Some fundamentals about jñāna-yoga

Post By: Published on: December 17, 2016 Reading time: 5 minutes

What is jñāna-yoga?

The fundamental premise in jñāna-yoga is that all of us are trapped in the material world by our bonds and our need for relevance. Also, our bonds and need for identity/ self-worth (asmitā), ensnare us to keep acting (performing karma). This results in creation of debt which needs to be reconciled in this life or next and trap us into a never ending cycle of birth and death called saṃsāra.

Importantly, our identification of ourselves and the need for relevance in this material world comes from our erroneous belief that the world and our situation, is real. Also, this inability to cognise that the world as transient stems from ignorance of the true nature of Brahman (the source). Jñāna-yoga is that branch of yoga where we try to transcend materiality through introspection and examination of the true nature of the Self.

Significantly, in jñāna-yoga, the opposite of jñāna (knowledge of the Self) is not falsehood, but ajñāna (ignorance). Ignorance is the veil that covers the true state of the Brahman (source/ Truth). This veil, which induces us accept perception of our senses as the true representation of is itself (asmitā) is called māyā or farce. Consequently, when māyā is dispelled, the true state of one’s identity is revealed.

What are some of the skills, tools and goalposts in jñāna-yoga practice?

  • Vivekam (discrimination) – is the ability to distinguish truth/ real from unreal, fact from fiction or perception from reality. It can be seen that this is a critical capability that we need to develop because it enables us to consciously reject the material world while functioning in it.
  • Vairagyam (detachment) – Decision making is always clouded by sentiment and attachment. In fact, the sense of self-worth (asmitā) feels threatened by criticism which clouds and affects decision making. So, learn to step back without losing empathy!
  • Satsaṅga (discussion with similar minded people) – In fact, seeking the truth is a terribly lonely business and there is failure, mistakes and heart-breaks. However, the journey becomes easier when it is shared…
  • Mumukṣutva (extreme desire for liberation) – Since almost all the effort and change is internal, there is no visible measure of success. Therefore, our internal motivation and desire to succeed is critical to success.

In addition to the above skills, the following tools can help one in peeling away the layers of ignorance; 

  • Śravaṇa (hearing) – Discrimination and detachment don’t come easily. It is important to share our experiences and learning with others. Also, we must learn and draw inspiration on how to manage failure and build capability from others.
  • Manana (controlling cognition) – All stimuli come in through the senses (indriya). These are collated at in the brain before a response is formulated. The imaginary place where this collation is done is manas. Manana is neutralising the impact of stimulus at the stage of cognition.
  • Nididhyāsana (reflecting) – When we receive stimuli, we react. In order to move our awareness from reflex to conscious, we need to reflect on the stimulus and its impact on the awareness of the Self (asmitā).

How can we make jñāna-yoga work?

Jñāna-yoga is possibly the simplest yoga to implement, with least number of variables to control.

The concept requires us to isolate impermanent stimulus. Consequently, this isolation will slowly bring out the more permanent aspect of reality.

Ramana Maharishi

Obviously, many of these negations will require adjustments to our conditioning (dharma), resulting in strong physical and emotional backlash. Also, we will need to build capability and an emotional reservoir to manage internal change. Additionally, we will need to develop a strong drive to continue despite the pain of loss of closely held views.

The best role model of a modern day jñāna-yoga aspirant is Bhagawan Ramana Maharishi. Bhagavan Ramana Maharishi live in Bharat and was a personification of jñāna-yoga. He has also left an enormous amount of usable information on how jnana-yoga may be practiced.

To build up the ability to discriminate and weed out impermanent stimuli while simultaneously strengthening emotional intelligence, one needs to maintain relationships with likeminded people – getting motivated by their experiences and feeding off their enthusiasm, reading, reflecting and putting into practice the changes to our conditioning which strengthen the ability to say “Not this” or neti in Sanskrit.

For more on how to practice jñāna-yoga, read the next blog.

Points to Ponder on jñāna-yoga.

Internal Tags: Dharma (conditioning)Stress and Situational Awareness, Stress and prana, Awareness measures, Hatha Yoga Pradeepika, Patanjali Yoga Sutra, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga..

  • What is jñāna-yoga?
  • What are the fundamentals of jñāna-yoga?
  • How does on integrate jñāna-yoga into daily life?
  • How does one cope with the stress of negation?
  • What are the tools you would use to implement jñāna-yoga?

2 Replies to “Some fundamentals about jñāna-yoga”

  1. Sorry for the delayed response,
    Thank you for youe support,
    Please do suggest ways to make the site more useful

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