Stages of Jnana Yoga
Non-dual practices have strict qualifications which were explained
by Jagadguru Shankaracharya (the founder of nondualism) in his writing,
These are called "sadhana chatushteya sampanna".
- Vivek or discrimination -- discerning between knowledge and ignorance,
the real and unreal, the permanent and temporary, the self and the non-self
Vairagya or complete detachment from all material attachments and attractions,
including attachment to one's own body and bodily comforts
- Dam-shamadi sampatti or six virtues
- Sham -- Controlling the mind
- Dam -- Controlling the senses
- Uparati -- Withdrawal of the senses
- Titikcha -- Tolerance
- Shraddha -- Faith in the Guru and scriptures
- Samadhan -- Single-pointed concentration
- Mumukchutva -- an intense desire for liberation
Perfecting the above stages qualifies a jnani to advance to the following stages:
- Shravan -- Properly receiving the teachings of jnana from a Guru who is a realized brahm jnani Saint
- Manan -- Conceiving this knowledge through constant remembrance
- Nididhyasan -- Practicing the this knowledge according to meditation guidelines of Yoga Darshan until the mind becomes a form of that knowledge
- Samadhi -- perfection of thoughtless, satvik meditative trance
to the stage of nirvikalpa samadhi
Under the guidance of a true jnani Saint, an aspiring student of the jnana yoga
is expected to meet these rigorous qualifications or he is not allowed to pursue
these teachings. This is not to exercise a tyranny over the student, but to protect
him from wrong consequences.
The Mandukya Upanishad (2/7) indicates how subtle and difficult it is to hold
this conception of absolute truth:
But the practice of jnana is to properly conceive the absolute truth as an
expansion of your self, or, to conceive your 'self' as absolute truth.
The attempts of an unqualified practitioner who is emotionally attached
in the world and who has not purified and controlled his mind to conceive Divinity
according to nondualism philosophy will only increase false spiritual pride.
This proves a greater impediment to his spiritual progress than if he had never started
his practices of jnana.
The unqualified spiritual aspirant may not see this as a dilemma, and may delight
in feeling himself identical with absolute truth according to his own conception,
but realized brahm jnani Saints see the obvious pitfalls for these souls and know
that a subtle intellectual pride is the greatest and most deceptive obstacle on the path.
For this reason, before starting meditation, Maharishi Patanjali prescribes in
his Yoga Darshan the first five steps of ashtanga yoga for achieving complete
renunciation. If this renunciation is not complete, a false pride is inevitable.
Jagadguru Shankaracharya said,
Brahm vritti is a state of consciousness in which the entire world is seen
as only a from of nirakar brahm (absolute truth) and the practitioner does not
acknowledge any material joy or happiness.
To accomplish this, Jagadguru Shankaracharya has actually divided the last stage
of nididhyasana (above) into 15 steps -- the first 12 are for developing renunciation
from the world. The last 3 are for introverting the mind and starting jnana yoga
meditation(dharana, dhyana, samadhi).
If this principles of jnana yoga are strictly adhered to, the jnani has the greatest
chances for success in his samadhi meditation practice.