A book may be known to us in an ordinary way. It means that we share the common understanding of the book. We, roughly, know what Bhagavad-gita or Dhammapada is. We might not have read the original but the public-opinion shapes our beliefs, opinions, views regarding the same. The way the book is seen by the masses determines our outlook.

At the next level, we find the popular reading of the text. The author’s study of the Text helps the reader to be acquainted with the Text. We know the Text through the author. It does not assure to develop a profound understanding of the subject but overall impression is possible on the basis of which the acquired knowledge is applied to the various fields such as Business, Religion, Law, Culture, Politics, to name a few.

At the deeper level, when the Text is studied, certain layers, otherwise hidden, get revealed. The objective, impartial, unbiased scrutiny is possible. Analytical, Critical, Comprehensive and comparative studies are undertaken. It is nothing but what is called “Philosophical study of the text”.

The last and most important way is to know the Text personally, individually. It is the intimate relationship between the reader and the Text which has moulding effect on the reader. The more the Text is read, the more it opens up. It talks to us making an appeal to interpret in the light of our own interests, experiences, world-views. The interpretation may be incomplete but it is sincere. It may not be authentic but it bears the mark of self-certification and is authentic in another sense of the word. Such interpretations of the Texts have the capacity to shape and develop young minds because it is the expression of an individual’s voice asserting his or her needs and sharing perceptions. This way of knowing the book has long-lasting effects.

Thus, there are four ways to know a book- ordinary, popular, philosophical and personal.

Dept of Philosophy @ University of Mumbai