Jnana yoga

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For the book by Swami Vivekananda, see Jnana Yoga (book).
Adi Shankara with Disciples, by Raja Ravi Varma (1904), propounding knowledge of absolute as of primary importance

Jñāna yoga ("union due to pure knowledge"[1]) is one of the three classical margas, or types of yoga, mentioned in Hindu texts, the other two being karma yoga and bhakti.[2] Jñāna in Sanskrit means "knowledge".[3]


The root jñā- is cognate to English know, as well as to the Greek γνώ- (as in γνῶσις gnosis). Its antonym is ajñāna "ignorance".


Jñāna is a cognitive event which is recognized when experienced. It is knowledge inseparable from the total experience of reality, especially a total or divine reality.[4] In Indian religions, it is knowledge which gives release from bondage.[2]

Jñāna yoga is the path towards attaining jnana. It is one of the three classical types of yoga mentioned in Hindu philosophies, the other two being karma yoga and bhakti.[2] In modern classifications, classical yoga, being called Raja yoga, is mentioned as a fourth one, an extension introduced by vivekananda.[5] While classical yoga emphasizes the practice of dhyana (meditation), Jñāna yoga states that knowing suffices for liberation.[2][note 1]


In the Upanishads, 'jnana yoga aims at the realization of the oneness of the individual self and the ultimate Self.[6]

Bhagavad Gita[edit]

In the Bhagavad Gita (13.3) Krishna says that jñāna consists of properly understanding kshetra (the field of activity, that is, the body) and kshetrajna (the knower of the body, that is, the soul or Atman).[web 1] Later in the Gita (13.35) Krishna emphasizes that a transcendentalist must understand the difference between these two:

Those who see with eyes of knowledge the difference between the body and the knower of the body, and can also understand the process of liberation from bondage in material nature, attain to the supreme goal.[web 2]


The Advaita philosopher Adi Shankara gave primary importance to jñāna yoga as "knowledge of the absolute" (Brahman), while the Vishishtadvaita commentator Ramanuja regarded knowledge only as a condition of devotion.[1]

Classical Advaita Vedanta[edit]

Classical Advaita Vedanta emphasises the path of Jnana Yoga, a progression of study and training to attain moksha. It consists of four stages:[7][web 3]

  • Samanyasa or Sampattis,[8] the "fourfold discipline" (sādhana-catustaya), cultivating the following four qualities:[7][web 3]
    • Nityānitya vastu viveka (नित्यानित्य वस्तु विवेकम्) — The ability (viveka) to correctly discriminate between the eternal (nitya) substance (Brahman) and the substance that is transitory existence (anitya).
    • Ihāmutrārtha phala bhoga virāga (इहाऽमुत्रार्थ फल भोगविरागम्) — The renunciation (virāga) of enjoyments of objects (artha phala bhoga) in this world (iha) and the other worlds (amutra) like heaven etc.
    • Śamādi ṣatka sampatti (शमादि षट्क सम्पत्ति) — the sixfold qualities,
      • Śama (control of the antahkarana).[web 4]
      • Dama (the control of external sense organs).
      • Uparati (the cessation of these external organs so restrained, from the pursuit of objects other than that, or it may mean the abandonment of the prescribed works according to scriptural injunctions).[note 2]
      • Titikṣa (the tolerating of tāpatraya).
      • Śraddhā (the faith in Guru and Vedas).
      • Samādhāna (the concentrating of the mind on God and Guru).
    • Mumukṣutva (मुमुक्षुत्वम्) — The firm conviction that the nature of the world is misery and the intense longing for moksha (release from the cycle of births and deaths).
  • Sravana, listening to the teachings of the sages on the Upanishads and Advaita Vedanta, and studying the Vedantic texts, such as the Brahma Sutras. In this stage the student learns about the reality of Brahman and the identity of atman;
  • Manana, the stage of reflection on the teachings;
  • Nididhyāsana, the stage of meditation on the truth "that art Thou".[web 3][web 5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See for example H. W. L. Poonja, who regarded knowledge alone to be enough for liberation.
  2. ^ nivartitānāmeteṣāṁ tadvyatiriktaviṣayebhya uparamaṇamuparatirathavā vihitānāṁ karmaṇāṁ vidhinā parityāgaḥ[Vedāntasāra, 21]


  1. ^ a b Flood 1996, p. 127.
  2. ^ a b c d Matilal 2005, p. 4928.
  3. ^ Apte 1965, p. 457.
  4. ^ "jnana (Indian religion) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2012-05-15. 
  5. ^ Michelis 2005.
  6. ^ Jones & Ryan 2006, p. 511.
  7. ^ a b Puligandla 1997, p. 251-254.
  8. ^ Adi Shankara, Tattva bodha (1.2)


Printed sources
  • Apte, Vaman Shivram (1965), The Practical Sanskrit Dictionary, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, ISBN 81-208-0567-4  (Fourth revised and enlarged edition).
  • Basu, Asoke (June 2004). "Advaita Vedanta and Ethics". Religion East and West (4): 91–105. 
  • Feuerstein, Georg (2001). The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice. Prescott, Arizona: Hohm Press. ISBN 1-890772-18-6.  (Unabridged, New Format Edition).
  • Flood, Gavin (1996), An Introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-43878-0 
  • Jones, Constance; Ryan, James D., eds. (2006), Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Infobase Publishing 
  • Matilal, Bimal Krishna (2005), "Jnana", in Jones, Lindsay, MacMillan Encyclopedia of Religions, MacMillan 
  • Michelis, Elizabeth De (2005), A History of Modern Yoga, Continuum 
  • Puligandla, Ramakrishna (1985). Jñâna-Yoga--The Way of Knowledge (An Analytical Interpretation). New York: University Press of America. ISBN 0-8191-4531-9. 
  • Puligandla, Ramakrishna (1997), Fundamentals of Indian Philosophy, New Delhi: D.K. Printworld (P) Ltd. 
  • Varenne, Jean; Derek Coltman (1976). Yoga and the Hindu Tradition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-85114-1.