“Jnana means theoretical knowledge, and vijnana refers to practical knowledge. For instance, a science student has to study theoretical scientific conceptions as well as applied science. Theoretical knowledge alone will not help. One has to be able to also apply this knowledge. Similarly, in yoga one should have not only theoretical knowledge but practical knowledge.” (Shrila Prabhupada, The Perfection of Yoga, Ch 5)
Friend1: Did you study a second language when you were in school?
Friend2: You mean something aside from the language the primary instruction was provided in?
Friend1: Exactly. You learn the alphabet, sentences, grammar and so forth in a specific language. It might be based off the language predominantly spoken in that region or perhaps you are an international student living abroad, needing to understand the teacher.
Friend2: I don’t think we really had that second language concept.
Friend1: Well, we did. I took French. Most people took Spanish. I think I just wanted to be different.
Friend2: Was it just one year?
Friend1: I think I took it for at least four years.
Friend2: Oh wow, so you must be pretty good at speaking French, then.
Friend1: Not at all. I couldn’t put together the most basic sentence.
Friend2: Really? Forgot everything?
Friend1: There wasn’t a whole lot to remember.
Friend2: How did you complete the coursework, then?
Friend1: That’s the thing. I did just enough to pass the tests. I completed the assignments, but nothing stuck. Everything was forgotten almost as soon as it was learned.
Friend1: To the point that if you placed me in a French speaking country today, I would struggle.
Friend2: Really? No familiarity even in reading?
Friend1: Maybe a little, but not much. I was thinking to myself, does this correlate to the concepts of jnana and vijnana?
Friend2: As they are explained in the science of self-realization?
Friend1: Yes. Jnana is knowledge. Vijnana is also knowledge, but a different kind.
Friend2: One is akin to theory and the other is practical application. Oh, now I see what you are saying. The instruction you received in school was jnana.
Friend1: It was knowledge to the point of being able to give answers on an examination. I received credit for the courses, but there was no vijnana. I never practically applied what I learned.
Friend2: That’s true.
Friend1: And in this sense, we would have to say that vijnana is more important.
Friend2: Why is that?
Friend1: Because the jnana by itself had little value. It wouldn’t help me to speak a language foreign to me. If I had the actual vijnana, then I might not need the jnana itself.
Friend2: The theoretical is automatically incorporated into the practical. This is not to say the theory is meaningless. You need people to explain. If you want to teach others, you have to understand the principles.
Friend1: Right, and so a disciple studies under a guru. They learn the ropes, the principles and rules, but they must also apply everything they have learned.
Friend2: That is the practical application. Real yoga is when you have both. For instance, suppose I have learned the theory of shabda-brahman.
Friend1: The sound of the Absolute Truth.
Friend2: Which is everything. I can attain transcendence through sound. This is what gets taught. It is the theory. Then, through practical application I eventually realize the same. I both understand and know that God can be experienced through sound, such as with chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The practical application leads me to where I need to be.
The practical leading me,
To where I need to be.
Despite the theoretical knowing,
And passing examinations going.
Later on maybe to forget,
Where again ignorance set.
From the guru witness and learn,
And experience of Brahman earn.