Jnana Yoga

Jnana Yoga is the yoga of knowledge and discrimination. Relative existence arises from the forces of intelligence and power. By seeking pure and correct knowledge we align ourselves with one of the building blocks of existence. Sri Chinmoy clearly elucidates the challenges facing the seeker of true knowlege: "If we want to see anything in the outer world, in addition to keeping our eyes wide open, we need light - either sunlight or electric light or some other kind of light. But in the inner world we need no light whatsoever. Even with our eyes closed we can see God, the self illumining Light. God is not something to be obtained from outside. God is that very thing which can be unfolded from within. In the ordinary life each human being has millions and millions of questions to ask. In his spiritual life, a day dawns when he feels that there is only one question worth asking: "Who am I?" The answer of answers is: "I am not the body, but I am the Inner Pilot." Throughout history spiritual teachers have directed seekers "within." Sri Chinmoy clarifies this idea: "Our Goal is within us. To reach that Goal we have to take to the spiritual life. In the spiritual life, the thing that is most needed is awareness or consciousness. Without this, everything is a barren desert. When we enter into a dark place, we take a flashlight or some other light in order to know where we are going. If we want to know about our unlit life, we have to take the help of our consciousness. Let us go deeper into the matter. We know that the sun illumines the world. But how are we aware of it? We are aware of it through our consciousness, which is self-revealing. The functioning of the sun is not self-revealing. It is our consciousness of the sun that makes us feel that the sun illumines the world. It is our consciousness that is self-revealing in everything. And this consciousness is an infinite Sea of Delight. When we drink even a drop of water from the earthly sea, it tastes salty. In the same way, during our meditation, if we can drink even a tiny drop from the Sea of Delight, we shall definitely taste Delight. This Delight is Nectar. Nectar is Immortality." Discrimination is the mind's greatest power. As human beings we are capable of discriminating between that which is eternal and everlasting and that which is fleeting and transitory. The seeker of God must learn to discriminate between the soul, which is immortal and eternal, and those things which are in a state of flux. Through discrimination we find and experience the substratum of all existence: God. The path of knowledge also entails recognizing this substratum in all transient forms we encounter. The wise woman sees God within her children and husband. The unwise man worships money and property as his god. Jesus' words resonate the wisdom of true discrimination: "For how would a man be benefitted, if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul." (Matthew 16:26) One of the great modern teachers of Jnana Yoga was Ramana Maharshi. His books are an invaluable resource for the advanced seeker. His principle method of advanced meditation was the inquiry, using deep yogic concentration, into the question: Who am I? We must spend time pondering and finding out what is most important to us and what we want to do for the world and ourselves. This understanding of ourselves will not come from watching television or reading the daily newspaper. To reach deeper aspects of ourselves, we need to directly experience our deeper nature. This is done through periods of self-search as illustrated in the upcoming exercise. We need to set aside time each day, or time every week, for self-reflection and meditation. We must give ourselves time and space in which to explore our deep thoughts and feelings. This does not need to be an elaborate, ceremonial event, but can simply be a quiet walk each evening, a solitary hike in the woods, or ten minutes of quiet time each day away from the distractions and pressures of everyday life. These moments of empowering aloneness will quickly become a wellspring of creativity and insight in our lives. Take a few minutes now to think about your life. Ask yourself, "What is the purpose of my life?" Ask this question over and over with all of your concentration until the very power of your search begins to resonate an answer from the depths of your being. The purpose is there, within each one of us, we only need to seek its voice in our hearts. During these periods of quiet, our minds will drift from thought to thought, a plethora of emotions will drift through our consciousness. In these periods of reflection we need to address the deepest issues in our lives. Once we take care of the most important questions and issues the rest will fall into place or be seen from an entirely new perspective. Sri Chinmoy offers some advice on this topic: "If you have millions of questions about God and about yourself, you will be able to get most adequate answers to all of them by getting the proper answer to this one question: 'Who am I?' All the other questions revolve around this question. When you know the answer to this question, your life's problems are solved. Illumining questions, questions that come from the very depth of our heart concerning our inner progress and inner achievements, our self-realisation or God-realisation, are very few in number. Besides asking, 'Who am I?' you may want to know the answer to the question, 'What am I here for?' You may also have various specific questions about your own spiritual progress, which are bound to come to you spontaneously. But the only really important question is, 'Who am I?' The question, "Who am I?" will be answered little by little through our self-reflection. Each increment of increased awareness will bring us not only mental understanding but also a tremendous feeling of elation as we get closer and closer to the source of our existence. As we begin to inwardly explore and understand ourselves, we will get a strong feeling for the purpose of our life." If you want to take a shot at Jnana Yoga try reading and understanding the following essay. Be patient. It will take some time: days, months or even years to truly grasp the full meaning of this passage. Its well worth the effort! From humanity's earliest spiritual aspirations have come the Upanishads of the ancient Indian seers. Before the time of Krishna, the sages and seers of India revealed the Truths of existence in these sacred verses. There are 13 principal Upanishads ranging in length from a few hundred words to many thousand. The great German philosopher Schopenhauer (1788 -1860) said of the Upanishads, "In the whole world there is no study so beneficial and so elevating as that of the Upanishads...They are the products of the highest wisdom." The American sages Emerson and Thoreau drank deep of this Vedic knowledge. The Upanishads are the verbal expression of the meditations and soaring realizations of the Vedic sages and rishis. These verses are a stairway to realms of intuitive knowledge and delight. To ascend these stairs you need to meditate, soulfully and intently, upon the words offered. Memorize a stanza or verse and repeat it aloud or silently during your meditation. Follow the sound-vibration of the knowledge as it leads you to its source - the source of all existence. This article will guide you through the Mandukya Upanishad which explores the sacred mantra Aum (Om) and relates this sound to the different dimension and aspects of which the human psyche is composed. The actual Upanishad is in italics as translated by the modern Indian spiritual Master Sri Aurobindo (1872 - 1950). This is followed by my commentary and elucidation on the text. Many thanks go to my spiritual Master Sri Chinmoy (b.1931) for his insights into these mystical writings. And now, the Mandukya Upanishad: "1. Om is this imperishable Word, Om is the Universe, and this is the exposition of OM. The past, the present and the future, all that was, all that is, all that will be, is OM. Likewise all else that may exist beyond the bounds of Time, that too is OM. From a timeless stillness existence began. That first stirring, the first moment of creation is Om. Om is the seed sound of creation. "In the beginning was the Word...and the Word was God," says the Gospel of St. John. That Word is Om. 2. All this Universe is the eternal Brahman, this Self is the Eternal, and the Self is fourfold. God is Brahman. The One without a second. All existence is of God. God is Eternal, Manifest and Unmanifest. God is the Unity from which multiplicity springs. This Unity, according to Indian metaphysics, is beyond duality. From this Unity emerge the two components of creation. The first is Purusha - static, unmovable, and unchangeable - which is associated with the masculine aspect of God. The other is Prakriti - creative, manifold existence - which is connected to the feminine aspect of the Divine. The Mandukya Upanishad explores the four aspects of creation which emerge from the union of Purusha and Prakriti. These four aspects are akin to a three-sided pyramid supported by the fourth side, the base, which signifies the Self. 3. He whose place is the wakefulness, who is wise of the outward, who hath seven limbs, to whom there are nineteen doors, who feeleth and enjoyeth gross objects, Vaishwanara, the Universal Male, He is the first. We now begin to explore the first aspect of consciousness - wakefulness, wherein one is aware of the outward, the external world of gross objects. This is the day-to-day world we experience all around us, our environment. The seven limbs refer to the seven dimensions of relative existence which coincide with dimensions of the experiencer. The seven limbs are the heavens (mind); the sun (eyes); air (breath); fire (heart); water (belly); earth (feet); and space (body). The enjoyer of these experiences is the Self. The "nineteen doors" refer to the means by which the Self experiences the external world. The first five are the five organs of perception - sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. Next come the organs of action by which excretion, procreation (sexual organ), speech (tongue), motion and grasping take place. That covers ten. The last nine are more subtle. First come the five aspects or functions of prana. In Indian philosophy there are said to be two energies which are the foundation of the universe: akasha - subtle matter (the atomic and sub-atomic realm), and prana - the force of motion. Electricity, gravity, cohesion, nuclear force, the beating of your heart, the movement of your lungs - all of these are the result of the force of prana. In the human body the force of prana operates in five main functions in order to sustain the creation whereby one can experience the relative world. Greatly generalized, these functions are: breath of life, breath of death, equilibrium between these two, link between body and spirit and equilibrium throughout whole system. To grasp the power of prana, try to hold your breath interminably. You cannot do it. The force of prana compels you to breathe. The last four of the nineteen doors are even more subtle dimensions through which one experiences the world. They are: 1) the spiritual heart which generates a feeling of connectedness with all creation; 2) the ego or sense of separateness; 3) the mind, by which thought arises; and 4) discrimination, or the ability to differentiate between that which is impermanent (nature) and that which is eternal (the Self). Vaishwanara is a Sanskrit word describing the condition of being conscious of the external world. It also implies our common interpretation of this world - for example, we all experience water as liquid, rocks as solid, etc. This first aspect of our being is termed the Universal Male. It is from this essence - seven limbs, nineteen doors and vaishwanara - that the individuality of experience as we know it springs. The Universal Male emerges from (as you will learn in stanzas five and six) the very female "Womb of the Universe." The equal balance and intertwining of male and female - masculine and feminine - dances throughout the Mandukya Upanishad as it ultimately dances in each one of us. 4. He whose place is the dream, who is wise of the inward, who hath seven limbs, to whom there are nineteen doors, who feeleth and enjoyeth subtle objects, Taijasa [Tejasa], the Inhabitant in Luminous Mind, He is the second. Now we turn to the second dimension of the Self - the inward, often referred to as the realm of the luminous mind. This is the realm of the subtle, the luminous - tejasa, the dream. Each one of us has an almost completely subjective experience of the world, of day-to-day life. Although many people may witness the same set of circumstances or events, each will perceive those events and react to them according to his or her unique assortment of thoughts. It is the subtle realm of thought that shapes our experiences and perceptions. According to the Upanishads and the experience of the seers who composed them, the essence of mind and thought is light. Thought takes many forms - happy thoughts, worrisome thoughts, memories, hopes, dreams and much more - and yet the essence of all thought, the substance of this subtle dimension of ourselves is light. A comparable discovery from western science is found in atomic theory. The essence of all material objects is the atom, which is energy. This energy is light. It is the same with thought and mind. Their essence is tejasa - Light. Indian metaphysics says that all of creation is created by the mixing of three essential energies. These are sattva, rajas and tamas - light, motion and cohesion. Everything contains some of each, yet in differing proportions. Mind is composed primarily of sattvic particles, yet for most of us this is covered by rajas and tamas in the form of mental restlessness and lethargy respectively. Through prayer and meditation these obstacles are removed, and one can experience the subtle and luminous realm. As with the material world, this subtle realm is experienced through the nineteen doors of perception and has seven dimensions of existence. 5. When one sleepeth and yearneth not with any desire, nor seeth any dream, that is the perfect slumber. He whose place is the perfect slumber, who is become Oneness who is wisdom gathered into itself, who is made of mere delight, who enjoyeth delight unrelated, to whom conscious mind is the door, Prajna, the Lord of Wisdom, He is the third. 6. This is the Almighty, this is the Omniscient, this is the Inner Soul, this is the Womb of the Universe, this is the Birth and Destruction of creatures. These two verses describe the third dimension of the Self. This is a realm beyond thought and mind. Read the description again slowly. The Upanishad says that this realm is the "Womb of the Universe" - the source of all existence. This realm is Oneness, it is the experience of "delight unrelated" to anything else. This delight exists eternally, and depends on nothing to sustain its existence. In the Taittiriya Upanishad we find a poetic description of this realm: From the transcendental Delight We came into existence. In Delight we grow and play our respective roles. At the end of our journey's close, we enter into the supreme Delight. You will notice at the start of verse five that the experience of this realm comes only when desire and dream have ceased. In tejasa we are dealing with the realm of dream. But here one has gone beyond desire and dream into the "Womb of the Universe." As we read and meditate upon these passages it is important to know that in Indian metaphysics all existence is considered to be the Dream of God. Therefore, in the first state we are conscious of the outward aspects of this dream. In the second state we become conscious of the luminous, subtle realm which upholds the outer world. Here in the third realm, we are in pure Delight, the Womb from which God's Dream emerges and to which it returns. The Upanishad declares that "conscious mind is the door," and that the person who crosses into this realm becomes the "Lord of Wisdom." All becomes known for one is at the starting point of existence. The ancient Greeks followed this same principle in their quest for knowledge. The Delphi Oracle said, "Know thyself and thou shalt know the universe and the gods." The universe is being born and reborn every instant. We are part and parcel of this cosmic play. "Conscious mind is the door," means that in order for one to enter this third realm one's mind must be fully conscious. This refers to the realm of Luminous Mind. When one becomes the Luminous Mind and transcends desire and the dream of existence, then one consciously enters the supreme Delight. Each dimension unfolds into the next. They are interrelated. This leads us to the fourth realm. 7. He who is neither inward-wise, nor outward-wise, nor both inward- and outward-wise, nor wisdom self-gathered, nor possessed of wisdom, nor unpossessed of wisdom, He who is unseen and incommunicable, unseizable, featureless, unthinkable, and unnameable, Whose essentiality is awareness of the Self in its single existence, in Whom all phenomena dissolve, Who is Calm, Who is Good, Who is the One than Whom there is no other, him they deem the fourth: he is the Self, He is the object of Knowledge. This seventh verse describes the fourth dimension - the Self - which is the foundation of the other three. The Self is described as incommunicable, unthinkable and unnameable. This description provides you with a great challenge. The challenge is to pass beyond the thinkable, nameable and communicable into the realm of the Self. It is not achieved by thinking about or debating philosophy. It is not achieved by argumentation or by adhering to certain religious beliefs. The Self is known only when one transcends all that is known. This is done through prayer and meditation, through humility, sincerity and purity. 8. Now this the Self, as to the imperishable Word, is OM: and as to the letters, His parts are the letters and the letters are His parts, namely, A U M. Here the Self is described as the sound Aum and the other three states are the letters. In the final four verses the different dimensions are described and we are told what is achieved by one who has attained mastery over that particular realm. This mastery, or as the Upanishad says, "... he that knoweth Him for such..." is achieved through a profound calming and concentration of thought. Just because one is aware of an outer object, such as a river, one doesn't necessarily "know" its essence. The scientist who talks about molecules or atoms of water does not "know" the essence of the river. The river is only known to the individual who can consciously merge his mind-essence with the essence of the river. That is the type of "knowing" the Upanishads call for. The last four verses are offered with no commentary; they are solely for your own contemplation. Read and reread the Mandukya Upanishad slowly and in a meditative consciousness. It is the gift of ancient sages reaching down the centuries to us modern seekers. AUM...PEACE...AUM. 9. The Waker, Vaishwanara, the Universal Male, He is A, the first letter, because of Initiality and Pervasiveness: he that knoweth Him for such pervadeth and attaineth all his desires: he becometh the source and first. 10. The Dreamer, Taijasa, the Inhabitant in Luminous Mind, He is U, the second letter, because of Advance and Centrality: he that knoweth Him for such, advanceth the bounds of his knowledge and riseth above difference: nor of his seed is any born that knoweth not the Eternal. 11. The Sleeper, Prajna, the Lord of Wisdom, He is M, the third letter, because of Measure and Finality: he that knoweth Him for such measureth with himself the Universe and becometh the departure into the Eternal. 12. Letterless is the fourth, the Incommunicable, the end of phenomena, the Good, the One than Whom there is no other: thus is OM. He that knoweth is the Self and entereth by his self into the Self, he that knoweth, he that knoweth.