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The Concept Of Vidya In Hinduism

In Hinduism, the process of learning through absorption and developing a skill thereby is vidya. As per Hindu teachings, vidya is different from knowledge. While knowledge is mere information, vidya constitutes an inherent aspect of knowledge i.e., becoming expert. In Hindu philosophy, vidya has attained multidimensional aspects. Different disciplines in philosophy have assigned different skills to be called vidyas, but the deep knowledge of the self, called atma vidya, which was added by Manu to the general mass of the concept, has a special reference and belongs to the basic matrix of Hinduism.

There is a general agreement that there are 14 vidyas – the four Vedas, the six Vedangas, dharma, nyaya, mimamsa and vyakarana (grammar). Though the number of vidyas was agreed upon as fourteen, thinkers from different disciplines have differed in their names. In Taittiriya Brahmana, these are four Vedas, history (itihasa) and Puranas. In Taittiriya Aranyaka, these names are four Vedas, history, Puranas, kalpa, Narasamsi Gatha. Brihadaranyaka enumerates four Vedas, itihasa, Puranas, vyakarana (grammar), shraddhakala (rituals to be), etc.

For Sakta (sect of the Goddess), vidya is the major source of universal manifestation. It is due to the supreme will of the Creator that this whole universe is manifested and, in the process of manifestation, parama vidya (supreme learning) was the motive force, as a result of which the universe came into being. There are different terminologies for this creative force – vidya, maya or prakriti. But, whatever name Samkhya, Vedanta or Yoga have given to it, this force of manifestation has helped the Supreme to get manifested into many from one.

The axiom, sa vidya paramabhuta hetubhuta santani, means it is vidya, which has acted as the basic reason for manifestation. It then becomes natural that it forces are dual. It never remains in one state of consciousness, though it is eternal and infinite; it becomes individual, limited and separate so that it covers the infinite through its threads and makes the individual to forget its real form as supreme consciousness as it bounds itself into created form. The original word vidya means ‘to know’, and atma vidya emphasizes this aspect. It is through real knowledge of the self that one gets resurrection or mukti.