When some sincere aspirant devotes his or her life in the pursuit of knowledge of not only the beautiful world around but also about oneself, then there appears a fundamental problem. In the beginning we may start with a broad canvas, but as we proceed, our focus keeps becoming smaller & smaller. Super specialists are experts in a very miniscule part of the whole. Unfortunately all those who have truly worked to even get that knowledge become very humble. This is because their pursuit of knowledge instead of revealing the ultimate truth of that object just reveals to them that there are still unfathomed depths & dimensions of the object of their specialization, which they are yet to fully know. Every pursuit of knowledge does reveal some aspects of life, but more than that it reveals our ignorance. The world may say that so & so person is very knowledgeable, but that so called learned person humbly knows as to how little he or she knows, and how much there is still left to know. No wonder great people like Newton said that all what they have known till now is comparable to just few pebbles on a seashore. So there is indeed a fundamental problem, if we don’t pursue knowledge we anyway shall live in ignorance, and even if we pursue knowledge we still live in ignorance, the only difference is that in the latter case we have come to realize our ignorance. Every such person shall have profound respect for the question, as to how can a man ever be omniscient? How can we know the truth of everything around? How can we live an enlightened life?
The entire spectrum of things around us in this world can be classified in two categories viz. the Para and the Apara Vidya. Objective of any such classification and categorization is to basically segregate things requiring a different approach. Even though the word meaning of Para and Apara are, Higher & Lower, yet it is noteworthy that the Upanishads say that both of them are worth knowing. The specific name should not imply any demeaning of the so-called Lower Knowledge. The objective of the specific words is to indicate that the Para Vidya alone shall fulfill the wish of the student of getting omniscience. Apara Vidya by itself is not competent to bless us with the desired fulfillment, while Para Vidya alone shall help us attain the desired fulfillment.
Apara Vidya encompasses the entire spectrum of 'objects', that is, anything that can be objectified by our senses or mind i.e. anything that can be 'seen' is an object of Apara Vidya. Under this category comes all our worldly knowledge's viz. science, arts, commerce, management, technical knowledge etc. Interestingly the Vedas and Vedangas are also classified in this category because they are also a part of the limited & changing world in front of us. This knowledge is worth knowing because of various reasons. One, specialization in any one field of objective world, helps us to serve our society & world better, two, pursuit of knowledge disciplines our mind & intellect, so that we become capable of thinking deeply & properly, and last but not the least, this pursuit of Apara Vidya helps us to realize the ephemerality of the objective world, and thus helps us to get qualities of vairagya (renunciation) etc, and also motivates us to look out for something more permanent in this ever changing world. This categorization is to indicate to us that however much we may know the world outside, but by this pursuit alone we shall never move towards omniscience. Apara Vidya shall help us to make a living, have a dignified & respectable life, have a thoughtful intelligent mind, but never ever hope that you shall move towards omniscience. This is not the way for the fulfillment of such an aspiration.
The second category of knowledge is called Para Vidya, or Higher Knowledge. It is 'that knowledge' by which the imperishable is known. So there does exist a definite methodology and tradition to know, that which is permanent & imperishable. Here even though the words are used but no words directly define the imperishable. It has been rightly said that 'God defined is God defiled'. The moment we use any word, it in fact limits the object as so & so, and whatever is limited can never be the permanent. Moreover, everything that can be seen is changing, thus the imperishable can never be an object of our knowledge. It is in fact the very subject, the essence of the very knower. So the knower has to know his own self, his own essence, which can never be seen by our senses, because this fellow alone is peeping outside through his window like senses. However, there is a very clear & definite way of knowing this subjective essence.
When we go into these pointers in the right way then we do come to realize that divine & imperishable subjective essence. One needs to keep negating till no object whatsoever remain in our mind. A mind that is well awake yet is not objectifying any object, shall know the truth of the very knower easily. Negation is not just 'not-seeing' any objects, it is basically realizing the ephemerality of an object so very clearly that getting or losing that object doesn't bring about any difference in us. Even if the object is in front it doesn't register in our mind. To realize the hollowness of a particular object is to realize the ephemerality (Mithya) of that object. A sincere aspirant of truth is not only capable to intellectually understand the uselessness of all objects, but is capable of treating the objects accordingly. When no objects, achievements, experiences etc fascinate us, and even if we get them or lose them it makes no difference to us, then alone we have 'negated' them. When all 'objects' are negated, then there is nothing to be known outside, and the very duality of 'knower-known' gets redundant and thus falls off, and what remains is the very essence of the knower, the actor who was playing the role of a knower, which is incidentally self-effulgent or self-revealing. So what we need to learn is the art of negation. Then even though the truth is realized, yet is not known in the worldly sense, wherein there is a knower standing apart from an object and knowing it. I never know the imperishable as an object, but realize it as our very self. A Self from which all the thoughts & even this vast world spring forth.