This is the Yoga of true knowledge and can also be referred to as gyana yoga. This yoga is subject to a Nondualism philosophy of the Hindu called advaita Vedanta (nondual Vedic knowledge). Even branches of Zen, Buddhism, Taoism and some Christianity divisions have the same nondualistic view on reality.
Yoga has four main paths and Jnana yoga is probably the most difficult of them. You require a great deal of will and mental strength to practice it. In Jnana Yoga, the mind basically tries to identify its natural self by connecting with its thoughts and ego. The goal here is to be freed from illusionary thoughts and perceptions (maya) and to get a connection between the inner self (Atman) and the oneness of life(Brahman). This is made possible by exercising the mental techniques that are mentioned in the 4 Pillars of Knowledge i.e. self-questioning, conscious illumination and reflection.
The four pillars of knowledge
Also known as Sadhana Chatushtaya, the 4 Pillars of Knowledge are the guidelines that one needs to adhere to so as to achieve the best out of Jnana Yoga. They highly depend on each and they are practiced in a certain order. These techniques can help one achieve liberation and peace of mind despite the challenges in life.
- Viveka ( discernment, discrimination)
This is a cautious, mental effort the permanent from the temporary and the real from the unreal. It’s a continuous process that needs all the concentration one can have.
- Vairagya (dispassion, detachment )
This is for training the mind to detach itself from the ego and worldly possessions that otherwise have no spiritual value. True knowledge only begins when the mind is completely free from the any attachments.
- Shatsampat (six virtues)
These are six exercises that try to get the balance between the mind and emotions. They further help the mind to get over the illusions of maya.
- Dama (control, restrain). This is when the mind connects with the senses. The mind has the ability to fully control the senses and resist any temptations that come with them.
- Shama (calmness, tranquility) is the ability of the mind to maintain a peaceful state at all times no matter the situation and how strong the external forces are.
- Titiksha (endurance, forbearance) is when the mind has the capacity to endure and overcome any imbalance in external situations that create suffering. This applies in extreme opposite situations like hot and cold, or pleasure and pain.
- Shraddha (faith, trust) is putting trust and believing in one’s master or teacher and the yogic path and scriptures.
- Samadhana (concentration, focus) is when the mind is able to put a hundred percent concentration on something.
- Mumukshutva (longing, yerning)
It’s a state of extremely and passionately wanting to get liberated from suffering. To attain liberation, a person should be fully committed to the path such that the desire to get liberated becomes stronger than all the other desires. Jnana yoga can be complicated and difficult to stay true to the path, but it is vital to approach it with compassion and humility. Without a proficient teacher, one can easily lose focus and stray away from the path.
The purpose and objectives of jnana Yoga
The main purpose of Jnana Yoga is being free of ignorance, finding our true nature and going beyond our limitations that are bound by karma. According to the Bhagavadgita, Here are a few of the progresses one can achieve when practicing yoga:
- Detachment (asangatva)
- Tyaga (sacrifice)
- Renunciation (sanyasa)
- Self- control (samyama)
- Devotion (bhakti).
- Virag (impassion)
People who have not yet fully acquired the true knowledge of their Self cannot be fully devoted. One needs to be free from any desires and be fully de attached from any longings so as to attain the highest kind of devotion. Just like a cup needs to be empty to be filled, true devotion grows naturally when the mind and the heart are pure.
How Jnana is acquired?
A Yogi can acquire knowledge through scriptures, teachers, discussion, and personal spiritual experience among others. However, true knowledge of yoga cannot be acquired because it already exists in the true Self. One, who finds true self, finds true knowledge. The original state of the mind is clean and pure but the earthly desires and impunities change it to become what it is. The Bhagavadgita does not exactly mention how to regain knowledge but it gives suggestive alternatives and hints. Here are some of the ways that can assist in awakening true knowledge.
- Meditation which puts the mind in a stable state that helps see things clearly.
- The study of scriptures or any other spiritual and religious literature.
- Practicing equality and disengagement from worldly pleasures will leave the mind pure and free.