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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Jnana Yoga - Intellectually Becoming God-Conscious

By Michael Russell

Jnana Yoga is the yoga of intellectual inquiry, using the mind to come to the profound realization that our God-Self, the consciousness that we are in reality a manifestation of God, is beyond and behind our mind. However, we should not fall into the mistake of thinking that we can discover God through the use of the mind alone. To achieve Cosmic Consciousness, what can be called Self-realization, we must continually ask "Who am I", in other words, am I just this material body and material mind, or am I in fact an integral part of something greater. That something greater is considered by yogis to be God, the presence of which everything and everyone is made up, whether or not the individual realizes it or not. The purpose of Jnana Yoga is to come to just that realization, in a way in which the small mind cannot impose limitations.

One of the great features of yoga is that there is a yoga for every type of personality or character. For those who are contemplative, there is Raja Yoga, the yoga of meditation. For those who are very action oriented, there is Karma Yoga, the yoga of selfless service. For those who are very emotional and who are inspired by feelings of love for the Divine, there is Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of love. For those who like ceremonies and are inspired by them, there is Tantra Yoga, the yoga of forms. Finally, for those who are very physical, there is Hatha Yoga, the yoga of movement and the one which is best known outside of India.

However, there are still others who are driven by the need to understand and for them there is Jnana Yoga, the yoga of the intellect. This understanding takes the form of reading, understanding and accepting the message in the Hindu scriptures, which date back from before the Bible was written and which some sages believe gave inspiration to the writers of the Old Testament. These scriptures espouse the philosophy of Vedanta, the philosophy of the Vedic scriptures, the scriptures, which Hindus accept.

It must, however, be firmly understood that Jnana Yoga is not just an intellectual exercise. We may learn about the omnipresence of God through the Vedic scriptures, but to actually experience the feeling of God, the aspirant has to perform some exercise that will transcend his limited intellect. This is done through meditating on the question "Who am I". The point of this exercise is eventually to come to the realization that "I" transcends the limitations of the body and is really a part and an expression of the universal "I", or God.

Thus, it can be seen that Jnana Yoga helps the aspirant by first appealing to his intellect, valuable for those who are very intellectually oriented, but then it helps the aspirant transcend his limited intellect by becoming aware of the Cosmic Intellect that forms and permeates everything. He focuses on the question of "Who am I" and by so doing, achieves the realization that the small I is really a part of the universal I. His intellectual exercises can be considered as the sugar, which coats the substance of his eventual God-Realization.