The most interesting analysis of the ways of knowing reality and at once the most simple is given by those who uphold the four ways of knowing: the perceptual, inferential, analogical or correspondential, and the revelational. There are others who hold that there are the rememberential (smrti), traditional (itihasa), historical (puranagama) which could not be brought under the former classifications, since these depend upon the person knowing himself but on others and in that sense some would like to make revelational knowledge not personal but received from some one else. But we can surely have a direct institution ourselves and that experience may have none of the characteristics that we have associated with other ways of knowing with regard to the scriptural knowledge. Medicating on the scriptural revelation (Veda as such) one lights on an experience which is unique, self-revealing and spiritual and it is not to be identified with the remembered traditions or even historical facts. This could be known only in personal spiritual experience – it in that sense almost appears to be a direct revelation of meaning even as the object is the direct appearance to the senses or the mind in perception, or the direct awareness of the vyapti in anumana or the direct awareness in upamana or the similarities in the objects, present or non-present or present and non-present.
Having regard then to the quality of our present experiences we can classify our knowing into two broad divisions: one for self (svartha) and another for others (parartha). This classification is accepted in Indian Logic only with regard to inference. The svarthanumana is inference for oneself which may or may not need all the five premises or proposition (pratijna), reason (hetu), example (udaharana) generalization (dristanta) upanaya (application) and conclusion (nigamana) which are needed for pararthanumana (inference for others). Experience and demonstration of that experience are two different things. But a complete knowing process would involve not only that we know but that we would communicate the same knowledge to others. Else knowledge would be incommunicable utterly. This proposition unfortunately is widely held, though it is specially said to be true of perception and revelation. Logicians do believe in demonstrating their conclusions by means of proofs, even as poets believe in vividly portraying the uncommon similarities and indeed the greatest poet is defined (perhaps not at all quite happily) as one who is the master of a million similes, conceits and so on.
Thus just as there is a svarthanumana, there is a svarthupamana which is a direct awareness of similars between any two objects or experiences, and the logician and poet do know this: even as they have to prove and illustrate their experiences of uniformities or invariable concomitances, and similarities in their creations. A poet shares his knowledge of the upamiti (correspondential knowledge) with his audience.
It is no doubt true that this is not so easily perceived in the case of pratyaksha and sabda. It however cannot be said that perceptive knowledge is incommunicable or uniformulatable in terms of language: what is incommunicable or uniformulatable in each case is the affective state which may vary from mere prehensive activity, pleasant or mildly present or unpleasant, to one of intense emotion pleasant or unpleasant. Knowledge is always definite or capable or being fully described: which may vary from mere predication which involves the processes of recognition and comparison of qualities and generals or universals and actions and relative non-existence or existence in space and time to the representation of the form of the object seen in either language or gesture or more properly in pictures or pictographs which is the beginning of plastic arts and paintings. The latter form is surely as valid as the language or logical propositions. The aesthetic communication is said to be an art-product: but knowledge it is that is really being communicated by one who wants a demonstration of it. Knowledge is known only by its being represented. Thus pratyaksa-knowledge is communicable through arts and is for others (parartha-pratyaksa): Whether it is properly done or not is a matter for the tests of truth. There is a manner of real experience which eludes the sense-organs which the art-craft reveals but mere sense experience is communicable and verifiable through pictographs or drawing or representation in some form. This is not to annual the distinction annul the distinction between art and science, doing and knowing, though no such absolute distinction could be made between the two. Sometimes the only test of knowing is doing; demonstrating that one knows is a part of the test. Whether we call this verification or proof of perceptual knowledge is certainly not identical with inference: the test is not coherence as such or correspondence as such, but a formulation or representation which corresponds with the original object as perceived by another (or others) who is called upon to share the knowledge. It is because verbal formulation is symbolic representation where the symbols have to be fully grasped by the person to whom one seeks to communicate the perceptual knowledge of the object, that it becomes difficult to find a common language so to speak. Where this is found as in the masters of language or communication and in his audience or listeners who are fully equipped with the delicate uses of words (sophisticated so to speak), the perceptual knowledge is capable of being communicated with extraordinary fidelity. Literary artists and poets are admired precisely for their ‘fidelity to nature’. We call that word-painting.
Thus it is clear that though men are aware of this distinction between svartha and parartha it is only the parartha that is socially valuable and in a truer sense a test of perfect knowing. Musical critics who cannot sing or songsters who cannot sing or execute their inexpressible songs are species of non-knowers-arrested knowers-arrested half way to knowledge of their subjects. So also painters who cannot paint or artists who are just art-critics and nothing more are of this category.
A poet combines the genius of the artist with the vision of the reality which he sees much more than the ordinary seer or observer. He observes more than the ordinary man, who sees the peculiar identities which are not within the province of the ordinary logician or scientist, though it would be profoundly good for the latter to accustom themselves to see the unities and identities of a different order, and the correspondential which is possible to a trained imagination. The true poet is the poet of truth not merely of imagination, for imagination is precisely a way of knowing reality beyond the presented or rather behind the presented. It is wrong type of sophistication which insists upon the poet being as far from reality as possible, without knowing or even imagining that the reality to which the poet shall conform or is obliged to conform is more truly true of reality or reveals a fuller articulation of that Reality or reveals greater dimension or larger number of dimensions than presented in the human tri-dimensional or bi-dimensional reality of the pratyaksa, and four dimensional anumana (inference).
There is therefore the well-attested experience of poets which is appealing and satisfying and even amazingly inspiring in contrast with which the logical intellect appears barren, unsatisfying and certainly not appealing. It is not by adding emotion that we get the quality of the poet but by a more conspicuous totality of understanding – the intellectual liberation from the presented and the uniform necessary connections, it is indeed an entrance into novelty that the Upamana-consciousness-knowing or upamiti grants. But greater than the poetic intuition is the Divine revelatory knowledge that comes to one as the bodying forth or the deliverance of the Truth itself into the consciousness; it is a liberating effect that one gets through all one’s being. Perception gives us a liberation of a kind, anumana liberation of a different kind, upamiti already a participation in the spiritual unity and identity of all; but it is Sabda, the voice and meaning and even spiritual perception or presentation of the Reality in its wholeness that is altogether surpassing in its comprehension to the lower ways of knowing that gives us the truth. It is thus Truth that ultimately triumphs: it is this truth that also leads to the wide luminous expanses of the Reality (Satyam Brihat, Rtam Brihat). It is that which makes wide the pathways of Reality. This divya anubhava is over-whelming. This anubhava makes many pause and chew the cud of bliss: and some indeed become so thoroughly inspired and God-mad that its inexpressibility is taken for granted. At least the inexpressible is known to the inexpressible in logical forms, or in forms of correspondences and sculptural and painting and representational art.
Man yearns for expression and the expression lags behind the reality. Reality is more than man’s comprehension and knowledge of the dimensions of being. Yet the Sabda claims to intimate the Reality and asserts that one who knows the Brahman becomes Brahman. Mystic experience is of several ranges and in each it finds the Brahmic experience verified and enjoyed-known and entered into. The only manner by which the Sabda can be an intimation and communication or the Transcendent Brahman or Reality is through the Veda-seen and entered into by Rishis, the mantra-drastas. This is also the meaning of the famous sutra of Badarayana: Sastra-yoni-tvat: The Veda is the parartha-Sabda, the inner Veda – adhyatma yoga finds in the transcendental experience of Unity with Brahman in whom one loses oneself utterly where in the mind reaching returns not, nor eyes nor any sense organ or what is expressed in another sense whom the mind nor eye nor speech reaches or return baffled and dazzled. The Yogis reach it in their turya or fourth state or Samadhi, the Rishis in their sublimest devotion and enjoy the supremest ecstasy, an overflowing knowledge in its utter liberation from all limitations which the lower ways of knowing like perception, inference and poetic fancy impose on the ultimate knowledge. It is they in their claim to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth have given to mankind (out of their kindness so many say) Vedas in order to demonstrate the existence of the dream of the poets, (a dream which is perhaps far short of the Reality rather than the overworked imagination of the dreaming poet) confirming in truth the adage that truth is stranger in fiction as seen in the criminal stories from real life.
Thus we should conceive of the four ways of knowing to have both the subjective or personal (or for oneself, svartha) and the demonstrative and objective (or for others, parartha). This will entail certain consequences. To emphasize any one of them at the expense of the other is to miss the whole meaning of the process of knowing.