Jnana yoga

For the book by Swami Vivekananda, see Jnana Yoga (book).
Adi Shankara with Disciples, by Raja Ravi Varma (1904), propounding Advaita philosophy.

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".


Jnana 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]

To attain the full realization experience of jnana yoga enlightenment, one has to practise looking into the truth of differing aspects of human experience in various ways. This could require asking oneself many questions and pertaining to the inner truth perceived from those questions to find what is essentially and consistently true both inside oneself as a human being and in society.[6]


In the Upanishads, 'jnana yoga aims at the realization of the oneness of the individual self and the ultimate Self.[7]

Bhagavad Gita

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

Classical Advaita Vedanta emphasises the path of Jnana Yoga, a progression of study and training to attain moksha. It consists of four stages:[8][web 3]

See also


  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. 1 2 Flood 1996, p. 127.
  2. 1 2 3 4 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. Merchand, Peter, 'The Yoga of Truth: Jnana Yoga', Destiny Books, 2007, p 3-5.
  7. Jones & Ryan 2006, p. 511.
  8. 1 2 Puligandla 1997, p. 251-254.
  9. 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. 
  1. B-Gita 13.3 Archived 20 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. B-Gita 13.35
  3. 1 2 3 "Jnana Yoga". Advaita Yoga Ashrama. Yoga108.org. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  4. "Antahkarana- Yoga (definition)". En.mimi.hu. Retrieved 2011-06-10.
  5. Oxford Index, nididhyāsana

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