4 Pillars of Wisdom, 3 Practices
Jnana (Wisdom) yoga is one of the four classical schools, alongside Bhakti (devotion), Karma (action) and Raja (meditation), each offering a path to moksha (spiritual liberation) and self-realisation. Sanskrit for “knowledge” or “wisdom,” Jnana is the intellectual path of scriptures and self-study, considered to be one of the most direct and yet challenging means of spiritual development. Many argue that this is the first step to spirituality as it gives a basic understanding before enquiring & experimenting.
Jnana yoga is essentially a deep inquiry to the nature of the Self. The intention when practicing Jnana yoga is to use the mind to understand and uncover the truth behind the mind. Simply accepting dogmatic teaching is not enough according to Jnana yoga, and as such, practitioners must seek an experiential knowledge of the Divine, universal consciousness or absolute Truth. In this sense, Jnana yoga moves beyond intellect and requires the mind to be both rational and open. I wish all our schools adopted this approach to experiment and then learn.
There are four prescribed steps for wisdom (the Four Pillars of Knowledge). These practices build upon one another in order to cultivate the spiritual insight required for this path:
- Viveka (discernment, discrimination) — a deliberate, intellectual effort to distinguish between the real and the unreal.
- Vairagya (dispassion, detachment) — cultivating non-attachment toward worldly possessions and the ego-mind.
- Shatsampat (six virtues) — six mental practices to stabilise the mind and emotions.
- Mumukshutva (longing, yearning) — an intense and passionate desire for achieving liberation from suffering.
After successfully practicing these four pillars, a practitioner is considered ready to begin the three core practices of Jnana Yoga…
- Sravana — hearing or experiencing Vedantic philosophy through a guru or spiritual teacher, thereby achieving a deep understanding of the concepts.
- Manana — thinking and reflecting on the teachings in an attempt to understand their subtleties.
- Nididhyasana — constant and profound meditation and the inner self in order to experience absolute Truth.