INTRODUCTION TO JNANA YOGA – PARTIi
There are several ways to reach the goal of Yoga or the unity with divinity. Roughly, we
can say that our realization of God can be reached through Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga or Jnana Yoga. Although all forms of Yoga lead to the one and same goal, we tend to choose our path according to our type of personality. People who prefer to express their emotional connection and love to God choose Bhakti Yoga or devotional service and are blessed with divine protection. Others, who are drawn to spiritual action, are guided by God through seva projects, etc. An intellectually inclined person chooses Jnana Yoga. His mind is his greatest tool to seek knowledge of the universal truth. Let us view Jnana Yoga:
With regular practice of meditation, Jnana Yoga purifies our mind, which gradually unravels and eliminates the layers of illusion that have manifested within us throughout our evolution or lives. So, our intellect is a tool to gain awareness of a reality that is beyond all that we know.
The philosophical background of Jnana Yoga is Vedanta, which literally means “the end of knowledge.” Therefore, Vedanta is the philosophical basis of Jnana Yoga. Vedanta refers to the 108 Upanishads, which are the final part of the Vedas.
Brahman, or the formless Absolute, is the boundless, eternal and utmost reality in Vedanta philosophy. Brahman is beyond any attributes or entities of the phenomenal world and is the source of all existence and non-existent. Brahman is ultimate Truth, knowledge and bliss (Sat Chit Ananda). We can visualize Brahman as a canvas on which the cosmic drama of the word is reflected. The reality of Brahman makes the unreal or illusion (Maya) seem real. So, Brahman is reflected in the illusion, and at the same time Brahman is not affected by Maya.
Yet, we cannot really define Brahman because that would margin the reality of the Absolute. Our mind cannot also comprehend Brahman because we need to give everything a form to understand it. But, Brahman is limitless and cannot be limited by form. The great sage Adhi Shankara proclaimed in his philosophy of non-dualism: “Brahma Satyam, Jagan Mitya. Jivo Brahmaiva Napara”
Brahman is real, but the universe (or the world) is unreal. Brahman and Atman are one. Therefore, our higher Self is none other than Brahman alone. Adi Shankara also explained that real is only that which never changes and never ceases to exist. This shows that the whole world is unreal or Maya.
Maya is powered by Brahman. However, HohHowvrewMaya functions as a universal power that makes the illusion seem real and the real seem unreal. Maya gives everything a form, and creates the world that we see. Nevertheless, the world and Maya are both reflections of Brahman.
Brahman is also within us as Atman. Atman is the absolute consciousness in us. Atman and Brahman are identical and refer to the same One. Both are not subject to change, limitless and eternal.
Brahman refers to the Absolute from the perspective of the universe. Atman refers to the One within us. Our jiva is our individual soul, and jiva is also Atman, that resides within the Upadhis or the external limitations of our being. Upadhi is the vehicle of our true being that covers our pure consciousness. Our body and mind are our upadhis. Maya manifests in us as Avidya or ignorance. When we identify ourselves with our upadhis, we are called jiva. The jiva suffers because it is tied to and limited by the upadhis. Avidya makes us forget that we are in reality the true Self or Atman. When we identify with our limitations or Upadhis, we continuously take rebirth as jiva until we realize our true nature, Atman.
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