By Swami Harshananda
Prājña literally means ‘one who knows well’.
The Vedānta philosophy, based mainly on the Upaniṣads, has utilized the technique of avasthātrayaviveka, an analysis of the three states of consciousness, for proving the existence of a conscious soul as separate from the body-mind complex. The three states of consciousness are:
- Jāgrat - It means the waking state. The jivātman as associated with it is viśva.
- Svapna - It means the dream state. The jivātman as associated with it is taijasa.
- Suṣupti - It means the deep sleep state. The jivātman as associated with it is prājña.
In the jāgrat state, the jivātman identifies himself with the physical body as also the mind. In the svapna state, identification with the physical body is transcended but that with the mind still remains. In the suṣupti state, even the mind is transcended and the jivātman is aware of only himself and as a sākṣi or witness. It is in this state that he is called ‘prājña’. He is designated as ‘prājña’ since prajñapti or consciousness is his only characteristic or form.
However, the Vedāntasāra of Sadānanda defines him as ‘prāyeṇa ajñah.’ ‘He is ignorant to a great extent’ since his conscious nature is overcome by ajñāna, by rajas and tamas.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore