Through the inspiring example of Lester’s teaching we have the privilege of being introduced to the highest of Yogas. Jnana Yoga, which without the complication of a progressive path, bring us to the simplicity of the Direct Path. When I first heard from Lester’s lips that Ramana Maharshi’s teaching was the highest of teachings, these words inspired the unlocalized heart of my Being. Naturally dissolving what One imagines to be, while revealing more and more what Is.
About Jnana Yoga
Jnana yoga, is a path in itself and it’s also complementary to other yogas. The techniques of meditation or raja yoga are very important for a jnana yogi as they allow to get a glimpse of the Self or the supreme reality behind appearances.
Jnana means knowledge or wisdom.
But it’s neither about intellectual knowledge, nor a logical process of deduction but the intuitive, luminous knowledge which emerges from the depth of your Being. Therefore, in jnana yoga, the approach to the Truth of what you are, leans on intuitive flashes and recommends an intense meditative openness and reflexion on Reality, the Self, the true nature of what we call a human being. As such, jnana yoga concerns the whole humanity. Socrates has been the jnana yogi par excellence, tried incessantly to stir in his audience the longing for a real reflexion. Nowadays, Ramana Maharshi is the perfect symbol of the jnana yoga path. His simple question “Who am I ?” has become well-known, without yet being understood.
In the life of a human being, there is always a moment when one wonders about the reality of things. These questions, which are usually called existential, seem to be more and more crucial, due to the decline or disrespect of religions. The present technological world is so busy cultivating the consuming attraction that it’s not attempting yet, the function to meet our fundamental needs of thinking beings.
Nevertheless, naturally after a painful event or after years of passivity, we start to sense the question’s vibrancy and the purpose of existence, the worth of what we have achieved or what we have settled for in our lives. The questions of death and what comes after death arise in the mind. Behind these crises, awakens a deep search for meaning. And these existential questions exists and will always exist. And because of what we truly are, One is able to go beyond the self imposed imagined limitations, we hold in mind. When we are confronted to such questions, each One has the choice, to either ignore or look directly into the true purpose of life. If we ignore this choice which follows is a rejecting reaction or fear of the unknown, then we will have to find new motivations to live. But if instead we feel a deep and intense need to go further in this quiet quest for meaning, we will have to wonder what is permanent in this ever changing world. If this interest remains and becomes strong enough, it leads you to the path of jnana yoga, insofar as one can not any longer seek comfort in the usual remedies and palliatives, the world offers. This implies to look within for the Reality behind appearances, the Being beyond the body, mind and senses.
Jnana and the intellect
The main classical text on jnana yoga is the “Brahma Sutras”. Jnana yoga is often mixed up with the study of scriptures and then, it can become a means to increase one’s intellectual knowledge. Yet, jnana yoga is not a process of acquiring or building up knowledge. It should not be confused with the craving for reading, even if reading traditional texts or stories of saints and sages may give a glimpse of Reality. Lao Tzu said : “The learned people gain everyday, the wise loose everyday”. We can progress in a real process of knowledge by intellectualizing existential questions or trying to get answers in books or from someone else. In the other hand, jnana yoga does not consist in stretching one’s brain, trying to solve questions with intellectual, logical or literary concepts. The fundamental question that a jnana yogi asks himself is unique and the search for a reply takes place outside the thinking-mind. This field of questioning is therefore very intimate, it concerns oneself in relation with oneself. The only subject is how to discover the eternal and unchanging reality, beyond the world of diversity and change. Matters related to lifestyle, behaviors, mental conditioning, beliefs and desires are the concern of other yogic paths and meditation techniques.
A jnana yogi rejects dogmas, preconceived ideas and second-hand answers. One does not believe in anything but only his or hers personal experience is the guidance. One in his search. The jewels of intellect, logic and reasoning are not relevant means on the path of jnana yoga. Their reach is limited and they are based on objective facts. Therefore, they lead us away from the fundamental quest on Reality. Only intuition, our inherent psychic capacity, can reveal the transcendental truth. Sri Aurobindo has expressed this idea when he was talking about his intellectual life. He passed through an essential period when he clearly saw that his intellect was not able to tell him what is correct and what is incorrect. He noticed that his intellect could justify what is true and exactly the opposite. He has never admitted a truth in his mind without simultaneously being opened to the contrary. And as a result, the prestige of his intellect faded away.
Who am I ?
This question is the core of Ramana Maharshi’s teachings. However, for him were not mere words but an actual experience, it was not intellectual gymnastics producing philosophical and speculative ideas. It was not a matter of asking himself the question once a day and let go after some time and then switch over to something else. His whole sense of Being was permanently permeated with this quest, consciously or unconsciously. The intensity was such that his whole being was entering into a particular vibration. Day and night, he was at the edge of the abyss, the void of emptiness and he received enlightenment at the very moment when he got out of his depth.
This search “who am I ?” must become vital to be really a jnana yogi. The urgency and the insatiable need to find the true answer are key. This question remains always within us in a dormant state and sometimes, it begins to vibrate. But it is only when we begin to free ourselves from the sense of separation and its chain of definitions that we can really open to its message.