Introduction to Jnana yoga
Jnana means knowledge in Sanskrit language. Hence Jnana yoga is also called as “Jnanamarga”. In popular yoga culture, Jnana Yoga is also known as Gyaan yoga. In Hinduism it is one of the spiritual paths which emphasises on the path of knowledge or path of realization to attain moksha or salvation. In Hindu philosophyJnana yoga is one of the three paths of salvation or liberation or moksha. The other two paths of salvation are “bhakti yoga” and “karma yoga”. Later on some people in Hinduism also added a classical yoga introduced by swami Vivekanandaknown as “raj yoga”. This is the fourth path of spirituality; however, it is not accepted universally like the other three. Jnana yoga is a spiritual practice through which we gain the knowledge about ourselves like“what am I” or “who am I”, etc. This path (marga) of knowledge is actually meant for people who prefer the philosophical reflection and which requires meditation and study.
The Advaita Vedantaemphasises on the path of Jnana yoga to attain moksha. For Advaitins the Jnana yoga consists of mainly three practices, hearing (or sravanam), thinking (or mananam) and meditation (or nididhyasana). Hearing refers to observation and perception provided by the counsellor (Guru). The Guru teaches all the teachings of the Vedas. Here the practitioner listens and discusses the concepts and ideas through questions and answers. Thinking refers to such discussions and contemplating over different ideas which are based on self-studies and listening. Meditation refers to the realisation and consequent conviction of the truth and the state in which there would be a fusion of thoughts and actions, knowing and being.
How to do Jnana yoga and what are its benefits
Actually Jnana yoga has nothing to do with the practice of various asanas in different postures. This yoga cannot be started without a counsellor (or guru or teacher). It consists mainly of meditation and listening to the guidance given by the counsellor and interaction with the teacher. You have to listen and discuss the concepts and ideas given by your counsellor so that you should be very clear about your thinking. It is supposed to be the most difficult type of yoga among the other types of yoga. Gaining knowledge in itself is difficult. Gaining knowledge for self-realization could be even more challenging. A strong will power and intellect is required for Jnana yoga to enable you to research into your nature and move beyond your mind’s thought and ego. The process includes thinking, self-questioning, awareness and reflection to see behind the illusion of your ideasand perception and to unite with the ultimate reality and feel one with it.
To achieve the goal of Jnana yoga you have to follow the “Sadhana Chatushtaya” the stepping stones, otherwise known as the four pillars of knowledge.The four methods which are mentioned below should be practiced in sequential order as the one leads you to the other. They are:
Viveka is the process of using your intellect deliberately, consciously and continuously to differentiate between the real and the unreal, the temporary and the permanent and the self and that which is not.
Then comes Vairagya, when you detach yourself with worldly possession and activities. You should be feeling indifferent to that which is temporary. Forgetting about your ego, you should be seeing the things for what they are. Knowledge comes only when you may be free from all the attachments.
Shad-Sampati comprises of six methods which helps to stabilize your mind and emotions and trains it to see beyond the illusion of this world. First is Shama or to keep calm. It is a practice of being peaceful andgradually reacting lesser to the external stimuli. Dama is to strengthen your mind by keeping away from the influences of your senses. Uparati is to abandon all which is not your duty and keeping it simple without the unnecessary distractions. Titiksha is to endure unfavourable situations and to be tolerant of the suffering and the pain. Shraddha is to have faith and believe in a teacher, the yogic path and the Scriptures.Samadhana is to focus single minded.
Mumukshutva is the intense passion for liberation from the chains of suffering. It is the complete self-commitment to the path of self-realization to such a point that nothing else matters.
Precautions while practicing Jnana yoga
The main technique used in Jnana yoga is spiritual inquiry that includes argument, counter-argument, rationales, analysis and evidence. The purpose of these intellectual exercise is to clear the understanding of self. So it is very appealing to people with sharp intellect and logic. The practice in this path could be very difficult for GRISTHA (householder with family obligations) to follow. It is more suitable for people who lead a monastic life.