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Brahmavidya (derived from the Sanskrit words brahma and vidyā) is that branch of scriptural knowledge derived primarily through a study of the veda mantras & upanishads. Put together, it means knowledge of the mantra/absolute. Brahmavidya is considered to be the highest ideal of classical Hinduism.
In the Puranas, this is divided into two branches, the first one dealing with the vedic mantras and is called para vidya or former knowledge, and the latter dealing with the study of the upanishads and is called the apara vidya or latter knowledge. Both para and apara vidya constitute brahma vidya.
Brahma - The word brahma is used in modern Hinduism to refer to the name of a god who is a part of the Hindu trinity, for more information see Brahman (disambiguation). However in the context of traditional Vedic study, it holds two meanings. In the Pūrva Mimamsa philosophy, which is based on a study of the samhita and brahmana sections of the vedas, the word brahma refers to the vedic mantras. In the uttara Mimamsa i.e. Vedanta philosophy, which is based on a study of the Aranyaka and the Upanishad sections of the vedas, the word Brahma means the absolute universal reality called Brahman.
Vidya - The word vidyā means knowledge, and is derived from the Sanskrit verbal root 'vid' (to know). Its cognates in other Indo-European languages are
- Greek εἶδον for ἐϝιδον, οἶδα for ϝοιδα = veda ;
- Latin videre ;
- Slavic věděti ;
- Gothic witan, wait ;
- Germanic wizzan, wissen ;
- English wisdom, wit.
In modern Hinduism, Brahmavidya is used to mean a spiritual study of Hindu scriptures with the aim of realizing the ultimate reality. Different modern Hindu leaders have defined it in the context of their own systems of philosophy.