M: If knowledge refers only to memory, what is it that can know Brahman?
Master: To understand it even conceptually, we may have to go into different kinds of knowledge. At the lowest end is ajnana, knowledge about the world obtained through our sense organs. Higher than ajnana is jnana or knowledge of the Self and other things acquired through the reasoning intellect, buddhi, and from scriptures and teachers. Still higher is vijnana, discriminative knowledge, that is able to differentiate the real from the apparent or relative.
One who has reached the level of vijnana can hone it to perfection by trying to remain constantly on that level. If this is done, the intellectual understanding of jnana and the passion-arousing ajnana and even the earlier stage of the discriminative capability, vijnana, are overcome or transcended, thereby attaining the intuitive and unitive experience of Brahman.
In this context, even the word ‘experience’ is a misnomer, a wrong term, because it implies an experience and, therefore, an object of experience. All that can b said about such a state is that it is a mental/spiritual enlightenment where nothing but an all-pervasive knowledge exists without the duality of the knower and the known.
M: Am I then to understand that knowledge, as we generally understand the term, is useless?
Master: No, certainly not. The capacity for knowledge, whatever its level fo perfection, is the highest faculty of man. Each level in the hierarchy of knowledge I talked about has its proper place. Without experience derived through our senses, however unreliable or unreal they may be, we cannot apprehend our immediate world of living. They may lead to passions, attachments, and so on, to cause misery or fleeting pleasure. Yet, it is the same misery or pleasure that often moves one towards jnana or reasoning intellect to assess and evaluate the condition we are in. Reason, then, leads to vijnana through an intellectual appreciation of a higher Reality. However, reason itself can show that reason is often unreliable, coloured as it is by our subjective prejudices. When reason is aided by intuition from a source unknown and unknowable, one reaches the level of vijnana, and the Ultimate Reality becomes no more an intellectual concept but a potentially and presently experiential one.
Constantly remaining in that state, one attains Brahman, the Ultimate Reality. In other words, Brahman is beyond ajnana, jnana and the early stages of vijnana and is realised in deep meditation when the mind, which is nothing more than a collection of thoughts, is transcended. Knowledge, which is memory, a thing of the past, comprehends fully how finite it is, and therefore, how it cannot reach out to the infinite from which intelligence itself proceeds. Giving up all reasoning, arguments and doubts, it then lets go of th echain of thoughts and becomes as still and placid as an infinite expanse of clear water without a single ripple in it.