Jnana Yoga – The Yoga of knowledge of the Self

School of Yoga explains Jnana Yoga:

In jnana yoga, the opposite of Jnana (knowledge) is not falsehood, but ajnana (ignorance). Ignorance is the veil that covers the true state of the Self (Siva). This veil, which induces us accept perception of our senses as the true representation of is itself (asmita) is called maya or farce. When maya is dispelled, the true state of one’s identity is revealed.

School of Yoga explains – Jnana Yoga – skills, tools and goalposts:

  • Viveka (discrimination) – Ability to distinguish real from unreal, fact from fiction or perception from reality.
  • Vairagyam (detachment– Decision making is always clouded when there is attachment. The Self feels threatened by criticism and this clouds and affects decision making. So, learn to step back!
  • Satsanga (discussion with similar minded people) – 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…  
  • Mumukshutva (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 us in peeling away the layers of ignorance; 

  • Shravana (hearing) – Discrimination and detachment don’t come easily. It is important to share our experiences and learning to draw inspiration from others and try new techniques.
  • Manana (thinking) – This is logical reasoning and involves discriminating that which is permanent from the impermanent.
  • Nidhidyasana (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 (asmita).

School of Yoga – Making Jnana yoga work:

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

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

Obviously, many of these negations will require adjustments to our conditioning (dharma), resulting in strong physical and emotional backlash. This requires a building up of both, an emotional reservoir and a strong drive to continue despite the pain of loss of closely held views.

Jnana Yoga

Ramana Maharishi

The best role model of a modern day jana yogi aspirant is Bhagawan Ramana Maharishi who has left an enormous amount of usable information on how jnana yoga may be practiced.

School of Yoga – Suggestions on integrating Jnana Yoga into daily life…

Since change impacts our sense of identity, there is anxiety and fear. This affects our ability to accept change, even though the stimulus may ultimately have a positive impact.

Stimuli can be active (such as an oncoming bus), passive (such as a stationary car or umbrella) or subconscious (such as the sky, building or grass).

  • Negation of active stimuli is difficult because it demands immediate response. For example, in the case of an oncoming bus, you have to move out of the way.
  • Passive stimuli are easier as the consequences of negation are easier to manage. For example, if you are late to office and see your bosses car at the entrance, there is anxiety, but it is less than an oncoming bus. This is because the existential threat is more in your control.
  • But, how do you negate the subconscious stimuli? For example, how do you negate the sky? How do you say, it does not exist? Or that the existence is an illusion.

As one progresses with discrimination and dispassion by negating the material aspects of existence, the ability to negate existential stimuli increases.

School of Yoga – Jnana Yoga and Bond (bandana):

Stimuli can also be graded by levels of distance from the identity, this being defined by the relationships we have;

  • Primary bonds are those that we have with our parents, children or spouses.
  • Secondary bonds would include close friends, relatives etc.
  • Tertiary bond are casual one-on-one relationships.
  • Formal bond are those made at work or in any team.
  • Societal bonds are those which would impact our existence in society such as elections, environment etc.
  • Conditioning or Dharmic bond is one which is given to us by DNA, parents, home, family, school and society. This is very difficult to negate as it affects the core of our sense of Self (asmita)

Each bond assumes importance in different situations. Therefore, as the importance of a particular bond reduces, so will the attachment. However;

  • Negation of activity does not mean stoppage of activity. It only means reducing the impact of the bond on our sense of Self (asmita). Therefore, we should guard ourselves against reducing the quality of our transactions as we begin to realise the impermanence of the bond. 

For example, when working in a team, it is possible that when negating a stimulus, the person negates the team or the activity. This is not the intent of the concept. One should remain engaged in the activity, yet completely conscious that it is illusory, maya or farce.

  • As one grows older, the importance of each bond changes. So, achieving career objectives often changes to maintaining quality of career as one grows older. However, each experience leave residues. Purging this memory is very important for negation of stimulus because baggage is a source of inertia, demanding attention but contributing very little development.
  • The final goal is negation of existence of one’s own identity (Siva). As one begins the negation process from outside to inside – first, society is made irrelevant, events lose significance. Next, there is negation of stimuli which add no direct value. This includes exit from social media, TV, and over time – news. Finally, there is negation of ambition, imagination and expectation.

School of Yoga explains – how to practice Jnana Yoga :

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

Some points to succeed in jnana yoga.

  • Practice discrimination of stimuli. Isolate and negate what which is temporary or impermanent.
  • Avoid the compulsion to react.
  • Accept change and its associated uncertainties.
  • Find friends with similar Yoga goals. Compare notes and seek help.
  • Manage fear and anxiety by exercise, breathing and rationalizing (nidhidhyasana).
  • Negate conditioning or dharma – slowly, work towards a position where no situation is considered permanent without evidence.

For example – In sensitive subjects such as marriage, birth, death or even matters of faith, there is no evidence that any one position is valid. This means accepting that ambivalence exists even though ones conditioning or dharma might dictate otherwise.

  • Keep discarding baggage, attitudes and judgments.
  • Finally, negate your own existence. This is incredibly difficult and might not occur while primary bonds exist.
  • Be prepared for many and recurring experiences of a sense of loss, detachment and lack of fit with society.

Start each day as a fresh day with no baggage. Use the “present” as a “gift” and negate all images of the past or future.

Points to Ponder on Jnana Yoga ;

  • What is Jnana Yoga?
  • What are the fundamentals of Jnana Yoga?
  • How does on integrate Jnana Yoga into daily life?
  • How does one cope with the stress of negation?
Editor at School Of Yoga
School Of Yoga is a single point resource for all aspects of Classical Yoga practise. We try to achieve this by placing Yoga's traditional methodology in front of the reader and eliciting his or her experience. We value everyone's Yoga experience and would like you to share and enrich other practitioners so that everyone benefits.
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[…] Jnana Yoga was published posthumously, sometime around 1905. It is based on a series of lectures given by Swami Vivekananda in New York and London. These lectures were transcribed by a professional stenographer Joseph Josiah Goodwin in 1896. However, there have been additions and deletions to the book by the publishers. The important aspect of this book is that it is the first attempt to explain some concepts which underpin Yoga. […]

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