Approach to the Ultimate/Absolute Truth (Jnana)


The path of knowledge is commonly referred to as Jnana Yoga. What is meant by Jnana depends upon the scripture being read. Oftentimes scripture will distinguish between

  • Vijnana (refers to Knowledge -meaning Realization of Brahman, Transcendent Perception of the Ultimate) and
  • Jnana (meaning mental and scriptural knowledge/understanding of Brahman, but not Realization).

Other times Jnana is simply referring to Vijnana.

Swami Vivekananda says (Complete Works, V7, p 197-198; and here under the title Conversations and Dialogues, sub-title I - XXIX, sub-sub-title XV -

Disciple: Sir, now you are speaking of Jnana; but sometimes you proclaim the superiority of Bhakti, sometimes of Karma, and sometimes of Yoga [meaning Raja]. This confuses our understanding.

Swamiji: Well, the truth is this. The knowledge of Brahman is the ultimate goal — the highest destiny of man. But man cannot remain absorbed in Brahman all the time. When he comes out of it, he must have something to engage himself. At that time he should do such work as will contribute to the real well-being of people. Therefore do I urge you in the service of Jivas in a spirit of oneness. But, my son, such are the intricacies of work, that even great saints are caught in them and become attached. Therefore work has to be done without any desire for results. This is the teaching of the Gita. But know that in the knowledge of Brahman there is no touch of any relation to work. Good works, at the most, purify the mind. Therefore has the commentator Shankara so sharply criticized the doctrine of the combination of Jnana and Karma. Some attain to the knowledge of Brahman by the means of unselfish work. This is also a means, but the end is the realization of Brahman. Know this thoroughly that the goal of the path of discrimination and of all other modes of practice is the realization of Brahman.

Disciple: Now, sir, please tell me about the utility of Raja-Yoga and Bhakti-Yoga.

Swamiji: Striving in these paths also some attain to the realisation of Brahman. The path of Bhakti or devotion of God is a slow process, but is easy of practice. In the path of Yoga there are many obstacles; perhaps the mind runs after psychic powers and thus draws you away from attaining your real nature. Only the path of Jnana is of quick fruition and the rationale of all other creeds; hence it is equally esteemed in all countries and all ages. But even in the path of discrimination [Jnana Yoga] there is the chance of the mind getting stuck in the interminable net of vain argumentation. Therefore along with it, meditation [Raja Yoga] should be practiced. By means of discrimination and meditation [Jnana and Raja], the goal or Brahman has to be reached. One is sure to reach the goal by practicing in this way. This, in my opinion, is the easy path ensuring quick success.

Dhyana is a stage of meditation. It is defined in Patanjali's Yoga Aphorisms and I think there are definitions given already on Hinduism SE.

The best way to achieve all of this is by finding your guru. Your guru will know what way or combination is best for you. All the great saints had their own gurus for guidance. The goal is easy to achieve with the guidance of your guru. It is said over and over in scripture to find your guru.

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