what is jnana yogaBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP

How much time should Hatha Yoga teacher training programs elaborate toward Jnana?  What exactly is Jnana Yoga? You may have heard Jnana is “Union through knowledge,” but many Yoga students are still deeply puzzled by this explanation. The deeper explanation of Jnana Yoga is long and complex. Jnana is a spiritual discipline, which enables you to open the intuitive powers of your mind and soul.

The study of Jnana Yoga is filled with self-inquiry and self-discovery.  The result of this quest is realization of the Supreme Being, which we call God, Brahman, Allah, Yahweh, Jehovah, The Absolute, The Great Spirit and many more names.  The variety of names for the Supreme Being is unimportant.

Each of us sees, feels, hears, smells, and tastes, everything differently. One person loves the taste of something, while another does not. If you love something and someone does not, should you judge them harshly or consider them an enemy?  This often happens in sports, politics, religion, and while driving through traffic.

People have to get past their differences in order find their true and higher purpose in life. Critically judging each other, and ourselves, consumes a lot of energy in the form of anger, worry, stress, envy, and hate.  Unfortunately, some people will never get past their differences, unless they truly want to change. World peace would be the end result of global Jnana Yoga training. Realization of God makes us aware of our place in the universe.

Jnana is a self-quest, a journey within, self-realization, and transformation, all wrapped into one package.  Study, pranayama, meditation, and japa are just a handful of the components within this form of Yoga.  During the course of Jnana study, the practitioner learns to see his or her true self, which we sometimes call the “witness.” The witness is not a judge, not your personality, and not your thoughts. The witness is the neutral observer of all the wrong and right you have done in life.

Yet, the witness can handle all of these things and forgive you for your shortcomings. The witness does not have a lot of “hang-ups.” The witness has quietly been observing the “monkey mind” within each of us. The witness does not laugh at us, because the witness is far removed from the ego.

So, how do we get in touch with the witness? How can we give this neutral observer a little more authority in crucial situations? Most of us need a non-judging witness to help us with intolerance, anger, worry, stress, envy, and hate, every day. This witness would make a great ally.

Firstly, we need to actually look in the mirror. What do we see? Do we posture ourselves? How much time do we spend, per day, supporting our egos?  How many judgment calls are affected by our previous social conditioning?

The answers to most of our problems are within us. The true self is like an onion, with rough outer layers of personality, which the world sees. These outer layers make up our social mask and we have to be careful. There is no Yoga teacher certification for union by knowledge, but self-realization is a quest that can become a personal accomplishment for those who are willing to spend a lifetime of study, practice, and devotion.


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