Last Updated on February 16, 2022
Yoga is not just all about the physical practice of different yoga poses. It is also about mental practices that allow people to explore their inner self which could open the world towards self-realization.
As you may already know, yoga has many kinds of spiritual paths that one could practice to achieve spiritual liberation. This liberation is achieved through self-inquiry to have a better and deep understanding of the personal self.
One main spiritual path practiced in yoga is the Jnana yoga which is the pursuit of the absolute truth and true knowledge by learning how to control one’s thoughts.
If you want to learn more about the path of knowledge and the other yogic paths, just keep reading below!
Spiritual Practice: Four Major Paths of Yoga
There are four yogic main paths in Hindu scriptures believed to help attain the absolute sense by establishing the connection between the supreme self and the world.
Jnana yoga – sometimes referred to as gyana yoga or jnana marga (marga means “path”) – is a yogic path of will and intellect.
The word Jnana means “knowledge” in Hindu and uses the mind to pursue knowledge and inquire about the truth through mental techniques of logic and reason.
Practicing Jnana yoga unveils ignorance and forgetfulness and reveals the true nature and desires of the self.
Bhakti yoga or the yoga of devotion believes that the lack of faith in the Divine causes people to lose connection with themselves.
This path encourages people to purify, turn their love, and surrender themselves to the Divine. Some examples of Bhakti yoga are chants, puja, and devotional rituals.
The yoga of action and selfless service in order to benefit others resonates most in the community. Karma yoga aims to purify the heart and extinguish selfish desires by acting with the right motive and detaching yourself from the outcome.
Most modern yoga is influenced by Raja yoga. Known as the yoga of meditation, Raja aims to calm the restless mind in order to reconnect with ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually.
This path would benefit best those who prefer method-based practices.
Jnana Yoga Philosophy
Aside from its roots in the Bhagavad Gita, Jnana yoga is also associated with the Advaita Vedanta philosophy.
This school of thought believes that the knowledge acquired through meditation leads to understanding one’s own nature (atman) and is identical with Ultimate Reality (Brahman).
Jnana also believes that real knowledge liberates practitioners from suffering by removing the illusion that a separate sense of self exists.
Practicing Gyana Yoga
The practice of Jnana or Gyana yoga intends to understand and uncover the truth by using one’s mind and knowledge.
Seeking an experiential knowledge of the Divine and gaining the universal consciousness can be obtained if the mind is both rational and open.
The Four Pillars of Knowledge
There are prescribed steps in Jnana yoga in order to achieve spiritual insight. These are called the Sadhana Chatushtaya or the Four Pillars of Knowledge.
1. Viveka (Discernment, Discrimination)
Viveka is the ability to deliberately distinguish and discriminate the difference between what is real and unreal, what is permanent from temporary, and the self from the non-self.
2. Vairagya (Dispassion, Detachment)
Also known as renunciation, vairagya is the acceptance of the detachment from the pleasures of worldly possessions.
3. Shatsampat (The Six Virtues)
There are six virtues said to stabilize both the mind and emotions which allows for better discernment of the self, eternal, and what is real.
Here are the different mental practices to help improve your spiritual vision:
- Shama (tranquility) – the ability to be calm or keep a piece of mind
- Dama (restraint) – the ability to control the sense organs, therefore, having control over one’s reactions to external stimuli
- Uparati (renunciation) – renouncing or rejecting anything that doesn’t fit your duty
- Titiksha (endurance) – being able to endure and persevere despite the suffering that you will encounter
- Shraddha (faith) – believing and trusting the Jnana yoga teachings
- Samadhana (concentration) – having the ability to fully concentrate and focus the mind
4. Mumukshatva (Constant Striving for Freedom)
Mumukshatva is the constant, intense, and passionate desire for attaining Jnana in order to achieve liberation and decrease suffering.
The Three Core Practices
Once the pillars of knowledge are reached and integrated into your life, the practitioner would now be ready for the three core practices of Jnana.
These core practices are believed to lead people towards self and direct realization.
1. Sravana (Hearing)
Meaning to hear and experience the sacred knowledge, Sravana can be achieved through reading texts, scriptures, and engaging in meaningful discussions with a guru.
Also, having a deep understanding of the concepts of atman, Brahman, and the philosophy of non-duality would also be useful – which is the belief that the universal self and the individual self are not separate, therefore, they are one.
2. Manana (Reflection)
Practitioners reflect and contemplate what they have learned in Sravana. This is an attempt to better understand the concept of non-duality.
3. Nididhysana (Meditation)
The yogi constantly and profoundly meditates on the inner self in order to achieve and experience the absolute truth.
Achieving Liberation Through Wisdom
When you become skilled in Jnana’s pillars of knowledge and core practices, you may notice a change and progression in your own knowledge.
You may see these improvements through the seven stages of wisdom:
- Shubheccha (Good Desire) – yogi pursues knowledge by having the desire to passionately self study Sanskrit texts that will make them indifferent towards sensory objects
- Vicharana (Philosophical Inquiry) – in this stage, the practitioner starts to question and reflect on the concept of non-duality
- Tanumanasi (Subtetly of Mind) – the yogi starts to focus pure awareness inwardly
- Sattvapatti (Attainment of Light) – the illusion created by the world dissolves and the yogi starts to see things equally
- Asamsakti (Inner Detachment) – as the practitioner learns to detach from external stimuli, they begin to feel deep bliss
- Padartha Bhavana (Spiritual Vision) – this stage is where an understanding of the absolute truth and Brahman is achieved
- Turiya (Supreme Freedom) – also known as pure consciousness, the yogi experiences the non-duality of self, therefore, achieving spiritual liberation
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