In this article, we will look at how the Bhagavad Gita and other Vedic scriptures explain the concept of Jnana Yoga.
However, before we can comprehend the meaning and significance of Jnana Yoga, we must first grasp the fundamental meaning of Yoga. Only then will we be able to reap the rewards of Jnana Yoga.
What is Yoga?
In modern civilization, yoga is defined as a blend of many types of exercise routines aimed at making the body and mind stronger, fitter, and more flexible.
This, however, is not the case.
The Sanskrit word Yoga literally translates to “summation.” Therefore, yoga refers to the process of adding. The natural question that comes to me now is “to add what to what?” “To add the individual soul to the Supreme Soul,” is the answer. “To add yourself to God” is a simpler way of putting it.
According to the ancient Vedic scripture, this is the purpose of one’s life. In truth, we are individual souls whose destiny is to return to where it came from – God’s glorious home. Yoga is the practice of doing so.
Types of Yoga
Many types of Yoga are mentioned in the Vedic literature, but the most prominent ones include:
- Jnana Yoga,
- Dhyana Yoga,
- Karma Yoga, and
- Bhakti Yoga.
So, let’s understand what Jnana Yoga is.
In Sanskrit, jnana means “knowledge.” Of course, knowledge can take different forms and be applied to a variety of areas. The term “knowledge” is now commonly used to refer to the bookish knowledge that students are compelled to memorize in schools and colleges and then spit out in exam halls.
However, “knowledge” in this context refers to spiritual wisdom. Real knowledge is spiritual knowledge.
The primary goal of human life, according to Vedic literature, is to achieve Moksha, or permanent freedom from material existence. Jnana encompasses all knowledge that can assist one in achieving this goal.
In other words, Jnana is made up of the answers to the following questions, among others:
- Who are you?
- What is your purpose in life and how to fulfill that purpose?
- Is there a God? If yes, who is God, and how to know and reach Him?
- Is God one or many?
- What is your relationship with God?
- What happens after death?
- Do heaven and hell exist?
- Is reincarnation real?
- How does the universe work?
Let us have a look at what Lord Krishna has to say about knowledge in the Bhagavad Gita:
“Being freed from attachment, fear, and anger, being fully absorbed in Me, taking complete shelter in Me, and sanctified by the penance of gaining knowledge, many have attained My nature (by becoming one with Krishna).” [BG 4.10]
“O Parantapa (Arjuna), the sacrifice of knowledge (the practice of acquisition of divine knowledge) is superior to the mere sacrifice of material objects. All acts of sacrifice, in their entirety, culminate in knowledge, O Partha (Arjuna).” [BG 4.33]
“Even if you are the biggest sinner among all sinners, by the boat of knowledge, you will certainly be able to cross all oceans of sin. As a blazing fire reduces firewood to ashes, O Arjuna, similarly the fire of knowledge reduces all reactions of material actions to ashes. Verily, there is nothing so purifying here (in this material world) as knowledge. One who has become perfected in Yoga finds it (divine knowledge) within himself in due course of time. A man full of faith, who is dedicated to the attainment of that transcendental knowledge, and has subdued the senses, attains it; and having attained the knowledge, he, without delay, attains the supreme peace (of self-realization).” [BG 4.36 – 4.39]
The relevance of Jnana is discussed by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita at several places. However, reading the verses above should give you an understanding of the importance of true spiritual knowledge.
How to practice Jnana Yoga?
Now that you know that Jnana Yoga refers to the accumulation of knowledge in order to achieve the ultimate goal of human life, which is to become one with God, the logical question is, “How do I obtain such knowledge?”
The Scriptures are troves of enlightening knowledge, and it is there that we find all of the Jnana required for Yoga. The Vedas, Puranas, and Upanishads, for example, contain oceans of liberating truth that can release us from all material sorrows and miseries. If reading and interpreting such large amounts of literature is too much for us, we can read scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita.
The Bhagavad Gita is an excellent place to begin acquiring spiritual knowledge for any spiritual seeker. It contains answers to all of the important questions, providing the seeker with a solid foundation of wisdom on which to build. Lord Krishna has been exceedingly generous in summing the entire Vedic philosophy in the 701 verses of the Bhagavad Gita for the benefit of the entire human community living in Kali-Yuga – the dark age.
If reading is not an option, one can listen to the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavad Purana, and other sacred texts read aloud by a sage.
Of course, reading and hearing something and then forgetting it will not help. It is crucial to evaluate what one has read or heard. It is necessary to reflect on one’s freshly gained information. And, when contemplating and meditating, one must be careful not to let any prejudices or biases to seep into one’s mind. Learning like a child is the best way to learn. A youngster does not pass judgment while learning. We should not pass judgment on Vedic scriptures, especially in the early phases of our practice of Jnana Yoga.
Our lives have already shaped our personalities and minds. And Vedic literature questions what we believe to be true. If one is impatient, it is quite simple to dismiss Vedic teachings as nonsense or foolish.
This is one of the main reasons why the Vedas advise approaching a wise sage and learning from him or her. A spiritual guru can help the seeker by answering her questions and preventing her from falling behind in her spiritual practices.
The effect of practicing Jnana Yoga
As previously said, Jnana Yoga is one of the first and most important steps toward achieving Moksha, or eternal emancipation from the cycle of material life and death, and receiving the companionship of the Supreme God.
Jnana, or knowledge, is the foundation upon which other Yogic practices can be built to help the seeker progress spiritually and achieve this goal. Without a solid foundation in spiritual understanding, one would be relying solely on instincts and whims, believing only what one wants to believe and rejecting all else. This will never take you very far on your spiritual path.
Jnana Yoga will help one in –
- Knowing the spiritual truths about one’s own identity and that of other humans and other creatures,
- Understanding the purpose of one’s life and the method of achieving it,
- Understanding the creation, its purpose, and how it actually works,
- Understanding who God is, how He looks, what He likes, and how to get closer to Him,
- Realizing the futility of running after material objects and chasing sense-gratification,
- Gaining control over one’s own mind and overcoming negative emotions, and
- Experiencing everlasting bliss.
So, a Yogi – spiritual seeker – must begin improving his or her spiritual knowledge right away. The holy Bhagavad Gita could be a good place to start. To acquire deeper understanding, one can study the Bhagavad Purana, Upanishads, and other scriptures.
Do let me know what you think about Jnana Yoga and its importance in your spiritual journey.