Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Jnana Yoga – Dropping Illusions and Seeing the Real Self

In doing research for this post I chanced on a beautiful definition of Jnana Yoga on this site:
"Jnana yoga is the yoga of knowledge — not knowledge in the intellectual sense — but the knowledge of Brahman and Atman and the realization of their unity. Where the devotee of God (Bhakti Yogi) follows the promptings of the heart, the jnani uses the powers of the mind to discriminate between the real and the unreal, the permanent and the transitory."
Jnana or Gyana means knowledge. Using the mental apparatus to reason through several levels of ignorance, to seek the true self during moments when the mind lapses into automated and false behavior. Knowing when the senses have allowed the false identity to stray away from a balanced state of self-awareness. It is very easy to get lost in the incessant chatter of thoughts that make you forget your reality and involve you in conversations with itself and in repetitive behavior. In fact, we all wander in this state until we make a focused attempt to reveal the inner self.

The first part of the approach is negative, the process of neti neti - not this, not that. Whatever is unreal — that is, impermanent, imperfect, subject to change — is rejected. The second part is positive: whatever is understood to be perfect, eternal, unchanging — is accepted as real in the highest sense. 

Fence around reality.
Remove false boundaries and witness the serenity within
Ramana Maharishi used the method of constantly asking himself "Who am I?". Taking a snapshot of the moment and using the question as a means of illuminating the real from the illusory. Nisargadatta Maharaj asserted "I AM," followed by questioning who it was within that said "I AM." Was it the body? No. When a bodypart hurts, I say, "My hand hurts." It is not the real me. The mind is a device that creates thoughts. am I the mind? No. There is an 'I' deeper within that can witness the mind. Not-this, not-that. Over time, one arrives at the true self.

J. Krishnamurti tells an anecdote of the time he was traveling in a car in rural India with a few people who had come to visit him. There was a heated discussion about the nature of awareness, the nature of reality, the conscious mind and perception. Suddenly, the car passed through a herd of goats and the car hit and killed a goat. The occupants of the car were so busy in their discussion about awareness that they were blissfully unaware of this event. The car moved ahead and the people in it kept talking about "being in the moment" and awareness.

This is ironic to the point of being comical, but representative of the vast majority of people. In attempting to understand something intellectually, we miss the chance to live it. If you'd rather spend time talking about awareness when you aren't even aware of the events happening around you, you've missed the point.

Roller Coaster of life
Rushing Through Life Unaware of Reality
We must take care not to allow a method to become routine. The important thing is to be able to work on that method with complete awareness. Most of the time, people choose a method and keep following it, assuming that it will work regardless of their level of attention. People recite the same prayers for years and it becomes part of their routine, losing the impact it had years ago when they first started performing the ritual. Most people are reluctant to change their techniques simply because they believe they have invested spiritual capital and it will yield results because of this perseverance. This is wrong on many levels. It lulls the practitioner into believing he is actually moving closer to spiritual progress while deepening his slumber with the mistaken belief that he is on the way to an awakening. Don't be married to the method, be invested in the outcome, the change brought about in your level of consciousness.

Osho called seriousness "a disease of the ego." His discourses contain vast wisdom, conveyed through wonderful jokes and anecdotes. He made spirituality fun and accessible. The path towards spirituality should make you feel like a burden has been lifted, like you are free. Not like you are bound by rigidity and forced to perform a ritual. Any discipline should come from within. As soon as it becomes a chore or is done without awareness, it is better to explore a new method than to continue on a path of drudgery.

Barriers to the true self
The True Self Cannot be Fenced in
An amusing incident Osho recounts about two brothers who came to meet him at a train station, each brother desiring the mystic spend the night at his house and impart some wisdom to his circle of friends. A fight broke out and the stronger, older brother managed to get a hold of the master's luggage and proceeded to load it in his car. The sight of sibling rivalry for the sake of bragging rights at having a guru stay at their place speaks volumes about the decidedly un-spiritual and egotistic nature of the players involved and rivals in absurdity anything Beckett ever wrote. What makes the incident even more comic is that the older brother was in the habit of saying 'OM' before everything he did.

As he picked up the bags, he said OM. When he shoved his brother aside, he said OM. As he loaded the bags in his car he said OM. This was a habit he had inculcated over years. It is a technique used to create awareness of the here and now. Say OM or I AM before each action and you remember the self, the moment, and that every action has the divine within it. Practiced by the older brother, however, it was just a habit. Something so cut off from his actual behavior that it made him a laughingstock for the people watching this little feud.

This is the opposite of Jnana Yoga. This is plowing further into an ignorance that fools the practitioner, but no one else. To realize the contradiction between the actions performed after he said OM and the intent of saying the word — to get closer to the divine within — was the very purpose of saying it in the first place. As awareness increases, you drop stupid behavior. You stop being fooled by the senses. You stop craving, coveting, hankering, fighting for silly things. Each time you say OM, you wake up from the dream and the diversions created by the senses that always demand more and lead to irrational behavior. Constant inquiry into the real self is aided by saying OM or I AM. That is Jnana Yoga.

If the senses manage to fool you into an illusory state of covetousness, a momentary lapse of reason, the OM is meant to bring you back from the precipice, to bring back stillness and balance. You observe the behavior and take a step back. If saying OM becomes just a force of habit, it serves no purpose other than to ridiculize you in front of onlookers.

One definition of Jnana Yoga is that you learn to see yourself from the point of view of the divine. The same reason orthodox Jews cover their head with a Yarmulke. It is meant to be a constant reminder that God is watching. The same purpose as saying OM before each action. A moment to moment awakening, a closer introspection of the self and a constant discovery of not-this, not-that. Bursting the bubble of illusion and bringing you back to the here and now.

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