Philosophy of Charaka-samhita

by Asokan. G | 2008 | 88,742 words

Ayurveda, represented by Charaka and Sushruta, stands first among the sciences of Indian intellectual tradition. The Charaka-samhita, ascribed to the great celebrity Charaka, has got three strata. (1) The first stratum is the original work composed by Agnivesha, the foremost of the six disciples of Punarvasu Atreya. He accomplished the work by coll...

Higher and lower knowledge

Summary: The distinction of knowledge in Indian tradition—higher and lower knowledge (parā-vidyā and aparā-vidyā).

The Indian tradition of knowledge which began with emphasis on intuition in the Vedic age flowered in the philosophies and sciences of the classical age.[1] In the Upaniṣads, we find an important distinction between parā vidyā and aparā vidyā or higher knowledge and lower knowledge,[2] and also avidyā and vidyā or false knowledge and true knowledge.[3] “These two types of knowledge differ from each other in their objects, their consequences as well as in methods of acquisition”.[4] With regard to acquisition, the higher knowledge is said to be direct and intuitive, while the lower knowledge has different accredited means like perception, and inference.[5] The knowledge of the immutable (akṣara) highest essence is called higher knowledge (parā vidyā).[6] It was valued, for it leads to liberation. The Upaniṣads and Darśanas come under the purview of parā vidyā. The empirical or phenomenal knowledge is called lower knowledge (aparā vidyā). They are all discursive and the truth they aim at is pragmatic (vyāvahārika). Such pragmatic knowledge is rational and corrigible. All sciences fall under aparā vidyā. It enables one to know the objective world, means and ends, and virtues and vices, which can lead to prosperity and heaven. “This distinction between a spiritually liberating transcendental knowledge and practically useful intellectual knowledge has remained a permanently accepted distinction within the Indian tradition”.[7]

Footnotes and references:


FIC Vol. I, p. 227.


dve vidye veditavye iti ha sma brahmavido vadanti parā caiva aparā ca. Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad.., I, 4.


dūramete viparīte viṣūcī avidyā yā ca vidyeti jñātā......, Kaṭha Upaniṣad.., II, 5.


Amita Chatterjee, “Parā vidyā - Aparā vidyā -- A Reconstruction Towards an Objective Phenomenology of Consciousness”, HSPCIC, Vol. XI, Part--1, p. 78.




atha parā yayā tadakṣaramadhigamyate, Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad.., I, 5.


FIC, p. 229.

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