Yoga is one of the most popular forms of exercise throughout the United States. However, it’s so much more than just an exercise as it also helps with mental health and the discovery of joy and peace.
There are many different types of yoga and it can be divided into four main paths of practice.
These four paths are Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Jnana Yoga. The last of these, Jnana Yoga, is considered to be the yoga of wisdom and knowledge and is seen as being the hardest of the four. But what do you know about Jnana Yoga?
In this article, we will take a closer look at Jnana Yoga. We will explain everything you need to know about this challenging yoga practice.
What Is The Philosophy Behind Jnana Yoga?
The Jnana means “knowledge” or “wisdom” in Sanskrit and this is an apt description of the philosophy behind Jnana yoga.
Of the four main yoga paths, Jnana yoga is seen as the path that leads practitioners to the pursuit of knowledge and reality. It focuses on contemplation, self-inquiry, and mediation and is the study of the self.
The main goal of Jnana yoga is to become free from illusions created by self-limited thoughts (maya) and to achieve the unity of the inner self (Atman) and the oneness of all life (Brahman.)
Practitioners aim to transcend ego and thoughts and become aware of our own nature.
What Are The Prerequisites Of Jnana Yoga?
To achieve this liberation and freedom in Jnana yoga, there are some steps to take. These are the Four Pillars of Knowledge and they should build upon each other to achieve spiritual insight and freedom.
This means that you need to complete the four practices in order.
The Four Pillars of Knowledge are:
This means discernment and discrimination. You should make a deliberate effort to discern and discriminate between the real and the unreal. It’s essential that you are able to distinguish between the Self and not-Self, plus the permanent and temporary.
This means dispassion and detachment. This step is about developing an indifferent attitude towards worldly possessions and the ego. You should work on becoming detached from these distractions.
This means six virtues. It covers six different mental practices that practitioners should use to keep the mind clear and stable. These six are:
- Shama (tranquility, calmness) – this is the process of keeping the mind peaceful and calm. External stimuli should be blocked and ignored
- Dama (restraint, control) – this is the process of strengthening the mind. It will help you to resist your senses being controlled so that they are only used as instruments of the mind
- Uparati (withdrawal, renunciation) – this is the process of weeding out any activities that are not part of your duty (Dharma)
- Titiksha (endurance, forbearance) – this is the process of becoming tolerant of external circumstances that produce suffering. For example, failure, heat, and pain
- Shraddha (faith, trust) – this is the process of developing complete trust and belief in your teacher, scriptures, and the yoga path you’re following
- Samadhana (focus, concentration) – this is the process of developing a one-track and focused mind
This means longing and yearning. It is the development of an intense desire to achieve the liberation of the mind from suffering and distractions.
To achieve this goal, you must be fully committed to your yoga journey and focus on it with a yearning so intense that nothing else matters.
How To Practice Jnana Yoga
Although we now have a good understanding of what Jnana Yoga is and what the goals of the practice are, it may not be clear how this can be achieved. Let’s take a closer look at the practical side of practicing Jnana Yoga.
Practice Other Yogas First
Jnana Yoga has a reputation for being the most difficult of the four main yoga paths. This is why it is often recommended that practitioners try other types of yoga first before they consider Jnana Yoga.
Take some time to practice Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Bhakti Yoga before you try Jnana Yoga. This will put your mind in the right place and prepare your body and heart for the difficulties of Jnana Yoga.
Once you have experience with these other paths and have been able to advance through your practice, you can then start with the Four Pillars of Knowledge that are associated with Jnana Yoga.
The Core Practices
Once you have found your grounding in the other yoga paths and have studied the Four Pillars of Knowledge, you can begin the core practices of Jnana Yoga. Let’s look at these in turn.
- Sravana (hearing) – in this stage, the Jnana Yoga student should dive into the sacred knowledge contained in the Vedic texts of the Upanishad. This will give the student an understanding of core concepts such as Atman, Brahman, and non-dualism
- Manana (reflection) – in this stage, the student should reflect upon the teachings they learned in the previous stage, specifically those centered on non-dualism. You should spend many hours in contemplation
- Nididhyasana (meditation) – in this stage, the contemplation and meditation should focus on the inner Self. The student should concentrate on the real meaning behind the “Great Sayings” of the Upanishads.
The aim of the core practices is for the Jnana Yoga student to learn a greater understanding of the connections between thoughts and action, and knowing and being.
It is advised that a Jnana Yoga student should complete these practices under the guidance of an experienced teacher or guru. The guru will be able to lead and guide the practitioner through important discussions and contemplations.
In this article, we introduced Jnana Yoga, what it means, and how it can be practiced. It’s considered the most difficult of the main paths of yoga and is best pursued with the guidance of a guru.