Several people presume Yoga as the supreme state of realization. For some, it is the ultimate goal of human life. Jnana Yoga for the intellectuals, therefore, may come into play in this thought process.
Yoga is professed to be the Path and the Goal. The Goal is the perception of the natural nature of the universe which some people regard as the Highest Being. It is believed that a person’s soul returns to what we call the universe following the experiences of life in the world of matter and senses. Thus, it is called the universal soul. This journey is the Path to the Goal.
It is well-known that Yoga is an ancient Sanskrit word which embraces the entire body of spiritual experiences and experiments. Oftentimes, the word Yoga is defined as union, signifying that an individual is united with the Universe.
In this fast-paced world we are living in, people from diverse background, community, and industry crave for balance. Balance when it comes to personal lives, family, goals, career, and even with social media, where most people spent the bulk of their time in a day.
Because of this, numerous people attempt to experience Yoga, which is viewed as the union of an individual’s mind, body, and soul. Yoga unites our lower egos with our higher selves in order to attain the Universe or what is claimed as the Highest Being.
Yoga has many paths including the four classical schools which are:
- Bhakti Yoga, the Yoga of Devotion;
- Raja Yoga, the Royal Yoga;
- Karma Yoga, Yoga of Service; and
- Jnana Yoga or Gnana Yoga, the Yoga of True Knowledge.
Each of these classical schools of Yoga offers a path to spiritual liberation and self-realization.
This article will focus on Jnana Yoga or the Yoga of True Knowledge. It will try to explain the you experiencing a world outside of you. It will try to bring true knowledge about this miracle called life.
What is Jnana Yoga, and why does it matter?
Jnana Yoga is the Yoga of True Knowledge; the experiential knowledge of the Self. This path focuses on acquiring wisdom through a cognitive engagement with the Divine. It is considered as the most direct and challenging means of spiritual development as it prescribes intellectual path of scriptures and self-study.
The concept of this classical school of Yoga was first narrated in the Bhagavad Vita which is an ancient Hindu text focusing on freedom from suffering. It is based on Advaita Vedanta philosophy, the Hindu philosophy of nondualism or non-dualistic tradition. Advaita means nondual while vedanta means vedic knowledge.
This philosophy believes that the knowledge obtained through meditation results in an understanding of one’s self as identical with the ultimate reality. This experience is assumed to dissolve the illusion of a separate sense of self which ultimately leads to freedom from suffering.
Adi Shankaracharya is an Indian philosopher who promulgated the path of Jnana Yoga through the consolidation of the Advaita Vedanta doctrine around 700 CE. This philosopher’s commentaries on Vedic texts instituted Jnana Yoga as the ultimate path to self-realization.
One of his beliefs is that Jnana yogis, individuals who practice and is proficient in this type of Yoga, must engage in complete renunciation to be free from illusion. Yogis have started on this spiritual path with scriptures and talks by masters. It is believed that knowledge is instilled in the seeker’s consciousness through Divine Grace.
Jnana Yoga dives into the truth of who we are as human beings and the paths we take, which results to our experiences in this journey of life. This truth brings enlightenment when full realization is achieved.
It can serve all people, whatever path they take as this Yoga keeps its true objective in sight, offering the blessing of truth and getting closer at every step.
Moreover, this Yoga begins from a person’s direct experiences. It is not merely based on any preliminary idea that a person should have to accept. But sometimes, these experiences require deep contemplation and meditation.
To find the absolute truth, a person may need to ask himself a lot of questions; a person may have to look beyond the mere aspects of his being and the experiences that change over time and all the time; a person may have to find which is essential to his life or what is essential to all of his experiences.
Why do you say that Jnana Yoga is a yoga for intellectuals?
Jnana Yoga requires the mind to be both rational and open, moving beyond intellect, as it is essentially a deep inquiry to the nature of the Self. This Yoga intends to use the mind to understand and discover the truth behind the mind. Seekers must push towards an experiential knowledge of the Divine, the universal consciousness or the absolute truth.
This classical school of Yoga is known for the Four Pillars of Knowledge.
First is Viveka which means discernment or discrimination.
This is the intellectual effort to determine what is real and the unreal. The goal here is to identify one’s ability to witness.
Second is Vairagya which means dispassion, detachment, or renunciation.
This aims to cultivate non-attachment toward worldly possessions and the ego-mind. Experiencing this pillar of knowledge means a person become less attached to the pleasures and pains of the world. His consciousness remains active and enthusiastic regardless of the fulfillment of his desires. This experience will make a person free of unsatisfied cravings and attitudes of aversion.
Third is Shatsampat which means six virtues or six wealth.
This contains the six mental practices to stabilize the mind and emotions. The first wealth is Shama which is the tranquility of the mind. Second is Dama which is control over a person’s own senses. Third, Titiksha which is endurance or not being shaken by the happenings around. Fourth is Uparati, the rejoicing in or being with a person’s own nature or inner self. Fifth is Shraddha which is faith or recognition of the unkwon. Lastly, Samadhana which is contentment or being calm, serene, or at ease.
The fourth pillar of knowledge is Mumukshutva which means longing or yearning.
This is the intense and passionate desire to achieve total freedom from suffering. It is the constant striving for freedom.
There are additional three core practices in Jnana Yoga once a seeker successfully practiced and mastered the four pillars of knowledge discussed in the preceding paragraphs.
First is Sravana.
This is the practice of hearing and experiencing the philosophy of Vedantic through a spiritual teacher. Once this practice is achieved, a person will develop a deep understanding of the concepts of one’s self and the ultimate reality as well as the philosophy of non-dualism.
Second is Manana.
This is the practice of thinking and reflecting the non-duality teachings aiming to understand the subtleties.
Third is Nididhyasana.
This is the practice of constant and profound meditation of the ultimate reality and the inner self in order to experience the absolute Truth.
What is the true purpose of Jnana Yoga?
The true purpose of Jnana Yoga is to achieve freedom through the realization of one’s own true nature or self. It also desires to overcome ignorance and the transcendence of people’s limited selves which are sense dependent and bound by karma.
People who practice Jnana Yoga experience the equanimity of the mind by controlling the senses and desires, and through mental discipline; detachment; impassion; sacrifice; renunciation; self-control; and devotion.
One of the principles of Jnana Yoga is that higher knowledge is never acquired because it is inherent to the Self, which is all knowing, thus, there is no learning for the Self. It is believed that it is the mind which acquires knowledge and has to face difficulties in order to overcome ignorance.
The accumulated knowledge is not free from impurities, hence, fundamentally flawed by ignorance, delusion, egoism, and attachments. Once they are removed, a seeker automatically returns to his original state of perfect knowledge and pure consciousness.
Tips and reminders for practicing Jnana Yoga
Jnana Yoga consists of eight parts, wherein five are external and the remaining three are internal.
The first two parts are Viz Yama and Niyama which deal with the types of behavior a seeker must avoid such as lying, cheating, and stealing as well as those behaviors that he must cultivate, in particular cleanliness.
The next two parts are Asanas and Pranayama. The physical movements which help in developing the suppleness of the body, thus, curing any diseases is called the Asanas. Pranayama allows a person to control his breath resulting to the increasing capacity of the lungs to take in air, thus, increases the vitality of the body.
Fifth is Pratyahara which denotes the withdrawal of the sense organs from objects of enjoyment.
The remaining three parts which are internal, concerns with the intense mental concentration.
A lot of people are desiring for balance in different aspects of their lives as we are now living in a fast-paced environment. This desire may be achieved by the persistent practice of the mental techniques of self-questioning, reflecting, and meditation which are explained by the Four Pillars of Knowledge.
The purpose of Jnana Yoga is to remove the veils of illusion made by one’s perceptions, concepts, and world views. This Yoga allows a person to realize the temporary and illusionary nature of one’s self and to clearly see the oneness of all things that surrounds him.