One of the more important Sanskrit words is jnana. Jnana means literally knowledge, and specifically the Supreme Knowledge: that which delivers from avidya (ignorance). Therefore pure jnana is nothing other than Realisation itself. Normally the term is used in such phrases as jnana marga (the Path of Knowledge) or jnana yoga (the yoga of knowledge — which is normally equivalent to the Path of Knowledge). These terms differentiate the way of Knowledge from the ways of Love (bhakti marga) and of (ritual) action (karma marga).

The root of the word is a fundamental Indo-European one, kn or gn, which gives us the English knowledge as well as the Greek gnosis. It also forms the basis of the Germanic word kennen, to know, and of course the English/Scots form, ken, and related words such as cunning and canny. Thence it is a short step from knowledge to ability. To say that one can do a thing is originally to say that one knows how to do it. So this fundamental word encompasses all knowledge and ability from the highest to the most everyday.

Interesting also is the fact that the root is connected with the idea of beauty. Cunning is used dialectically to mean “beautiful” as is quaint, another form of the word. Here we are conceptually rooted in the essential connexion between the Absolute, Realisation and primordial Beauty (Plato’s to kalon).

What is most interesting, however, is that the same root also gives us some fundamental words related to femininity, such as queen and a now-obscene term for the female genitalia. The Sanskrit word for woman is the related jani and the Greek is gunos (which gives us our gynaecology, etc.)

From Jnana and Femininity