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Desire To Know – Jijnasa In Hinduism

Jijnasa literally means an earnest desire to know and is an important concept in Hinduism. Jijnasa occurs in the first stura of Brahmasutra, otherwise known as Sariraka Sutra, written by Badarayana, and deals with the eligibility of a person who aspires to seek self knowledge. Adi Shankaracharya, Ramanuja and many other Vedantic interpreters have provided commentaries explicating the intriguing nuances of this “desire to know” or “jijnasa”.

The very usage of the term jna (to know) prompts Adi Shankaracharya to believe that knowledge is the chief means to liberation, since the author of Sutras has mentioned such a state of knowledge in the first sutra itself. The other Vedantic preceptors have their own reservations for accepting Adi Shankara’s position. For them, knowledge which is implied by the first sutra has a place, but it is not final – bhakti (devotion) being the direct means to liberation.

Hence, the term jijnasa does provide a hermeneutic need to pursue the knowledge which Vedantic systems, especially that of Adi Shankaracharya, hold to be the first step in pursuing the other means like sravana (learning), manana (contemplation), and nididhyasana (meditation).

There are two kinds of jijnasa, of action (karma jijnasa in Jaimini Sutra) and of Brahma (brahma jijnasa in Brahmasutra). According to Adi Shankaracharya, the term refers to inquiry into the real nature of Brahman. The desire to know, the curiosity and inquisitiveness to acquire the wisdom of Brahma is called jijnasa. This process transcends all intellectual comprehension. Avidya (or nescience) is to be annihilated as a preliminary step to enter into jijnasa. Realization of the nature of Brahman for final emancipation is the goal of jijnasa.