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Apart meditation is there other paths that one can take to understand oneself?

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    Karma Yoga. Do the duty assigned to you as though you have a debt to clear i.e. without expectation of enjoying the rewards of said duty. i.e. think that you are working because you already took a salary in the past, instead of thinking you are working in order to get a salary in the future. That way, once you're done working, you're free from the desire to enjoy the salary. That's right, people think enjoying desires is freedom. No, enjoying desires is slavery. Not having any desires is freedom.
    – ram
    Feb 18, 2018 at 22:24
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    "is there other paths" - I don't think so. All paths culminate in yoga which is cultivated by meditation.
    – user1195
    Apr 4, 2018 at 18:36

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Arguments in favour of meditation:

Meditation is prescribed by the Yoga school and by two sections of the Advaita school (Advaita Vedanta is a sub-school of Vedanta). There are two different theories regarding the necessity of meditation in Advaita school. The first theory was propounded by Brahmadatta. He said

...That knowledge, "I am the Brahman, which arises from the Upanishadic sentences, does not dispose of nescience by its mere rise. Nescience entirely abandons only him who practises meditation daily for a long time and thereby accumulates mental conviction... - Naishkarmasiddhi passage before Verse 67, Book I.

The second theory was propounded by Mandana Misra. He thought that the Vedic texts directly can not give liberation. One needs to meditate on the meaning of the texts, then only liberation is possible (Brahmasiddhi).

Some say, that all sentences, whether secular or Vedic, convey a synthetic meaning only. Hence a man derives from such texts as "that thou art" synthetic knowledge of the form "I am the absolute (Brahman)", and, having done so, he must practise sustained meditation on them until awareness of the inmost Self dawns in its (direct) form, inexpressible by any sentence. The state of final liberation (Kaivalya) is achieved only by this knowledge. - Naishkarmasiddhi passage before Verse 9, Book III.

Refutation:

However, meditation is not a necessary step for all Hindu philosophical schools. For example, Sureshwaracharya, the direct disciple of Shankaracharya categorically refuted both views regarding meditation. This is how Sureshwaracharya refuted their view in his Naiskarmasiddhi.

First, he proved that no action can lead to liberation.

Since liberation arises only from the destruction of ignorance, action is not the means to it. Action cannot remove ignorance any more than darkness arising from darkness (can remove darkness). - Naiskarmasiddhi Book I, Verse 24

What he says is that as action is the effect of ignorance, it can not remove ignorance. The effect of a cause can not demolish the cause itself!

Even a mix of action and knowledge can not lead to liberation. Only knowledge alone can lead to liberation. The sections of Advaita Vedantins who are advocating for meditation in addition to knowledge are actually advocating for the conjunction of knowledge and action because meditation is a form of action performed by the mind.

Knowledge can not establish itself without suppressing nescience. The factors of action (which proceed from nescience) being thus suppressed, knowledge and action cannot be conjoined. - Naiskarmasiddhi Book I, Verse 65

Basically what he says is that knowledge and nescience are opposites of each other, so they can not coexist. Any kind of action is the product of nescience. So, action and knowledge also can not coexist.

Knowledge and action are mutually contradictory both as to their causes, nature and effects, like darkness and light. There can be no association between them. - Naiskarmasiddhi Book I, Verse 66

Then he has directly refuted the view of Brahmadatta (the first theory in favour of meditation)

The knowledge derived from Vedic revelation demolishes nescience in its form as modified into the factors necessary for action at a single stroke. Hence there can be no association between the two (knowledge and action). - Naiskarmasiddhi Book I, Verse 67

Here he implies that when one knows the meaning of the Vedic text proclaiming the identity with the Brahman he no longer identifies himself with the mind or body. So it is not possible to continue daily meditation.

Then he goes on and refuted the second theory of the necessity of meditation (Mandana Misra's view).

In our view, that which is not the meaning of any sentence (viz. the Self or Absolute or Brahman) is immediately apprehended as the meaning of "that" and "thou" through the exclusion (Vyavrtti) of meanings arising from the grammatical apposition of the words etc., as in the case of pot-ether and the other ether. - Naishkarmasiddhi, Verse 9, Book III.

Also, see Naishkarmasiddhi II.1-4, where he explained that there are many ways in which a person can understand the meaning of the Vedic Mahavakya and can be liberated. For example, it can happen through continuous pondering over the text. Or it can simply happen by merely hearing the text once accidentally. So the text itself is the decisive factor, not the pondering over it.

In support of this view, that even accidental hearing of the text can lead to liberation he mentioned a story originally found in the Pravachana Bhasya to Sankhya Sutras (IV.2) by Vijnana Bhikshu. A goblin (Pisacha) overheard the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna and it aroused certain latent dispositions (Samskaras) acquired in previous lives and he attend illumination then and there.

Sankhya also directly advocates the path of knowledge (without meditation).

The scriptural means is ineffective since it is linked with impurity, decay and excess. The means contrary to both and proceeding from the discriminative knowledge of the Manifest, Unmanifest and the Spirit is superior. - Sankhya Karika of Isvarakrishna Verse 2

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