Jnana Yoga

The Yoga of Wisdom

Jnana Yoga—Experiencing Direct Knowledge

Jnana Yoga, the “yoga of direct knowledge,” is the yoga of wisdom, of inquiry into the Real Self—the path of the sage. This form of yoga dates back as far as the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. It is often mistakenly considered the yoga of intense study of scriptures and sacred texts. Even though theoretical study is not rejected, it does not define the spirit of Jnana Yoga. Here, the aspirant develops the discernment to distinguish between real and unreal in an attempt to discern the Self from the non-Self (the relative, the ephemeral). It is generally identified with Vedanta and Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism).

According to the Vedantasara (“The Essence of Vedanta”) by Sadananda, Jnana Yoga consists of:

  • Viveka, discrimination between permanent and ephemeral, real and unreal
  • Tyaga, renunciation
  • The six realizations:
    1. Calmness
    2. Control over the senses
    3. Refraining from activities that are not helpful for attaining liberation
    4. The ability to endure
    5. Mastery of the mind and faith
    6. Aspiration towards freedom

Brahman Alone Is Real

In the sacred Hindu text Bhagavad Gita, Krishna speaks about Jnana Yoga as being Buddhi Yoga (the yoga of the superior mind), because the superior intellect makes the manifestation of spiritual discernment possible. However, the Jnana Yoga perspective has been re-evaluated over time.

Shankaracharya (788-820 A.D.), a great Hindu mystic and scholar, is a brilliant representative of Jnana Yoga. He can also be considered the father of Advaita Vedanta, the vision of non-duality. His expositions of Advaita Vedanta were chiefly responsible for the renaissance of that ancient Hindu tradition and the decline of Buddhism in India. A lasting statement attributed to Shankaracharya is: “Brahman alone is real, the world is appearance, the Self is nothing but Brahman.”

Who Am I?

Ramana Maharshi is one of the greatest jnana yogis of more recent times. His path is centered on Self-Enquiry (the introspection method, asking the fundamental question: “Who am I?”). This method leads to the revelation (i.e., taking off all the veils that obstruct the essence of being) of atman (the Supreme Self). He inspiringly said, “Realization is to get rid of the delusion that you have not realized.”

Hridaya Yoga, the Yoga of the Spiritual Heart, is primarily a school of Jnana Yoga, but it incorporates aspects from other yogic branches in an integrative approach. Hridaya Meditation incorporates Ramana’s Self-Enquiry method as well as his revelations about the Heart Center.