Jnana Yoga (Yoga of Self Knowledge) by Swami Sivananda
- JNANA YOGA
By Sri Swami Sivananda
FIVE SECTIONS OF THE ARTICLE:
2) Brahman and Maya
3) Sadhana Chatushtaya
4) The Seven Stages of Jnana
5) Practical Hints
Jnana is knowledge. To know Brahman as one's own Self is Jnana. To
say, "I am Brahman, the pure, all-pervading Consciousness, the non-
enjoyer, non-doer and silent witness," is Jnana. To behold the one
Self everywhere is Jnana.
Ajnana is ignorance. To identify oneself with the illusory vehicles
of body, mind, Prana and the senses is Ajnana. To say, " I am the
doer, the enjoyer, I am a Brahmin, a Brahmachari, this is mine, he is
my son," is Ajnana. Jnana alone can destroy Ajnana, even as light
alone can remove darkness.
Brahman, the Supreme Self, is neither the doer of actions nor the
enjoyer of the fruits of actions. The creation, preservation and
destruction of the world are not due to Him. They are due to the
action of Maya, the Lord's energy manifesting itself as the world-
Just as space appears to be of three kinds - absolute space, space
limited by a jar, and space reflected in the water of a jar, - so
also there are three kinds of intelligence. They are absolute
intelligence, intelligence reflected in Maya, and intelligence
reflected in the Jiva (the individual soul). The notion of the doer
is the function of intelligence as reflected in the intellect. This,
together with the notion of Jiva, is superimposed by the ignorant on
the pure and limitless Brahman, the silent witness.
The illustration of space absolute, space limited by a jar and space
reflected in water of a jar, is given to convey the idea that in
reality Brahman alone is. Because of Maya, however, It appears as
The notion that the reflection of intelligence is real, is erroneous,
and is due to ignorance. Brahman is without limitation; limitation is
a superimposition on Brahman.
The identity of the Supreme Self and the Jiva or reflected self is
established through the statement of the Upanishad 'Tat Tvam Asi' -
'That Thou Art'. When the knowledge of the identity of the two
arises, then world problems and ignorance, with all their offshoots,
are destroyed and all doubts disappear.
Self-realization or direct intuitive perception of the Supreme Self
is necessary for attaining freedom and perfection. This Jnana Yoga or
the path of Wisdom is, however, not meant for the masses whose hearts
are not pure enough and whose intellects are not sharp enough to
understand and practice this razor-edge path. Hence, Karma Yoga and
Upasana (Bhakti) are to be practiced first, which will render the
heart pure and make it fit for the reception of Knowledge.
2) BRAHMAN AND MAYA
Brahman is Sat, the Absolute, Reality. That which exists in the past,
present and future; which has no beginning, middle and end; which is
unchanging and not conditioned by time, space and causation; which
exists during the waking, dream and deep sleep states; which is of
the nature of one homogeneous essence, is Sat. This is found in
Brahman, the Absolute. The scriptures emphatically declare: "Only Sat
was prior to the evolution of this universe."
This phenomenal universe is unreal. Isvara created this universe out
of His own body (Maya), just as a spider creates a web from its own
saliva. It is merely an appearance, like a snake in a rope or like
silver in mother-of-pearl. It has no independent existence.
It is difficult to conceive how the Infinite comes out of Itself and
becomes the finite. The magician can bring forth a rabbit out of a
hat. We see it happening but we cannot explain it; so we call it Maya
Maya is a strange phenomenon which cannot be accounted for by any law
of Nature. It is incapable of being described. Its relation to
Brahman is like that of heat to fire. The heat of fire is neither one
with it nor different from it.
Does Maya really exist or not ? The Advaitin gives this reply: "This
inscrutable Maya cannot be said either to exist or not to exist".
If we know the nature of Brahman, then all names, forms and
limitations fall away. The world is Maya because it is not the
essential truth of the infinite Reality - Brahman. Somehow the world
exists and its relation to Brahman is indescribable. The illusion
vanishes through the attainment of knowledge of Brahman. Sages,
Rishis and scriptures declare that Maya vanishes entirely as soon as
knowledge of the Supreme Self dawns.
Brahman alone really exists. The Jiva, the world and this little "I"
are false. Rise above names and forms and kill the false egoism. Go
beyond Maya and annihilate ignorance. Constantly meditate on the
Supreme Brahman, your divine nature.
The world is unreal when compared to Brahman. It is a solid reality
to a worldly and passionate man only. To a realized sage it exists
like a burnt cloth. To a Videhamukta (disembodied sage) it does not
exist at all. To a man of discrimination it loses its charm and
Do not leave the world to enter a forest because you now read that
the world is unreal. You will be utterly ruined if you do this
without proper qualifications. Be first established in the conviction
that the world is unreal and Brahman alone is real. This will help
you to develop dispassion and a strong yearning for liberation. Stay
in the world but be not worldly; strive for liberation by the
practice of Sadhana Chatushtaya.
3) SADHANA CHATUSHTAYA
Jnana Yoga of Brahma Vidya or the science of the Self is not a
subject that can be understood and realized through mere intellectual
study, reasoning, ratiocination, discussion or arguments. It is the
most difficult of all sciences.
A student who treads the path of Truth must, therefore, first equip
himself with Sadhana Chatushtaya - the "four means of salvation".
They are discrimination, dispassion, the sixfold qualities of
perfection, and intense longing for liberation - Viveka, Vairagya,
Shad-Sampat and Mumukshutva. Then alone will he be able to march
forward fearlessly on the path. Not an iota of spiritual progress is
possible unless one is endowed with these four qualifications.
These four means are as old as the Vedas and this world itself. Every
religion prescribes them; the names differ from path to path but this
is immaterial. Only ignorant people have the undesirable habit of
practicing lingual warfare and raising unnecessary questions. Pay no
attention to them. It is your duty to try to eat the fruit instead of
wasting time in counting the leaves of the tree. Try now to
understand these four essential requisites for salvation.
Viveka is discrimination between the real and the unreal, between the
permanent and the impermanent, between the Self and the non-Self.
Viveka dawns in a man through the Grace of God. The Grace can come
only after one has done unceasing selfless service in countless
births with the feeling that he is an instrument of the Lord and that
the work is an offering to the Lord. The door to the higher mind is
flung open when there is an awakening of discrimination.
There is an eternal, changeless principle amidst the ever-changing
phenomena of this vast universe and the fleeting movements and
oscillations of the mind.
The aspirant should separate himself also from the six waves of the
ocean of Samsara - birth and death, hunger and thirst, and
exhilaration and grief. Birth and death belong to the physical body;
hunger and thirst belong to Prana; exhilaration and grief are the
attributes of the mind. The Soul is unattached. The six waves cannot
touch Brahman which is as subtle as the all-pervading ether.
Association with saints and study of Vedantic literature will infuse
discrimination in man. Viveka should be developed to the maximum
degree. One should be well established in it.
Vairagya is dispassion for the pleasures of this world and of heaven.
The Vairagya that is born of Viveka is enduring and lasting. It will
not fail the aspirant. But the Vairagya that comes temporarily to a
woman when she gives birth to a child or when one attends a funeral
at a crematorium, is of no use. The view that everything in the world
is unreal causes indifference to the enjoyments of this world and the
heaven-world also. One has to return from heaven to this plane of
existence when the fruits of good works are all exhausted. Hence they
are not worth striving for.
Vairagya does not mean abandoning one's social duties and
responsibilities of life. It does not mean abandoning the world, for
life in a solitary cave of the Himalayas. Vairagya is mental
detachment from all worldly objects. One may remain in the world and
discharge all duties with detachment. He may be a householder with a
large family, yet at the same time he may have perfect mental
detachment from everything. He can do spiritual Sadhana amidst his
worldly activities. He who has perfect mental detachment in the world
is a hero indeed. He is better than a Sadhu living in a Himalayan
cave, for the former has to face innumerable temptations every moment
of his life.
The third requisite is Shad-Sampat, the sixfold virtue. It consists
of Sama, Dama, Uparati, Titiksha, Sraddha and Samadhana. All these
six qualities are taken as one because they are calculated to bring
about mental control and discipline, without which concentration and
meditation are impossible.
Sama is serenity or tranquillity of mind which is brought about
through the eradication of desires.
Dama is rational control of the senses.
Uparati is satiety; it is resolutely turning the mind away from
desire for sensual enjoyment. This state of mind comes naturally when
one has practiced Viveka, Vairagya, Sama and Dama.
Titiksha is the power of endurance. An aspirant should patiently bear
the pairs of opposites such as heat and cold, pleasure and pain, etc.
Sraddha is intense faith in the word of the Guru, in Vedantic
scriptures and, above all, in one's own self. It is not blind faith
but is based on accurate reasoning, evidence and experience. As such,
it is lasting, perfect and unshakable. Such a faith is capable of
Samadhana is fixing the mind on Brahman or the Self, without allowing
it to run towards objects. The mind is free from anxiety amid pains
and troubles. There is stability, mental poise and indifference amid
pleasures. The aspirant has neither like nor dislikes. He has great
inner strength and enjoys unruffled peace of mind, due to the
practices of Sama, Dama, Uparati, Titiksha and Sraddha.
Mumukshutva is intense desire for liberation or deliverance from the
wheel of births and deaths with its concomitant evils of old age,
disease, delusion and sorrow. If one is equipped with the previous
three qualifications (Viveka, Vairagya and Shad-Sampat), then the
intense desire for liberation will come without any difficulty. The
mind moves towards the Source of its own accord when it has lost its
charm for external objects. When purification of mind and mental
discipline are achieved, the longing for liberation dawns by itself.
The aspirant who is endowed with all these four qualification should
then approach the Guru who will instruct him on the knowledge of his
real nature. The Guru is one who has a thorough knowledge of the
scriptures and is also established in that knowledge in direct
experience. He should then reflect and meditate on the inner Self and
strive earnestly to attain the goal of Self-realization.
A Sadhaka should reflect and meditate. Sravana is hearing of Srutis,
Manana is thinking and reflecting, Nididhyasana is constant and
profound meditation. Then comes Atma-Sakshatkara or direct
4) THE SEVEN STAGES OF JNANA
There are seven stages of Jnana or the seven Jnana Bhumikas. First,
Jnana should be developed through a deep study of Atma Jnana Sastras
and association with the wise and the performance of virtuous actions
without any expectation of fruits. This is Subheccha or good desire,
which forms the first Bhumika or stage of Jnana. This will irrigate
the mind with the waters of discrimination and protect it. There will
be non-attraction or indifference to sensual objects in this stage.
The first stage is the substratum of the other stages. From it the
next two stages, viz., Vicharana and Tanumanasi will be reached.
Constant Atma Vichara (Atmic enquiry) forms the second stage. The
third stage is Tanumanasi. This is attained through the cultivation
of special indifference to objects. The mind becomes thin like a
thread. Hence the name Tanumanasi. Tanu means thread - threadlike
state of mind.
The third stage is also known by the name Asanga Bhavana. In the
third stage, the aspirant is free from all attractions. If any one
dies in the third stage, he will remain in heaven for a long time and
will reincarnate on earth again as a Jnani. The above three stages
can be included under the Jagrat state.
The fourth stage is Sattvapatti. This stage will destroy all Vasanas
to the root. This can be included under the Svapana state. The world
appears like a dream. Those who have reached the fourth stage will
look upon all things of the universe with an equal eye.
The fifth stage is Asamsakti. There is perfect non-attachment to the
objects of the world. There is no Upadhi or waking or sleeping in
this stage. This is the Jivanmukti stage in which there is the
experience of Ananda Svaroopa (the Eternal Bliss of Brahman) replete
with spotless Jnana. This will come under Sushupti.
The sixth stage is Padartha Bhavana. There is knowledge of Truth.
The seventh stage is Turiya, or the state of superconsciousness. This
is Moksha. This is also known by the name Turiyatita. There are no
Sankalpas. All the Gunas disappear. This is above the reach of mind
and speech. Disembodied salvation (Videhamukti) is attained in the
Remaining in the certitude of Atma, without desires, and with an
equal vision over all, having completely eradicated all complications
of differentiations of 'I' or 'he', existence or non-existence, is
5) PRACTICAL HINTS
Purify the Chitta by doing Nishkama Karma for twelve years. The
effect of Chitta Suddhi is the attainment of Viveka and Vairagya.
Acquire the four qualifications (Sadhana Chatushtaya), - Viveka,
Vairagya, Shad Sampat and Mumukshuttva. Then approach a Guru. Have
Sravana, Manana and Nididhyasana. Study carefully and constantly the
twelve classical Upanishads and Yoga Vasishtha. Have a comprehensive
and thorough understanding of the Lakshyartha or indicative (real)
meaning of the Maha-Vakya 'Tat Tvam Asi'. Then, constantly reflect
over this real meaning throughout the twenty-four hours. This is
Brahma-Chintana or Brahma-Vichara. Do not allow any worldly thoughts
to enter the mind. Vedantic realization comes not through mere
reasoning but through constant Nididhyasana, like the analogy of
Brahmarakita Nyaya (caterpillar and wasp). You get Tadakara, Tadrupa,
Tanmaya, Tadiyata, Talleenata (Oneness, identity).
Generate the Brahmakara Vritti from your Sattvic Antahkarana through
the influence of reflection on the real meaning of the Maha-
Vakyas, 'Aham Brahma Asmi' or 'Tat Tvam Asi'. When you try to feel
that you are infinity, this Brahmakara Vritti is produced. This
Vritti destroys Avidya, induces Brahma Jnana and dies by itself
eventually, like Nirmal seed which removes sediment in the water and
itself settles down along with the mud and other dirty matter.
Retire into your meditation chamber. Sit on Padma, Siddha, Svastika
or Sukha Asana to begin with. Relax the muscles. Close the eyes.
Concentrate on or gaze at the Trikute, the space between the two
eyebrows. Repeat 'Om' mentally with Brahma-Bhavana. This Bhavana is a
sine qua non, very very important. Silence the conscious mind. Repeat
mentally, feel constantly:
All-pervading ocean of Light I am OM OM OM
Infinity I am OM OM OM
All-pervading infinite Light I am OM OM OM
Vyapaka Paripoorna Jyotirmaya Brahman I am OM OM OM
Omnipotent I am OM OM OM
Omniscient I am OM OM OM
All Bliss I am OM OM OM
Satchidananda I am OM OM OM
All purity I am OM OM OM
All glory I am OM OM OM
All Upadhis (limiting adjuncts such as body, mind, etc.,) will be
sublated. All Granthis (knots of heart, viz., Avidya, Kama and Karma -
ignorance, desire and action) will be cut asunder. The thin veil,
Avarana, will be pierced. The Pancha Kosha Adhyasa (superimposition)
will be removed. You will rest doubtless in Satchidananda state. You
will get highest Knowledge, highest Bliss, highest Realization and
highest end of life. 'Brahma Vit Brahmaiva Bhavati'. You will become
Suddha Satchidananda Vyapaka Paripoorna Brahman. Nasti Atra
Samsayah', there is no doubt of that.
There is no difficulty at all in Atma-Darshan, in Self-Realization.
You can have this within the twinkling of an eye as Raja Janaka had,
before you can squeeze a flower with fingers, within the time taken
for a grain to fall when rolled over a pot. You must do earnest,
constant and intense practice. You are bound to succeed in two or
Now-a-days there are plenty of 'Talking Brahman'. No flowery talk or
verbosity can make a man Brahman. It is constant, intense, earnest
Sadhana and Sadhana alone can give a man direct Aparoksha Brahmic
realization (Svanubhava or Sakshatkara) wherein he sees Brahman just
as he sees the solid white wall in front of him and feels Brahman,
just as he feels the table behind him. Practice, practice, practice
and become established in Brahman.