aparā-vidyā

(‘lower knowledge’)

From the most ancient times know-ledge has been highly eulogised in the Hindu scriptures. Its acquisition and dissemination have been considered as a sacred duty, especially of the brāhmaṇas.

One of the more well-known and earlier Upaniṣads, the Muṇḍaka (1.1.4, 5), classifies vidyā or knowledge into two groups: parā, the higher and aparā, the lower. Only spiritual wisdom that gives a direct experience of the imperishable Brahman, the Absolute, is classed as parā and all other branches of knowledge, whether they are sacred or secular, are relegated to the lower plane as aparā-vidyā.

It is interesting to note that even the Ṛgveda, the most highly venerated scripture tops the list of aparā-vidyās. Other arts and sciences mentioned, include grammar, poetics, and astronomy.

Another Upaniṣad which is equally revered and perhaps even more ancient, the Chāndogya (vide 7.1.1-3), gives a much longer list starting from the Ṛgveda and ending with magical sciences. By impli-cation, these vidyās have to be classed under aparā.