Chapter VIII – The Methods of Vedantic Knowledge – Synopsis



  • By remaining within the boundaries of our physical mind controlled by five senses we cannot know anything beyond this material world, least of all divine life. But mind has special faculty of pure reason by which it can arrive at higher knowledge not purely depending on material evidence.
  • Our normal reasoning is mixed, deriving indirect knowledge through our senses. Pure reason on the other hand asserts its pure action, though accepting our sensory experiences as starting point but not being limited by them. It makes its own judgement.
  • Our normal reasoning is limited, superficial and uses defective sense-instruments that give false weights and measures. To arrive at truth of things we have to exceed our instruments. Man is superior because of his ability to correct the errors of the sense mind by his pure reason.
  • Pure reason brings us meta-physical knowledge. But our nature can be satisfied only if such knowledge is converted into actual experience. We are dealing with Supraphysical truths which are beyond our normal experience. Hence, we need some other faculty of psychological experience.
  • We have a sense mind (Manas) within us which converts all data received through senses (its tools) into experiences. Its action can be mixed or dependent and pure or sovereign. When it seeks to become aware of the external world as object its action is mixed. When it seeks to become aware of itself as subject its action is pure. The former is indirect knowledge and the latter is direct knowledge by identity.
  • All experience, in its secret nature, is knowledge by identity. Solely depending on our physical contact & mental sympathy, we have lost the capacity of direct knowledge. This limitation is self-imposed by our egos due to fall from oneness to multiplicity, from original truth to contingent falsehoods.
  • There is no necessity for us to be limited by our senses. Mind has become accustomed to enter into relations with the external world through senses by an evolutionary habit. Our mind can liberate itself from its subjection to dominance of matter and get direct knowledge of objects.
  • Our waking consciousness is limited by the balance between the mind and matter. Whereas our true or subliminal mind, in sleep state can work to its full capacity in a liberated state. Then mind will be free to apply to the objects of sense its sovereign action.
  • The sovereign action of sense mind can help development of other senses beyond our normal five. Starting from a sense experience it can arrive at a far greater knowledge. Weight of an object can be known by a mere holding of it. Also, we can perceive the thoughts and feelings in other minds.
  • Our inner senses give knowledge of things which do not belong to the organisation of our material environment. But our mind accepts such extra-sensory knowledge only with hesitation and disbelief, since they are abnormal. Yet they have to admitted as reality as an attempt to enlarge the field of our superficial consciousness.
  • Extension of psychological experience is necessary when dealing with truths that are beyond the perception of our senses but can be grasped by our reason. By extending the knowledge of our Self we become aware of Universal Self or Brahman. We may become possessors in experience of the truths which form the contents of the Atman or Brahman in the universe. Vedantic knowledge is based on this possibility.
  • Our evolution moves from subconscient to superconscient. Reason active in our waking state mediates between these two. Life characterises subconscient and light the superconscient. In subconscient consciousness/knowledge is contained in action; in superconscient action is contained in a supreme consciousness.
  • Intuition the common link is concealed in subconscient and manifested in superconscient. When the Self -awareness is extended to other Self, reason converts itself into the form of self-luminous identity. Mind fulfils itself in the Supermind.
  • Vedantic knowledge serve as the best previous foundation to rebuild our knowledge on divine life. Yet, we have to find new expressions suited to modern times. It is like an old treasure which we can use as capital in our new commerce.
  • We experience only two kinds of movements that characterise our existence. Motion of matter in Space and motion of change with time. We know only form and movement. Our sense mind cannot know what pure Existence is.
  • Going beyond our sense mind and going within, keeping our inner-door slightly open we catch the glimpse of Divine Reality. We become aware of the Immutable and Immortal within us. Making this as a starting point, with steadfastness in our faith we can go beyond to the field of intuition.
  • Intuition works behind the veil in our subliminal parts. It brings us the brilliant messages from the Unknown. It pushes man to formulate more positive ideas about God, Immortality etc. It is as strong as Nature herself and does not seek the approval of reason. Three great declarations of Upanishads (I am He, Thou are That, All this is the Brahman) were based on the intuitional knowledge of self-opening.
  • Intuition which was dominant in the Vedantic period had to give place to Pure Reason and then to mixed reason. Our scriptures had to give place to metaphysical philosophy, and then to experimental science. This process though appears to be a descent is actually a circle of progress. Here the scope of lower faculty is enlarged by assimilation of the higher. Harmony is established between the higher and the lower.
  • During Upanishadic period disputes in spiritual matters were settled by sharing of intuitional knowledge and not by logical reasoning.
  • Vedantic period was followed by philosophical schools. Indian philosophers respected the heritage of the past, recognised in the Sruti the earlier results of Intuition and tested the results of their reason. They held only those conclusions that were validated by the scriptures there by avoiding errors of metaphysical reasoning.
  • Supremacy of reason led to conflicting philosophical schools in later period. The text of Veda was used as a weapon by one against the other. Wholistic knowledge of intuition was replaced by divisive interpretations of reason. Clever logic was employed to interpret Veda to suit one’s own chosen conclusions.
  • However, the principal teachings of the earlier Vedanta – Purusha, Atman or Sad Brahman, the pure Existence of the Upanishads – survived in the various philosophical systems, though in parts. Questions regarding the relation of the world with absolute Unity and dissolution of ego into Divine Reality have always occupied the thought of India.