The pre-requisites of the aspirants
in the path of Jnana Yoga (Non-duality- Advaita Vedanta)
by Atman Nityananda
Jnana Yoga is the the practical part of Advaita Vedanta Philosophy. Advaita Vedanta is the essence of Vedas and teach us the highest goal of human life which is Self-realization or the realization of Truth (Atman or Brahman). The wisdom of the great Advaita Gurus is exposed in the advaita texts which establish the nodual nature of the highest Truth or Brahman (the essence and origin of life) and the identity of the individual Soul (Atman, Self) with this ultimate reality, the Brahman (the universal Soul).
Main themes of Advaita Vedanta are: the nature of Atman and Brahman, the relation of Atman with Brahman, the nature of Maya, the nature of ignorance (Avidya), the nature of five sheaths or koshas, the nature of Antahakarana (fourfold mind: manas, buddhi, chitta, egoism or ego), the three gunas (sattva-rajas-tamas), the three states of mind (waking, dream and deep sleep states), the fourth state (Turiya), the means of liberation, the qualifications of the aspirant after liberation, the nature of liberation (Moksha) and Jivanmukta (liberated one or Jnani).
Original texts of Advaita Vedanta are the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras, the Baghavad Gita, Ribu Gita, Astavakra Gita, Avadhuta Gita as well as texts or words of great Advaita Gurus such as Adisankaracharya, Gaudapada, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Sivananda, Sri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta.
Jnana Yoga is the practical guide of Advaita Vedanta that gives us the necessary knowledge and the means (practices) that are necessary to realize our true nature (Atman) and its identity with the supreme Truth or Brahman.
SinceAll the aspirants are not in the same state o evolution, they have different needs, capacities and idiosyncrasy. That’s why Jnana Yoga it is not appropriagte for all aspirants; and those who follow the path of Jnana must apply a sadhana according their needs.
The books, texts and sayings of the great Advaita Gurus are of great importance in order to understand things related to sadhana, the obstacles, the practices, the nature of the Self etc.
Some of the important books related to advaita and Jnana Yoga are: Baghavad Gita, Jnana Yoga, Moksha Gita, Sadhana Chatustaya of Swami Sivananda, Vivekachudamani, Atma Bodha, of Adisankaracharya, I am That, Seed of Consciousness of Nisargadatta and Who am I, Self-enquiry, Day by day, Talks with Ramana, Paravidyopanishad, Forty Verses of Ramana Maharshi.
Very rare are the aspirants that are ready to start their sadhana from meditation or Self-enquiry. The majority needs a preparation in order to acquire the proper qualities and capacities for deep meditation and Self-enquiry which are the chief means for Self-realization. In reality the majority of people engaged in spirituality nowadays is prepared for next births in order to continue their journey towards Self-realization. Very few are ready to achieve Self-realization in the present life.
“Not an iota of spiritual progress is ever possible unless
one is really endowed with these fourfold qualifications.“
– Swami Sivananda
Thus for the majority is necessary a preparation through various methods and practices until they are ready to enter in the Advaita philosophy and the path of Jnana Yoga. Bhakti Yoga, Hatha, Yoga, Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Nada Yoga and also a variety of other modern methods can be used by the aspirants in order to purify and prepare their Antahakarana (the fourfold mind) to understand properly the sublime philosophy of Advaita and put it in practice.
Swami Sivananda as well as Sri Aurobindo consider as more appropriate for this age, the Yoga of synthsesis (I also are lover of the yoga of synthesis) which includes practices from all main paths of Yoga. Sivananda considers also very important the integral development of body, heart and mind, in order to become instruments of the divine light. Moreover since the egoic nature is very difficult to be eliminated from our psych a variety of methods of practices are necessary. We can practice parts of all Yogas and according our constitution and our inclination, we can have one of the Yogas as the center of our practice (sadhana).
Regardless the path that one follows there are specific mental qualities that must the aspirant must develop in order to succeed in meditation, samadhi and Self-realization. Purity of heart and mind, devotion, dedication, faith, perseverance, patience, sincerity, serenity and tranquility of mind, discrimination (viveka), dispassion (Vairagya), control of mind and senses, one-pointed mind and intense longing for liberation are the most important qualities that must be developed in the highest possible degree in order to succeed in meditation and Self-realization.
In essence all sadhana is a preparation of the mental factory to understand the spiritual principles deeply (the aspirants of advaita vedanta the he Advaita teachings) and be capable for profound meditation or Self-enquiry and samadhi which at the end leads to the complete realization of our true nature.
The book Sadhana Chatustaya (the four means or qualifications of salvation) of Swami Sivananda is one of the important books that explain us the nature of these prerequesites which are the foundation of JnanaYoga and Self-realization. He who is really intrested to walk the path of Self-realization must understand the nature of these qualities and find the means to develop them in the highest degree.
Understanding and practice go together. We must practice what we undersatand and by practice our understanding deepens. Through systematic, regular intense practice we must gradually dissolve from our psych the egoic tendencies of pride, desire, lust, fear, anger, greed, hatred, jealousy, the tamasic qualities of laziness, dullness, carelessness, boredom, drowsiness, and the rajasic qualities of distraction, tossing and extrovertedness of mind, passion for sensual pleasures, fame and power.
When we are established in discrimination, detachment and dispassion, when our mind has become steady, one pointed and introverted then and then alone we are able to meditate profoundly, succeed in Self-enquiry and attain Self-realization.
The aspirant (of Jnana yoga) who is endowed with all these four qualifications continues under the guidance of a realized sage with Sravana , Manana and, Nididhyasana. The culmination of sadhana is profound meditation on a Mahavakya (Aham Brahmasmi, Tat Tvam Asi, Ayam Atnma Brahma), on the seed mantra OM or absorption of mind in its source by Self-enquiry.
At the final stage of sadhana a bhakta can be devoted to Saguna Dhyana (concrete meditation); meditation in one form of God (Krishna, Vishnu, Shiva etc.) using a mantra (Om nama Shivaya, Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Om namo Bhagavate Vashudevaya, Om namo Narayanaya. A bhakta of course can practice advaita meditation as well. A raja yogi can meditate on OM and an aspirant of Janna yoga to the advaita meditation using one Mahavakya (Aham Brahmasmi, Tat Tvam Asi, Ayam Atnma Brahma), the seed mantra OM or Self-enquiry.
The aspirant must understand well the nature of the above mentioned qualities (viveka, vairagya, sama, dama, pratyahara, etc.) and by proper means to develop them gradually inthe higher posible degree. The study of books like Sadhana Chatustaya that explain these qualities, as well as the refection and contemplation on them and the exercise of various practices are the means to succeed in this endeavor.
Books like Vivekachudamani, Sadhana Chatustaya, Jnana Yoga, Practice of Vairagya are very helpful to this process. In my blog you can also find many essays and extracts of various books that are referred to practice (sadhana) and the above mentioned qualities and various spiritual practices.
Right knowledge, intense longing to realize Truth,
right understanding and regular diligent practice
are the means for attaining Liberation!