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Prajnanam Brahma Explained By Swami Vivekananda

The Mahavakya, Prajnanam Brahma, is found in the Aitareya Upanishad. The context is the deliberation of certain learned people, desirous of liberation through self-knowledge. The question before them was – ‘Who is He whom we worship, thinking – this is this self (atman)? In the end of their discussion, they discovered that everything in this universe is guided by consciousness (prajnanam), and is supported by consciousness. The basis of the universe is consciousness. Consciousness is Brahman.

Swami Vivekananda interprets this great statement in terms of evolution. Everything in nature rises from some fine seed-forms, becomes grosser and grosser and again goes back to the original fine form. He says – ‘Where it begins, there it ends. What is the end of this universe? Intelligence.

The human history is the history of Nature; the history of life. The human history is one life and the human being is one of the links of that history. The various plants, lower animals, and beasts are also links. The entire series is ‘one life’. The last to come in this process of creation is intelligence. Hence it must also be the cause of the beginning of the creation.

Wherever there is an evolution, there must be an involution. Also, the sum total of the intelligence manifested in the universe is the same as that of involved universal intelligence at the end of creation. Hence the creation of the universe is but an unfolding of intelligence from involved state to manifested state. This universal intelligence iswhat we call as God, from which we come and to which we return.

This doctrine of monism is the bases of ethics. Here we get the idea that the entire universe is one unit, a whole composed of various parts, as it were. But the parts are only an appearance. Swami Vivekananda asserts that, as a reality, We Are One. The basis of this ethics lies in discovering this idea of oneness with the whole. Says, Swami Vivekananda – The more we think ourselves separate from this whole, the more miserable we become.

Swami Vivekananda also explains the great saying Prajnanam Brahma from a psychological viewpoint also. In Raja Yoga, he says that the ‘universe is the occasion of the creation of the mind’. In this connection, he quotes from John Stuart Mill, who gives a definition of matter as ‘permanent possibility of sensation.’ Now it is clear that the real man is not the mind. Then who is the real man? Swami Vivekananda says that the real man is one who is behind the mind – the mind is the instrument in his hands. It is his intelligence that is percolating through the mind.

In Vedanta, the word ‘chit’ denotes both consciousness and knowledge. Swamiji explains that Veda means knowledge. All knowledge is Veda, infinite as god is infinite. Nobody ever creates knowledge. It is always there, because it is God himself. All this knowledge is God himself.

What is the practicality of the above teaching? Swami Vivekananda says – With god, every knowledge is sacred; knowledge is God. Infinite knowledge abides within everyone in the fullest measure. You are not ignorant, though you man appear to be so.