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Essence of Jnana Yoga

by Swami Sivananda

What is Ajnana? To identify oneself with the illusory vehicles such as body, mind, Prana, senses, etc., is Ajnana. To say: I am the doer, I am the enjoyer, I am a Brahmin, I am a Brahmachari, this is mine, he is my son, is Ajnana. What is Jnana? Abheda Darshanam Jnanam. To know Brahman as one's own Self is Jnana. To see: I am Brahman, I am pure, all-pervading consciousness, I am non-doer, I am non-enjoyer, I am always the silent witness, is Jnana. To behold the one Self everywhere is Jnana.

The 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 is not due to Him. They are due to the action of Maya or Avidya which is the Lord's own energy that manifests itself as the world-process or Samsara.

Just as there appear to be three kinds of space, viz., absolute space, space as limited by a jar and space as reflected in the water that is in the jar, so also there are three kinds of Chaitanya or intelligence, viz., Absolute Intelligence or Para Brahman, Intelligence or Chaitanya reflected in Maya or Isvara and Intelligence or Chaitanya reflected in Avidya or Jiva. The notion of the doer which is the function of intelligence as reflected in the Buddhi or intellect together with the notion of Jiva or the individual soul is superimposed on the limitless, pure Brahman, the silent witness, by the foolish.

The illustration of space Absolute, space as limited by a jar and space as reflected in the jar is given to convey the idea that in reality Brahman is one but appears or expresses to be threefold owing to Maya.

The reflection of the intelligence is an erroneous belief or notion. It is due to Anadi Avidya or beginningless ignorance. Brahman is without limitations. Limitation is a super-imposition (Adhyasa or Kalpana) on Him.

The unity of the Supreme Self with the reflected self or Jiva is established through the saying or the great sentence of the Upanishads, Thou art That (Tat Tvam Asi). When this Knowledge of the identity of the two selves arises through the great saying, Thou art That, then Avidya or ignorance with all its offshoots and the world problems are destroyed. Thus there is no doubt at all.

Self-realisation or direct intuitive perception of the Supreme Self is necessary for attaining perfection or freedom. Mere study of scriptures even through hundreds of births will not confer the final emancipation.

Maya is also called Prakriti, Prarabdha, Avyaktam. It is said to be neither existence nor non-existence. It is neither Sat nor Asat. It is indescribable (Anirvachaniya). It is Sat-Asat-Vilakshana, Anadi Bhavarupa Anirvachaniya.

For a sage or Jivanmukta, there is neither joy nor sorrow, neither birth nor death. He has crossed the ocean of Samsara or worldly course of life and reached the other shore of fearlessness and immortality. He has become Brahman himself. Brahmavit Brahmaiva Bhavati. The Knower of Brahman becomes Brahman. This is the emphatic declaration of the Srutis or Upanishads. The aim of Jnana Yoga is the destruction of the notion of duality and the establishment of the unity of the individual self with the Supreme Self.

This is a compendium of all the Vedanta. This is a great purifier and destroyer of all sins. This is a great secret. He who attains Self-realisation is worshipped by all gods. He attains the status which even Yogis cannot attain.

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