What is Jnana Yoga?

How do we move from mind-based knowledge toward a wisdom that is experienced within our heart?

The yoga of will and intellect

The journey to self-realisation is one that starts with the most obvious and easily understood parts of ourselves and refines our awareness into the subtlest aspects of our being. Essentially, in yoga, we tread a path of mind-based understanding toward a wisdom that goes far beyond the mind and can only be felt as the truth which lies deep in our hearts.  

For many, the path from asana (physical postures) leads naturally to a deeper inquiry into the nature of being. There often arises a questioning of “What is this feeling I experience when practising yoga that words can’t quite explain?” or “This deep sense of peace that I feel from practising yoga… what is it and how can I feel it more?” In order to answer these questions, we turn to the path of Jnana Yoga.

"This deep sense of peace that I feel from practising yoga… what is it and how can I feel it more?” In order to answer these questions, we turn to the path of Jnana Yoga.

Jnana yoga is the path of ‘doubt-free intellectual knowledge.’ It is the study of the texts of Self-Realization and a deep inquiry into the nature of who we really are in order to understand all the subtle nuances of the mind, its attachment to sense-objects, and how these create the veils of Avidya (ignorance/forgetfulness) which cover up our astute inner knowing that we are so much more than what our minds think us to be. This is done by the use of reason and logic, therefore using the mind as a tool to understand itself. 

Resources

There are countless resources on this journey of Jnana yoga. Those most often used are the Upanishads, Patanjali’s Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita. There are many others, however, including the straightforward Drg Drsya Viveka (seer, seeing, seen discrimination) and Panchdasi, the sensuous Bhairaiva Tantra, and the elegant Shiva Sutras.  

All of these point to the same Ultimate Reality: that we are none other than Divine Consciousness, expressing itself infinitely through all the forms within the Universe. Essentially, everything is part of the same whole: the Uni-verse, (literally translated: One-Song) all dancing together, composing a divine artwork, which is illumined and inspired by consciousness. 

Through Jnana yoga, we listen to and study these simple but profound truths so that our minds understand on an intellectual level how it all works. Through dedicated study, preferably with a knowledgeable and trusted teacher, it is possible to break through the veils of Avidya and clearly see the workings of the body-mind-intellect system.  

Knowing with the mind - experiencing from the heart

This part of the journey can only take us to the doorstep of true wisdom, however. The human mind is limited in its capacity for this type of knowing. The next stage is one which is led solely by a surrendering of the mind-based knowledge to a deeper knowing which can only be felt in the realm of the heart, and by way of the Grace which goes far beyond what a human mind can understand.   

It’s called Vijnana, an experience-based knowing that cannot be understood from reading a text or listening to a lecture. It is the supreme mystical aspect of yoga, one that is often overlooked in the external scramble for inner peace. The greatest of Life’s mysteries is how and when this experiential knowing will present itself. When it does, it reveals to us the magic and profound intelligence of All Life in a way which goes far beyond what words can describe. 

It is an instant of blossoming from the mind-based knowing of ourselves as an identity, to a felt experience of being so much more than the person the mind thinks us to be. It is the shift from the triputi, the 3-way division between subject, object, and action to an identification with Life as One, with no distinction between knowing, knower, and known.

As with all yogic paths, the paradox is that we do the practice with sincerity and lightness for the delight of the path itself, all the while trusting the process without expectation of result. However, in the process we prepare the body and the mind for that moment of Grace in which the Vijnana arises and the direct knowing occurs.

How do we know when this happens?  

When there is no longer the need to search or ask questions.

Keep practising and studying and inquiring, for the delight of the journey itself. All will unfold and blossom, perhaps not in the ways that we expect or want, but always perfectly in the ways that we need.

With love, 

Tracey

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