This blog has been prompted by my view that most modern practitioners of Yoga limit their practices to asanas and pranayama. The underlying spiritual roots of Yoga are generally ignored. The focus is on personal development, usually with a view to maintain or to improve one's physical health, or sometimes with a view to develop yogic powers, or siddhis, by awakening the kundalini shakti.
Most yoga practitioners and teachers limit their practices to the pursuit of Hatha Yoga, or Raja Yoga or Kundalini Yoga>, or some other style of Yoga, but the Yoga of Knowledge, or Jnana Yoga is rarely pursued or taught, and perhaps for good reason, as Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh (who was responsible primarily for spreading the message of Yoga through the world in the last century) said, and I quote :"Jnana Yoga, or the science of the Self, is not a subject that can be understood and realized through mere intellectual study, reasoning, discussion or arguments. It is the most difficult of all sciences.”
This blog is intended to introduce you to Jnana Yoga, or the "yoga of knowledge", based on the Advaita Vedanta tradition.
Jnana Yoga is presented in theUpanishads the end-portions of the Vedas, the Vedanta.
The word "Veda" means "knowledge", and the word "anta", means "the end". A more subtle way of understanding the word "Vedanta" could be this: that which remains when all knowledge ends.
But that is an understanding that can come only after long reflection on the nature of ourselves.The Sanskrit term Upaniṣad;comes from combining the word upa (meaning "near or by") and the word ni-ṣad, (meaning "to sit down"), and translates to "sitting down near", referring to the student sitting down near the teacher while acquiring this knowledge.
The knowledge enshrined in the Upanishads was handed down to the student only after long years of study of the other parts of the Vedas. In modern parlance, perhaps it would refer to students at the Phd level, who cannot usually get to that level without completing graduate-level studies.
The Vedas are an oral tradition - which is to say that this knowledge (of the Veda) is not something written down, but learnt through listening, to recitations and chanting. The Vedantic tradition of learning therefore rests on the three core practices of sravana (or “listening"),” manana" (or “reflection”) and nididhyasana ("or “practice”). Readers of this blog will learn of the Mahavakyas of the Upanishads, and of their importance in the pursuit of the discovery of the true nature of themselves.The teachings of modern masters of Jnana Yoga will also be discussed.
I conclude with a shanti mantra (or peace invocation) from Taitirriya Upanishad:
ॐ सह नाववतु | सह नौ भुनक्तु |सह वीर्यं करवावहै | तेजस्विनावधीतमस्तु मा विद्विषावहै॥ ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः॥
The meaning of which, roughly, is as follows:
Om! May we all be protected!
May we all be nourished!
May we work together with great energy!
May our intellect be sharpened (may our study be effective)!
Let there be no animosity amongst us!
Om, Let there be peace (in me), peace (in nature), peace (in divine forces), peace everywhere!