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PART ONE: CHRISTIAN JNANA YOGA

PART TWO: JNANA YOGA FROM INDIA

 
CHRISTIAN JNANA YOGA:

THE PATH OF UNDERSTANDING

Christian Yoga uses the methods of yoga as a means of following Jesus Christ. In the practice of Christian Jnana Yoga the intellect is emphasized as a way of gaining spiritual understanding. This aspect is related to true knowledge and refers specifically to realization of your true Self, which in this description will focus on awareness of your true Christ Self. If you prefer, you may call the Christ Self as your “spirit” or your true nature in relation to God. Concepts are important in Christian Jnana Yoga not for the sake of establishing a dogma that must be accepted, but rather in order to establish a mental framework necessary to explore the seeking of the realization of your true nature.

Saint Thomas Aquinas is the person who best exemplifies the goal of Christian Jnana Yoga. He was a large person, and as a youth he was too gentle and humble to assert himself so he was mostly a listener. He was mistakenly thought to be stupid, and consequently he was called “the ox.” Yet he had a brilliant mind and became the greatest scholar and theologian of his time. Although he had become famous for his writings, toward the end of his life he was asked why he had stopped writing. Staint Thomas had a great spiritual awakening that was so profound that he made no attempt to describe it or write about it. After this experience, he explained that compared to the glory of God, his writings were merely “like straw.” Saint Thomas Aquinas best exemplifies following the path of knowledge because he dedicated his life to knowing God through his intellect. But more than that, he is the perfect example because he attained the goal of allowing his intellectual seeking to culminate in the direct experience of spiritual awakening.

ST. THOMAS AQUINAS        

St. Thomas Aquinas

Before describing the practice of Christian Jnana Yoga, a list of eight proposed “Christian Yoga principles” are provided below. These are basic premises that form a foundation for practicing Christian Jnana Yoga and can also be relevant for practicing the other aspects of Christian Yoga. Out of necessity, this is a set of one-size-fits-all premises, that cannot possibly encompass every seeker’s spiritual understanding, nor is it intended to do so.

The focus of Christian Jnana Yoga, like traditional Hindu Jnana Yoga, is discernment between the real and the unreal. In order to discern between the real and the unreal, you would obviously have to have a clear understanding in your own mind of what in fact is real and what is unreal. You may have already decided upon a set of basic premises about the nature of what is real and unreal. In the event that you are open to considering the matter further, below you will see a recommended list of Christian Jnana Yoga principles. This is not a set of dogmas, but rather a proposal of ideas for you to thoughtfully consider. There is a possibility that you may choose to accept these premises. If you do not agree with these premises, these ideas will help you to consider and identify your own premises. Even if you accept these premises in general, you still may want to use your own words to set forth a specific list of premises that best reflect your individual perspective on how to follow Christ. You are encouraged to establish in your own mind a specific set of premises that you feel you can firmly believe so these ideas can be a starting point for practicing Christian Jnana Yoga that relies on your discernment. After you make your choice of spiritual principles, you can then proceed with your practice of Christian Jnana Yoga with trust in God to show you the way. Then as God guides you, you may decide to make changes in your basic premises, which would reflect your closer walk with the divine.

PROPOSED PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN JNANA YOGA

1. The physical world of matter in all animate and inanimate forms and the psychological world of rational thinking are expressions of relative realities. These are manifestations of a Ground of Being, within which these partial realities draw their existence. Although these relative realities do exist, they may be considered ultimately “unreal” (illusory) when compared with the absolute Reality of the Ground of Being that may be called God.

 

2. Your true identity is your true Self, your Christ Self. You share the Christ Self with all the other parts of the Sonship, who collectively form the one Son of God, the one Christ. Your goal in practicing Christian Yoga is ultimately to awaken your awareness of your Christ Self. In this awakening beyond discursive thinking there is a union of the knower, the act of knowing, and what is known.

 

3. Your true nature, your Christ Self, is right now and eternally united to God and to the Holy Spirit. Your Christ Self is within you waiting to be uncovered. Your Christ Self is already pure and holy and untouched by death or decay. Your Christ Self is your unchanging reality and may be considered your individual ground of being within the ultimate Ground of Being that is God.

 

4. You are currently identified with your body and a psychological, rational thinking mind. You think of yourself as being separate from others and from God and this idea of separation, which is an illusion, is your “ego.” Because of your identification with your ego, you have “spiritual amnesia,” which is ignorance of your true nature as the Christ Self. But the purity of your Christ Self cannot be defiled by mistakes, called “sins,” that occur at the form level.

 

5. Your primary means of overcoming ignorance of your true nature are manifestations of divine grace that come from God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ. One means of cooperating with divine grace is the path of Christian Yoga through a combination of Christian Karma Yoga, Christian Bhakti Yoga, Christian Jnana Yoga, Christian Raja Yoga, and Christian Relationship Yoga.

 

6. Christian Jnana Yoga, like the other aspects of Christian Yoga, involves overcoming ignorance by “looking and overlooking.” In Jnana Yoga this means the use of discernment, the ability to use the intellect to distinguish between the divine Reality and the unreal (the ego). This discernment includes “looking,” which is attachment to the infinite and “overlooking,” which is detachment from the finite. Christian Jnana Yoga involves an inward meditative focus aiming to transcend discursive thinking. However, unlike Jnana Yoga in the Hindu tradition, Christian Jnana Yoga is primarily focused on forgiveness, just as Christian Relationship Yoga also emphasizes forgiveness, as will be explained below.

 

7. The ultimate goal is divine union, but an immediate objective of Christian Yoga is an integration of the physical, emotional, mental, intuitive, and spiritual natures. This integration allows you to surrender all of yourself to the divine influence of God’s Will and to allow yourself to follow the example of Jesus and be guided by the Holy Spirit (symbolized by the image of the dove shown at the top of this web page). If divine union is experienced in this life, the goal will not be to escape from this world, but rather to produce a total interpenetration of all the lower faculties to place them fully under the direction of the divine influence.

 

8. Even if the ultimate goal of awakening the Christ Self in this life is not realized as an experience, you have fulfilled God’s Plan for your life by dedicating yourself to doing God’s Will to the best of your understanding and ability. By living a life of doing God’s Will, when this life is completed, you will be prepared to receive God’s embrace in the next life and to be awakened to your true nature as the Christ Self.

 

Yoga in general may be considered “systematic internalization” because the seeker sees everything in the macrocosm as also being within the microcosm of his own body. The seeker brings his awareness within to find the divine within. Yoga uses the awareness of internalizing all experiences within the body, not to reinforce the ego that is attached to the body, but to ultimately transcend the body and join with God. Jnana Yoga has the specific internal direction of meditation directed toward affirming one’s true nature as Brahman—God. In addition to the “systematic internalization” of Jnana Yoga there is also a “systematic externalization” in Jnana Yoga in which the seeker looks past appearances in order to see the divine externally. In Hindu Jnana Yoga the internal seeing of the divine is more important than the external seeing of the divine.

Christina Jnana Yoga has both an external and internal component, but unlike Hindu Jnana Yoga, Christian Jnana Yoga places a greater emphasis on “systematic externalization.” In Hindu Jnana Yoga everything is geared toward the end result of God realization, but in Christian Jnana Yoga steps along the way are the important focus and the result of divine union can be left in the hands of divine grace to manifest in this life or in the hereafter.

Christian Jnana Yoga in its external aspect is really a form of external focusing that produces inner healing of your psychological makeup. Your ego nature already has a negative system of externalization, called projection, in which guilt and faults are projected onto others for you to avoid looking at these within yourself. The loving systematic externalization of Christian Jnana Yoga is designed specifically to counteract projection by the process of seeing the divine in your brother in order to recognize the divine in yourself. This process is best described as forgiveness. You may think of forgiveness as not holding a grievance toward another person. However, a broader view of forgiveness is that you have illusions about people and letting go of your own illusions about them is forgiving them. Specifically you have the illusion that other people are egos, bodies, and minds separated from God. When you give up your illusion about another person being an ego, you are able to see that person as divine. Consequently, forgiveness is defined as seeing the divine in others. When you can see the divine in your brother, it will reinforce your belief that you are not an ego and that you are divine and this produces inner healing.

This systematic externalization of Christian Jnana Yoga more correctly could be called “systematic forgiveness.” This forgiveness is another example of the principle of “looking and overlooking,” which is a part of all the forms of Christian Yoga, especially Christian Relationship Yoga. Thus forgiveness is the looking for the divine and overlooking all else. If you make the mistake of looking at what is not divine, meaning illusions of the ego, you make them real to you by looking at them. To correct this error, you are advised to overlook the illusory manifestations of the ego and in so doing these will remain unreal. Simultaneously you are advised to look beyond illusory appearances and look at and perhaps even see the divine wherever you look. This looking and overlooking allows you to truly forgive by seeing through illusions to the truth, thus realizing the holiness in everyone and the meaninglessness of guilt.

The simplest form of this Christian Jnana Yoga of discernment between the real and unreal is the changing of perceptions from inaccurate perceptions to accurate perceptions. You normally look at a person as an ego because that is how you view yourself and how that person you are observing views himself. However, with the eyes of forgiveness in Christian Jnana Yoga you can look at this other person as a divine being, as the Christ Self, or for the sake of simplicity you can just see him as the Christ.

There are many Hindu sayings in the sacred scripture of the Upanashads that affirm the divine within, such as Tat tvam asi, “Thou art That,” and Sarvam idam brahma, “All this is the Absolute.” Just as the Hindus who practice Jnana Yoga can repeat these kinds of statements to affirm the Reality of the divine within as Atman or Brahman, Christians who practice Christian Jnana Yoga can repeat Christian affirmations of the Christ Self within themselves and in others. For example, you can repeat, “You are the Christ,” or a similar variation of your choosing. You can practice Jnana Yoga as external forgiveness by repeating this statement mentally whenever you are with anyone to affirm the reality in that person and overlook that person’s illusory ego.

If you decide to use such an affirmation, including for example the word “Christ,” to help you separate the real from the unreal in your outer experiences, it is advisable to also use an affirmation that includes the word “Christ” for your inner meditations. In this case you will have the same word, “Christ,” to help you in your “looking and overlooking” as it is applied both externally in your outer forgiveness and internally in your inner meditation.

A change in perception is all that is required in Christian Jnana Yoga to manifest forgiveness. The activity of forgiveness is usually identified only as an external action between you and others. But there is a more subtle form of direct internal forgiveness that is not so obvious. It may go unnoticed because this internal activity is not specifically thought of as a form of forgiveness internalized.

What is this form of systematic inner forgiving? It is meditation. Meditation is forgiveness internalized. A close examination of meditation reveals that what is happening during meditation also is a form of internal forgiveness that follows the same pattern as the Christian Jnana Yoga technique of forgiveness that was described above as an external process. Just as Christian Jnana Yoga overlaps into the practice of Christian Relationship Yoga as external forgiveness, it also overlaps into Christian Raja Yoga as internal forgiveness.

The external practice of forgiveness has been summarized as “looking and overlooking,” meaning looking for the divine and overlooking everything that is not divine. The internal practice of forgiveness is exactly the same. Even though this practice is thought of as meditation, it may also be considered inner forgiveness. In meditation you are told to be receptive to the divine presence. This is the “looking” for the divine, meaning for your true Self, the Truth, Reality, Christ, or God. Some types of meditation even give instructions to specifically look for the Light. The “overlooking” part of the practice is the overlooking of all the distracting thoughts in your own mind.

These are insane thoughts of your ego that are just as illusory and unreal as the ones you overlook in your brother when practicing forgiveness externally. If you were to make the mistake of paying attention to these insane ego thoughts, you would make them real to yourself, even though they are illusory. So what you are doing is forgiving yourself in this internal process, in the same way that you forgave your brother in your external process. By not paying attention to your inner illusory thoughts, you avoid the error of making them real to you. Seeing they are unreal, you can let go of them.

This is true of all kinds of meditation, but especially true of meditation techniques that involve the seeing of divine light inwardly. There are meditative methods of looking for the divine light externally that are examples of Christian Jnana Yoga, allowing you to discern between the real and the unreal. There are also meditation practices of seeking the light inwardly, which are examples of forgiveness directed inwardly and which involve the Jnana Yoga practice of discerning between the real and the unreal. The distracting ego thoughts within the mind may be thought of as smoke that you move past while you are focusing your attention solely on seeing the light. You are forgiving your own ego thoughts by letting go of them as you seek the light.

Seeking the divine and in particular seeking the light within is inner forgiveness of yourself, just as it was described as being applied outwardly for outer forgiveness. Contacting the divine within that looks upon you with forgiveness enables you to forgive yourself—meaning overlook the dark smoke of ego thoughts and see the light. But you are successful, even if you do not see the light, but simply spend time overlooking your ego thoughts. By letting go of ego thoughts you can improve yourself by changing your false perceptions and releasing attachment to the ego, whether you can see the light or not, or whether you feel the divine presence or not.

Since meditation is a very traditional practice, meditation does not offer anything new in itself. However, there is a sense of newness in the idea that meditation has an additional purpose, at least in this interpretation, of being a system of forgiveness applied internally toward yourself. Thus meditation may be considered “systematic forgiveness internalized.”

Christian Jnana Yoga is discernment between the real and the unreal that manifests as external forgiveness in changing perceptions. Christian Jnana Yoga can also manifest as internal forgiveness in meditation in the sense that you are able to hold on to one thought of the real while letting go of many thoughts of the unreal. The process of “looking and over looking” that occurs in both meditation and forgiveness may be considered a new approach if you are not familiar with it. But this process has long been the standard one for traditional meditation, and therefore cannot be considered anything new.

However, traditional forgiveness is not generally linked with the meditation process of “looking and overlooking.” Instead traditional forgiveness advocates that you look at every bit of what needs to be forgiven and only then forgive it. But once you look at what is to be forgiven and make it real to you by looking at it, how can you forgive what you have already made real to yourself? Traditional forgiveness says you really are an ego, and you really are guilty, and I forgive you anyway. Thus the forgiven one is still seen as an ego even after being forgiven. This is not true forgiveness because you still see your brother as guilty and not worthy of your forgiveness. Thus your forgiveness is a condescending gesture on your part which still leaves your brother as a sinner in your eyes and not as your equal. You are still left seeing his illusions as real and that means you will not be able to forgive yourself for your own illusions either, for you will see them as real also. You cannot see your brother as an ego without seeing yourself as an ego as well.

The forgiveness of Christian Jnana Yoga is directly linked with the meditation process of looking and overlooking. It overlooks your brother’s ego and your illusions about brother and frees you to do the same for yourself. It does not make real what is forgiven, but only forgives what was never real, your illusions. In the practice of forgiveness in Christian Jnana Yoga you overlook illusions in order to look at the divine and thus manifest looking and overlooking externally.

During internal forgiveness of meditation you overlook the dense smoke of distracting thoughts that covers the light. In the external process of forgiveness of Christian Jnana Yoga, you practice “meditation externalized.” In your forgiveness you overlook the dense mass of the body in order to see the hidden divine light in the other person whom you are forgiving by changing your perceptions of that person. During internal meditation your objective is to realize that the internal smoke is an unsubstantial hindrance that your vision can penetrate to see the light. Similarly during your external practice of forgiveness, your objective is to realize that the body is an unsubstantial veil that your vision can likewise penetrate to see the divine light.

In summary meditation can be considered as forgiveness applied inwardly, and correspondingly forgiveness can be considered as meditation applied externally. Thus Christian Jnana Yoga is a complete system of forgiveness in which you overlook all illusions externally and internally and look for the divine.

Christian Jnana Yoga is concerned with discernment between the real and unreal. The ultimate realization is the awakening to Reality, to the Christ Self. But success in practicing Christian Jnana Yoga is not determined by this attainment. Instead the successful application of Christian Jnana Yoga consists of living a life focused on forgiveness, which is pleasing to God. The most significant aspect of Christian Jnana Yoga is the use of discernment between the real and the unreal to simply change perception. Successful Christian Jnana Yoga is changing ego-based perceptions into perceptions based upon the Truth.

You can forgive your brother by just mentally perceiving him as he is in his true nature instead of believing his external appearance is who he is. You can simply maintain in your mind the awareness that every brother you see is the Christ Self and not really an ego, and in seeing the Christ Self in him you are affirming that you are the Christ Self and not an ego. The practice of maintaining this mental perception in itself is the foundation of Christian Jnana Yoga, and this practice overlaps into all of the other four aspects of Christian Yoga.

The ideas of forgiveness and the true Self in Christ that are presented here on this website are strongly influenced by the teachings of A Course in Miracles. If you are interested in expanding your understanding of Christian Jnana Yoga, you are encouraged to study the Course for yourself to help you deepen your understanding of forgiveness, which is an extremely difficult concept to both understand and apply. The Course is a complete thought system that focuses on forgiveness. Its philosophy is not for everyone, but would appeal particularly to someone who is especially attracted to Christian Jnana Yoga. If you want to know more about combining Christian Yoga and the Course, you can find that information by studying a companion website that is devoted to Miracle Yoga. This companion website includes all of the same eight spiritual principles of Christian Jnana Yoga that were identified above, but it includes a much greater emphasis on the teachings and direct quotations of A Course in Miracles. This Miracle Yoga website can be found by clicking the link below:

http://www.miracleyoga.org

 

JNANA YOGA FROM INDIA:

THE PATH OF DISCERNMENT

Having already discussed Christian Jnana Yoga above, this section addresses its origins in classical Jnana Yoga from India, which is the path of discernment and understanding. Those individual seekers who find that their intellect is more important to them than their emotions will be attracted to the path of Jnana Yoga. But since everyone has an intellectual side, everyone would benefit by an awareness of Jnana Yoga. The key element of Jnana Yoga is not simply the use of the intellect as a way of navigating through life, but the use of the intellect to specifically gain Self-awareness. The goal of Jnana Yoga is Truth, but not seeking truth in the generic sense. The Truth being sought is recognition of one’s true nature as the Self. In Hinduism the true Self is called the “Atman,” and Christians can think of the true Self or Atman as the Christ Self. Here there is no distinction between the goal of Self-awareness and God-realization. This is so because in Hinduism the Atman is one’s true Self and is also Brahman (God).

The attainment of Self-realization is not in itself an intellectual activity, but rather a direct experience of the Atman. However, the intellect can be used in Jnana Yoga as a means of moving in the direction of having that direct experience. The spiritual amnesia of this world that blocks the awareness of Self-awareness is ignorance produced by maya (illusion). The intellect can be used to overcome ignorance and uncover the underlying divine Reality.

The intellect can be successful in overcoming ignorance of one’s true nature only if it is consistently directed toward this objective. If the mind is caught up in the lower impulses of an emotional nature, it will become clouded over. The lower desires dull the mind so that it loses its strength of perception and reduces the desire for Self-awareness. The intellect will be both unable and unwilling to cut through the bondage of ignorance. Just like purity of intention is so important for the other kinds of yoga, Jnana Yoga requires a pure mind to be able and willing to move in consciousness toward Self-realization.

There are four prerequisites of Jnana Yoga, which are abilities or qualities that need to be developed and implemented to grow toward Self-awareness. The cultivation of these aspects of Jnana Yoga prepares the seeker for the three fundamental practices of Jnana Yoga, identified below:

  

FOUR PREREQUISITES FOR JNANA YOGA(1)

1. viveka — discrimination

2. viraga — detachment

3. shat-samatti — six attainments

a. peacefulness

b. self-control

c. mental composure

d. forbearance

e. faith

f. concentration

4. mumukshutva — longing for liberation

 

THREE FUNDAMENTAL PRACTICES OF JNANA YOGA(2)

1. shravana — hearing the truth

2. manana — reflection on the truth

3. nididhyasana — meditation on the truth

 

For the jnana yogi discrimination is the first and foremost attribute that is needed in order to make progress toward Self-awareness. Discrimination here does not mean a general ability to discriminate, but rather the specific ability to discriminate between the real (sat) and the unreal (asat). In regard to the real versus the unreal, yoga philosophy has asked the question, “What is the relationship between God and the world of form?” One radical interpretation articulated in the Yoga-Vasihtha is that Brahman is real and the world is totally unreal—a complete hallucination without any existence. This position is the same as some forms of Mahayana Buddhism.

Shankara (788 to 820 AD), the most well-known advocate of Advaita Vedanta, is often mistakenly associated with the idea that the world does not exist and is a total illusion. Actually Shankara maintained that the world does exist, but is not ultimately real. The world has only a relative reality, not an absolute reality. The world has no independent reality since its existence is dependent upon Brahman, Reality itself. Therefore the illusory world is only a transitory realm. Only the underlying Brahman is unchanging and ultimately real.

According to Shankara, discrimination is necessary to see the world correctly as a reflection of Brahman. Shankara describes the real as the “subject” (vishayin) and unreal as the “object” (vishaya).(3) The true nature of the subject is the transcendental Self. The object is anything that appears to be apart from the Self, which would be all forms of the world including other people and also all thoughts. From the perspective of the state of ignorance all objects appear to be apart from the subject observing them. In this sense the world is illusory in appearance. From the transcendental perspective all objects that appear separate are seen to be united and existing in the one Reality.

In yoga philosophy the cause of suffering (klesha) is primarily the confusion between the subject and object, which is spiritual ignorance (avidya).(4) Ignorance produces disidentification with the Self, Atman, and identification with the limited self, anatman. This in turn produces attachment to pleasurable experiences, aversion to unpleasant experiences, and the survival instinct linked with the status of the small self (the ego self or false self). Ignorance, which produces confusion between the subject and object, produces instability in the psyche, leaving positive and negative impressions in the always fluctuating unenlightened mind.

In Vedanta the confusion between the subject and object is called “superimposition” (adhyasa or adhyaropa), in which the Self is mistakenly perceived as the ego of the small self.(5) In reality the Self has no needs because it lacks nothing, but the ego condition leads to identification with the body and with the needs of the body and mind associated with the body. Also the Self includes all apparently exterior objects, but due to ignorance in the ego condition, objects mistakenly appear outside of the ego. This ego condition leads to the idea that objects must be controlled and manipulated to meet ego needs. Needs that are met produce temporary satisfaction, and needs that are not met produce various forms of discomfort, instability, and suffering.

Jnana Yoga maintains there is no solution to this situation until the cause of suffering, which is ignorance, can be overcome. Consequently Jnana Yoga is a one-pointed effort to remove ignorance by removing the confusion between the subject and object through attaining the realization of the Self as the unchanging transcendental substance of all changing forms.

This path of realization through discernment and understanding is not a seeking of intellectual ideas that is normally associated with acquiring knowledge. This is not the rational thinking of the West based upon a scientific process of removing prejudices and accepting logical and observable facts of the rational mind, which is powerless to see beyond the separation of the subject and object. The jnana yogi seeks a higher knowledge, called jnana, which is distinctively different from vijnana, considered a lower knowledge.(6) The higher knowledge relates to highest mental faculty, called the buddhi.(7) The lower knowledge relates to the capacity of the ordinary mind, called manas, the instrument of rational thought within the ego condition relying on the physical brain as a receiver and sender of sensory information.(8)

The Self is beyond the buddhi. Nevertheless, the buddhi, which is considered the faculty of wisdom, is like a clear, pure crystal that can allow the self-luminous light of the Self to pass through and be perceived. Therefore, the buddhi represents the clearest reflection of the divine and this clear reflection helps to reveal the presence of the unchanging reality of the Self. The term buddhi represents not only a mental faculty of wisdom, but also a level of existence that can be attained before returning to complete awareness of the Self. The closest Christian term related to the buddhi would be the nous spoken of by St. Symeon the New Theologian.

In order to attain the wisdom of the buddhi and realize the Self, Jnana Yoga primarily relies on the faculty of discrimination to discern the real from the unreal. Shankara uses the example of looking at a rope. You may see a snake and believe it is a snake until closer inspection reveals that the apparent snake is actually a rope.(9) The closer inspection recommended by Shankara is discrimination that allows you to distinguish between the appearances of this world that are illusory and the true nature of the world that is none other than Reality itself, underlying all form.

This discrimination of Jnana Yoga is associated with the practice of negation identified in the Upanishads by the term “neti, neti,” meaning “not this, not that.”(10) Every object, every ego thought is not the Self. The goal is to consistently and persistently not accept any form or form-related idea that is an obstacle to the direct awareness of the Self as the spiritual substance of oneness behind any and all appearances of separation.

Discrimination between the real and unreal is made so that the jnana yogi can become attached to the real and detached from the unreal. Consequently, discrimination is intended to lead to detachment (renunciation, samnyasa), which is necessary in order to keep the mind pure and undiluted by sense pleasures.(11) Sense pleasures are not just pushed away while still being seen as desirable. Discrimination is used to perceive the flaw of investing in sense pleasures as a way to finding true happiness. The sense pleasures are seen as undesirable and as a block to purity of mind.

As sense pleasures are set aside dispassionately, the result is the growth in six virtuous attributes. The first of these attributes is peacefulness. This tranquility of mind allows the mind to proceed inwardly toward a deeper awareness of Brahman. Having a peaceful mind allows the jnana yogi to have the quality of self-control. This self-control is a regulating of the sense organs, which can be controlled only because the mind is no longer directed outwardly toward sense desires. To control the sense organs prematurely before the mind has reined in the senses would be counter productive and frustrating.

By both having a peaceful mind and controlling the sense organs, the jnana yogi gains composure so he is not thrown off center by any external phenomena. After this mental poise is developed so that the jnana yogi is not disturbed by transitory events or situations, the next attribute that is acquired is forbearance. Through forbearance there is no complaining or anxiety in regard to affliction. Being able to bear with afflictions means not expressing discomfort outwardly, but it also means not being inwardly irritated or resentful.

With the development of all the previous qualities, the jnana yogi can acquire unwavering faith. Faith is based upon sacred scripture and is the deep conviction that these sacred words are true and Brahman can in fact be realized as one’s true Self. This is one of the most crucial elements for a jnana yogi because this truth forms the foundation of seeking Truth. Serious spiritual practice requires a faith that does not waver in regard to this basic premise.

Wavering of conviction will scatter the power of the mind and weaken the ability to proceed along the path of Jnana Yoga. Through firm conviction in the Truth the mind will be able to manifest concentration. The concentrated mind does not dwell on lowly or idle thoughts, but instead directs the thinking process toward Brahman. Concentration is not the continuous unbroken thought that occurs in meditation, but rather the focusing of the mind toward Brahman, temporarily losing that focus, and then repeatedly returning to the focus on Brahman. This refocusing on Brahman keeps the jnana yogi directed toward his goal of Self-awareness.

After the prerequisites of discrimination, detachment, and the six virtuous qualities have been cultivated, the final preparation for the practice of Jnana Yoga is the longing for liberation.(12) Ignorance alone stands in the way of liberation. But the bonds of ignorance are so strong that only the most intense desire for freedom from bondage will be able succeed to overcoming ignorance altogether. In following this path at some point a sacrifice is required to make the desire so intense that the bonds of ignorance are broken and Brahman is revealed. This sacrifice is the setting aside of all other desires, interests, objectives, and even ultimately all other thoughts so only the desire for Brahman remains. Similar to the dark night of the soul experience, there is a potential for insanity along this path. That is why this path practiced intensely all by itself is meant to be traveled only by very hardy souls. Acquiring the four prerequisites of Jnana Yoga is the preparation for the three ways of practicing Jnana Yoga. The first of these practices is shravana, which is hearing the truth.(13) The jnana yogi can study the scripture, but usually hearing the truth means hearing the scriptural truth from a teacher. The second practice is manana, reflecting on the truth, which means constantly allowing the mind to dwell upon Brahman.(14) Unlike the bhakti yogi, who focuses on a personal Ishta (ideal of worship, or Christ for Christians), the jnana yogi turns his mind toward the impersonal Reality. Through this investment in the truth of Brahman, faith in reality becomes an increasingly strong conviction and longing for Brahman intensifies.

The third practice is nididhyasana, which is meditation directed toward Brahman.(15) Meditation in general is the unbroken flow of thought toward one aim. In the practice of nididhyasana the aim is continuous thought of the truth of the Absolute Reality. This continuous flow of thought leads to samadhi, the direct experience of Brahman. Samadhi is the common goal of all the paths of yoga.

         Following the path of Jnana Yoga is a rigorous road that is meant for very few. However, this path offers an indispensable ingredient that is necessary for every path of yoga. There is no use getting on the path to find Brahman, if the Supreme Being is not truly there to be found or if he is absolutely inaccessible. Every seeker of God must have at least a certain degree of the conviction that the jnana yogi possesses. This is the conviction that God is there, hidden behind every transitory form in this world, and that He indeed can be found.

1. Pravrajika Vrajaprana, Regaining the Lost Kingdom, an article included in Purity of Heart and Contemplation: A Monastic Dialogue between Christian and Asian Traditions, edited by Bruno Barnhart and Joseph Wong (New York, New York: Continuum, 2001), pp. 35–38.
2. Georg Feurerstein, Sacred Paths: Essays on Wisdom, Love, and Mystical Realization (Burden, New York: published for the Paul Brunton Philosophical Foundation by Larson Publications, 1991), pp. 76–77.
3. Ibid., p. 68
4. Ibid., p. 91
5. Ibid., p. 69
6. Ibid., p. 72
7. Ibid., p. 72
8. Ibid., p. 72
9. Ibid., p. 69
10. Ibid., p. 74
11. Ibid., p. 76
12. Pravrajika Vrajaprana, Regaining the Lost Kingdom, an article included in Purity of Heart and Contemplation: A Monastic Dialogue Between Christian And Asian Traditions, edited by Bruno Barnhart and Joseph Wong (New York, New York: Continuum, 2001) p. 37.
13. Ibid., p 37
14. Ibid., p. 37
15. Ibid, p. 37

Click below for the other four aspects of Christian Yoga:

Christian Bhakti Yoga : Love         

Christian Karma Yoga : Service        

Christian Raja Yoga : Meditation           

Christian Relationship Yoga : Forgiveness     

 


MEMORY WALK IN THE LIGHT  

 Autobiography of Donald James Giacobbe  

   

    Donald James Giacobbe is the author of the autobiography Memory Walk in the Light: My Christian Yoga Life as "A Course in Miracles." Below are his comments on his life story:

    My life is an example of following in the footsteps of Jesus, while practicing yoga disciplines and applying the principles of A Course in Miracles. I am a “monk in the world,” not a father with children. Yet, as every father, I would like to leave behind an inheritance. This autobiography is my inheritance, but it is simply a reminder of our Father’s inheritanceHis gift of Himselfto all of His children. The only gold in this inheritance is the message of love and forgiveness that God wants me to hear, to live, and to share with you. I hope that you are entertained by my life story of blending the East and West. However, providing entertainment is not my goal. My purpose is to encourage you to increasingly awaken to the spiritual dimension of your own life. Consequently, this book includes how-to appendices on Christian meditation, exercise, and yoga postures, which can be practiced by anyone to grow spiritually. The goal is to let your spiritual practice become a way of life firmly centered in Christ. With this goal your spiritual practice starts out as an effort, becomes a necessity, and eventually becomes a delight, bringing many blessings.

 

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