt and confirm conviction, the matter in question should be subjected to examination in trance (calm) in order to ascertain if it is really what is said or imagined about it, i.e. to see it by clairvoyance.        

4.                 Sakshtkara: realization, i.e. the true knowledge of an object according to its form, qualities, and nature.


Practical Hints:  


1.                 Give up and always avoid dark passions (Tamo Gunas), i.e. anger, un-cleanliness, indolence, negligence and other lower qualities;

2.                 Give up and always avoid fiery qualities (rajo Gunas) i.e. envy, hatred, desire, pride, irregularity and other faults.

3.                 Adopt the virtues such as truth, calmness, holiness, knowledge, and thoughtfulness.  Also:

a.      Cherish friendship with happy persons,

b.     Take pity upon miserable people;

c.     Show sympathy with the generous;

d.     Maintain indifference i.e. neither friendship with the wicked, nor enmity towards them.


Three gunas (qualities):


          These three qualities of nature pervade all objects of the world.


1.                 Satwa: good quality is indicated by her taste for knowledge.  When the mind is cheerful, the will calm, contended and inclined to purity, it should be known that the good quality – satwa guna – predominates and the active and dark qualities-rajo guna and tamo guna- are driven to the background.

2.                 Tamo:dark quality by her ignorance. When the mind and the will are afflicted with misery, destiture of job, fond of sensuous pleasures, and engaged in strolling to and fro, it is certain that the active quality-rajo guna – is foremost and the good and dark qualities –satwa guna and tmo guna- are in the background.

3.                 Rajo: energy by love and hate. When the mind and the will are engrossed in the acquisition of the worldly objects, devoid of discernment, immersed in sensuous pleasures, and incapable of distinguishing between valid and fallacious reasonings; it is certain that the dark quality –tamo guna-is uppermost then, and the good and the active quality-satwa guna and rajo guna are gone down.


Three kinds of suffering: 


1.                 Adhyatmik: diseases of the body,

2.                 Adhibhowtik: social evils,

3.                 Adhidaivik: natural calamities, i.e. excessive rain, excessive heat, excessive cold, the fickleness of the mind and the senses.