Where is Knowledge?


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Namaste brothers and sisters. My second(!) post on this fascinating web site.

As a Hindu bought up in the west since the age of 5 (now 38), I’ve had very little exposure to Hinduism as a formal subject. Therefore I’ve only had my parents as a guide and felt it necessary to research the holes in their understanding of our religion.

I have many questions but I’ll start with the most fundamental. Having stated that I was bought up in a Christian country whose “truth” lay within the writings of The Bible it was natural for me to find equivalent within our cannon, and I’ve been captivated by the writings of the Veda’s/Upanishads/Mahabharata ect, some great stories and vivid observations on the fabric of life.

But recently I’ve come across these two quotes and would like to set a discussion on the true centre on individual truth and knowledge they are: -

"Religion deals with the truths of the metaphysical world, just as chemistry and the other natural sciences deal with the truth of the physical world. The book one must read to learn chemistry is the book of (external) nature. The book from which to learn religion is your own mind and heart. The sage is often ignorant of physical science, because he reads the wrong book - the book within and the scientist is too often is ignorant of religion, because he, too, reads the wrong book - the book without".
(Swami Vivekananda)

Hindu scriptures recognize two types of knowledge: the lower knowledge and the higher knowledge. Knowledge of the rites and rituals and scholarly study of scriptures is considered to be lower knowledge, while higher knowledge is the knowledge of Atman and Brahman gained through personal experience or self realization. Of the two, the Higher Knowledge alone is true, because it liberates the individuals from the cycle of births and deaths.
(Hindu net)

Therefore (from what I have gathered) knowledge can only be found from within ones self and not from “lower knowledge” gained from rituals and scriptures. This is very unlike the followers of The Bible or The Qu’ran or Torah where they exist as the literal word of God.

Now to my question (phew!). Is it possible to be a devout true believer/follower of the Hindu faith without recourse to any scriptures as implied above?

Peace to you all.
Hi Redindica,

You have asked a difficult question and I would answer as per what I personally feel.

It is right that true knowledge comes from one's own experiences. I also feel that it is not imperative to read the scriptures to be devout. I personally know very few Hindus who have actually read the scriptures. But all Hindus I know are very devout and religious.

However, having said this, I also feel that not all of us have the mental and emotional build of saints and sages. Not everybody can gather their knowledge through purely personal experiences like the sages. The scriptures contain wonderful wisdom and if read and understood could help us become not just better Hindus but better persons as well.
Hi I Am Free

Thank you for the reply and I understand your point. The scriptures are a guide to ones own personal journey and since reading them have found large amount of solace from them.

I was just a little curious as to Hinduism being the only faith (that I know of) that has a built in agnostic/sceptical element within it; that we all may be just kidding ourselves. I can’t fully recall where I read “Is Man a dream of God or is God a dream of Man?” this in some ways sums up Hinduism for me at this stage of my development.

Unfortunately my research into this is sporadic due to work commitments.

Thank you again for the reply to this difficult question.

Hi Redindica,

You do ask a difficult question that I am not sure any of us can really answer. I agree with what I am Free has said.

I’ve read in works of Hindu masters that we are to begin with the ‘lower’ knowledge of the scriptures which helps us get to the point of gaining the higher knowledge from direct experience. Sri Ramakrishna was one such example. He is said to have had direct experience of the Divine and gained higher knowledge. However, he never gave up the lower knowledge – he continued his rituals and worship of the Divine Mother. So my understanding is that even if the higher knowledge is the absolute Truth, the lower knowledge does contain relative truth and is, therefore, not worth giving up. To paraphrase Sivaya Subramuniyaswami of Kauai, even when we reach the summit, we can never deny the truth of the foothills.


redindica said:

Now to my question (phew!). Is it possible to be a devout true believer/follower of the Hindu faith without recourse to any scriptures as implied above?
Peace to you all.
Hi Agnideva

thank you for the post. I'm sure you are right that one allows the other to develope. I think that any scripture (of any faith) is just a mechanism to allow one to "tune in" to Brahma and as such is a vital componant to this gain of understanding on the nature of things.

Once again, thank you for the reply.