Jnana Yoga: The Path of Knowledge

Saraswati Devi - the Mother of Knowledge (Credit: Daily-Sadhana)

Shri Saraswati Devi – the Mother of Knowledge (Credit: Daily-Sadhana)

The word Jnana  comes from the Sanskrit root(dhatu) Jna avabodhane which means “to know”.  To know what?  The Universal Self.  So, Jnana Yoga is the path of yoga via clear knowledge.

In this yoga, main technique used is spiritual inquiry which involves rationales, arguments, counter-arguments, evidences and analyses. These intellectual exercises lead to clear understanding of the Self.  So, it appeals to people with razor sharp intellect and logic.  The practices of this path may not be very easy for a grihastha (householder with family obligations) to follow. It is more suitable for people leading monastic life.

According to non-dual philosophy (i.e. Individual and Universal selves are one and the same) of Shri Shankara Bhagavatpadah,  Universal Self is only one called Brahman. It is defined by Mahavakyas  (great sayings) in Vedanta scriptures as:

Satyam jnanam anantam Brahma ||  

Absolute Truth is knowledge itself. It is infinite and is called Brahman.

Sarvam khalvidam Brahma ||

Everything is Brahman.

This is one of the highest forms of yoga. Practically, it involves meditation and thinking of the Universal Self which is formless and without attributes.  The following are four means (Sadhana Chatustaya) including six virtues(Shat Sampat) to prepare oneself to access the Supreme Knowledge of the Self(Atma):

  1. Discrimination(Viveka): analyzing what is real or not real.
  2. Non-attachment(Vairagya) towards worldly objects and desires.
  3. Six virtues(Shat Sampat):
    1. Tranquility(Shama) of mind by eradication of desires.
    2. Training(Dama) of senses to direct  only towards Self.
    3. Satiety(Uparati): Feeling contented and complete.
    4. Forbearance(Titiksha): Endurance of external situations. Keeping calm with patience.
    5. Faith(Shraddha): Intense faith in the word of the Guru, Scriptures and the Universal Self.
    6. Focus(Samadhana): Fixing the mind only in the Universal Self.
  4. Longing for liberation (Mumukshatva) of the Individual self and merging with the Universal Self.

After practicing these, one has to listen to the Guru’s teachings(shravana) and assimilate(manana) it .  Next step is nidhidhyasana(contemplation) - to meditate on  formless, attribute-less Universal Self for complete realization.  The following are some phrases or mahavakyas used in contemplations.

Aham Brahmasmi |

I am Brahman(Universal Self).  “I” means Individual Self.

Ekamevaa dvitiyam Brahma |

Brahman is the only one; without a second.

Ayam atma Brahma |

Individual Self itself is Universal Self.  This is the most fundamental principle of advaita(non-dual) philosophy of Shri Shankara Bhagavatpadah.

Prajnanam Brahma |

Supreme Knowledge is Brahman.  By logic, since everything is Brahman, Supreme Knowledge which is knowledge of the Universal Self ought to be Brahman! What a great logic!  This means,  Jnana Yoga is simply merging oneself  into the Universal Self by the help of supreme knowledge (Universal Self itself)!!

Greatest Master of Yoga (Yogeshwara) and Yogeeshwara, i.e. the Master of all yogis(yoga practitioners), Lord  Shrikrishna says:

Nahi  jnanena sadrisham pavitramiha vidyate | – Gita 4.38

Nothing is more divine than the Supreme Knowledge (of the Self).

I know, this path of yoga is slightly abstract and is very challenging to understand. If you have read thus far, great! Congratulations!  I am sure our next topic will be easier! ! :)

Next Topic: Karma Yoga: Path of Work. Stay tuned!

May the Almighty come to all of us in the form of Supreme Knowledge.

Om Namah Shivaya ||

- Kalidas

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