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What Is Right Knowledge, and How Do We Attain It?

An important tenet of philosophy from the Upanishads is based upon the concept of "right knowledge," and the premise that once we have it, knowing that knowledge will set us free. When we have attained right knowledge, the veil of ignorance will resolve in our mind and we will come face to face with a greater truth of our own self: the fact that we are all connected and one with the cosmic reality. Right knowledge in this way is the grasping of our oneness, and the interconnected truths of the Self, the Atman. How can we cause harm or pain to others with the knowledge that we are all one? How can we move through life not in service to others, when we are all connected?

The word for right knowledge in the Upanishadic tradition is with Vidya. It comes from the root Sanskrit word with vid, which literally means to become aware; to come into the knowingness of that ultimate truth. Understanding Vidya is what liberates us.

So when we have this right knowledge, once we are liberated from the trappings of our ego and separateness, we can go about being freed and released into our greater Being-ness. This is true whether in the arena of relationships, the arena of profession, the arena of death and rebirth — this knowledge will ensure that we have choice and freedom to determine our next step.

Vidya is not something to be attained on one's own. In the Vedic tradition, knowledge such as this is only imparted by a Knower to one who wants to know. The Knower is termed as Guru or Acharya. The one who wants to know is called shisha. It's a chosen relationship to transpire and communicate, built upon a foundation of purposeful dialogue that ensures the flow of Vidya from the Vedic scriptures to the human teachers. From the human teacher's spoken words to the listening ears of the shisha, one by one a chain is created that liberates all who seek, through this transmission of right knowledge.


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