INTRODUCTION TO JNANA YOGA – PART i
Jnana Yoga is a path that leads to spiritual knowledge. It answers our eternal questions in life such as: Who am I? Where am I coming from? Where am I going to? Who is the doer? What is the meaning of life? What is real? What is unreal? Where does this world come from? Is there justice in this world? What is happiness? We can continue asking such question, and we may come up with very interesting answers, which is a good inquiry. However, Jnana Yoga is not just an intellectual practice of philosophy. It has very much to do with our practical life. There are basically four phases in Jnana Yoga:
In Jnana Yoga, we first listen to (or read) the words of wisdom like they are, for example, expressed in the Vedas. Of course, it would be most ideal if we had a chance to listen to the words of a self-realized guru. But, if that is not possible, books are a good resource of information.
In the second phase, we start thinking about what we heard or read. It is good to be engaged in a discussion with people who are also interested in pondering about the eternal questions mentioned above. However, Jana Yoga is not about blindly accepting words of wisdom but rather reflecting upon them with an open mind and trying to analyze its core meaning from the perspective of our own being. Most scriptures of Jnana Yoga are written as a dialog between the disciple and his Guru.
The third phase is meditation, which goes beyond reflection because it unravels our faculty of intuitive understanding. It is important that we carry the positive effects of meditation into the different activities of our daily life. For meditation helps us to master our life’s challenges with balance, peace, wisdom and common sense. It also raises our overall awareness and helps us understand who we are. Gradually, we get glimpses of the one in us. This helps us to comprehend our own ideal role in life. Therefore, it is vital to go beyond intellectualism and to apply the theory in practice. It is important to note that we do not understand the wisdom of the scriptures or the words of self-realized gurus if we do not practice. Our practice opens us up from within. Even if it is a small act of kindness, it is highly effective regardless of how big it is. We need to look within to find out what we can do for our own improvement and also for the benefit of others. Therefore, meditation has to be combined with a practical application in life.
The fourth and last phase of Jnana Yoga is the total realization of Truth. In this phase, all questions are answered and the individual realizes the Truth that governs all existence. However, his/her realization is not something separate from himself or herself, for the Yogi becomes one with the Truth that he or she merges with.
For the reasons expressed above, it is important to move step by step without the expectation of quick and sensational results. With God’s grace, the positive effects will emerge even better than we could ever imagine. The key to get there is continued practice, to gain stability, and not to fall back into the negative patterns we hoped to let go.
Deepa Malavalli is a teacher of yoga and meditation from the Sivananda Yoga lineage. She teaches Writing and Advanced Grammar at the USF College of Continuing Education in Tampa. She can be reached at email@example.com