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Jnana Yoga

What is Jnana yoga? This form of yoga is also called gyana yoga, this is one of the main forms of yoga and is known as the yoga of true knowledge. This form of yoga is based on the Hindu philosophy of non-dualism or the belief in the absolute. This philosophy is also called advaita Vedanta, which translates into “nondual Vedic knowledge.” The Bhagavad-Gita indicates that the philosopher Adi Shankara gave utmost importance to this philosophy. Krishna also says in the Gita that jnana involves an understanding of kshetra (the body) and kshetra-jna (the soul) and emphasized that a transcendentalist should understand the difference between the two.

Many branches of Buddhism, Taoism, Islamic Sufism, and even Christianity follow a non-dualistic view of reality similar to that of Jnana yoga. This form of yoga looks into the truth of who the practitioner is and what he is experiencing. The general premise is that the full realization of such truth will bring enlightenment, which is the ultimate goal of all forms of yoga. Aside from Adi Shankara, other well-known teachers of Jnana yoga are Vashishta, Ramana Maharshi, and Nisargadatta Maharaj.

In Jnana yoga, practitioners are taught that there are four means by which salvation is attained, and these means are:

• Viveka – Also called Discrimination, this refers to the yogi’s ability to differentiate between what is real or eternal, otherwise known as Brahman, and what is unreal or temporal, which is practically everything else in the universe other than the truth. This concept is emphasized in texts that are even older than the Bhagavad-Gita. It usually invoked the image of a swan, which is believed to have the ability to distinguish between water and milk when it takes a drink.

• Vairagya – Also known as Dispassion, this calls for the Jnana yoga practitioner to be able to detach himself from everything that has been identified as temporary. This is an expected result after one has practiced Jnana yoga.

• Shad-sampat – This is comprised of what is generally known as the 6 virtues of Jnana yoga. These virtues are Sama-Tranquility or the control of the mind, Dama or the control of the senses, Uparati or the act of renouncing activities that are not considered as duties, Titiksha or endurance, Shraddha or faith, and Samadhana or perfect concentration. One who practices Jnana yoga is, of course, expected to gain all 6 virtues.

• Mumukshutva – This refers to the intense longing of a Jnana yoga practitioner to be liberated from all his temporal legal traits.

What’s most remarkable about Jnana yoga is that although it is known to be the path of knowledge, it is more than just an intellectual exercise. The necessary first step is for the yogi to intellectually realize and accept that the nature of God is pure awareness and that the core of our being is pure Beingness. But, to achieve the ultimate goal of knowing the real Self (getting to the true knowledge), the yogi must become Beingness itself. The actual experience of becoming pure Beingness is what the Jnana yogi is after, for this cannot be compared to a mere intellectual exercise.

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