Jnana Yoga in Addiction Recovery and its Benefits
Jnana Yoga is seen as the spiritual path of “knowledge and wisdom”, and can be exceptionally helpful to someone in addiction recovery.
Jnana is one of the three classical Yoga scriptures to enlightenment. The other two are Karma yoga (yoga of action) and Bhakti yoga (yoga of divine love & devotion). In more modern scriptures, a fourth spiritual path to enlightenment was added, that of Raja yoga (yoga of the mind)
Jnana Yoga is a comprehensive study of self, consisting of the development of self-realisation and self-knowledge. This wisdom is attained through concentration, discrimination, self-inquiry and meditation. By bringing the subconsciousness and consciousness into complete awareness and oneness.
Jnana yoga’s 3 practices, also referred to as pillars, enable inner knowledge & truth to be accessed in addiction recovery:
- Sravana (hearing or listening)
- Manana (thinking, examining & enquiring)
- Nididhyasana (meditation and reflection)
Jnana Yoga also has 4 prerequisites, referred to as pillars of knowledge (Sadhana chatushtaya):
- Viveka - Deliberate and continuous intellectual effort to distinguish the truth from the false
- Vairagya - Cultivating detachment from the ego and worldly possessions
- Shat Sampat - Six practices to enable to see beyond inner demons and illusions
- Mumukshutva - Total commitment to achieving freedom from suffering with a burning and continuous desire to follow the Jnana path
If you want to learn everything there is to know about yourself; to know yourself in complete transparency and truth, then Jnana Yoga may be the yoga path for you.
What is Jnana Yoga?
From original Sanskrit scriptures, Jnana translates to “knowledge or wisdom”. Practising Jnana yoga is a comprehensive study of oneself, designed to bring about “awareness of absolute consciousness”
The human mind is naturally filled with self-limiting beliefs and perceptions. These beliefs are formed based on our experiences and what we are taught as we go through life.
The fundamental goal of Jnana Yoga is to transcend beyond these beliefs and the ego; in order to merge with the inner true self (Atman) and achieve oneness with all of life (Brahman)
Jnana Yoga is not a physically challenging type of Yoga but is one of the most challenging of the yoga paths. This is because it requires complete self-realisation with a completely open mind, something that is not easy, nor comes naturally.
Lord Krishna says in the scriptures that Jnana Yoga is the purest form of Yoga. It is the discovery of one's Atman, he states:
“ Truly, there is nothing as pure as knowledge. In time, he who has perfected in yoga finds that in his own Atman”
Essentially, Lord Krishna is saying that the true path of liberation and spiritual freedom is within one's own true self. This is something many of us in addiction recovery can relate to.
Jnana Yoga encourages personal development and growth
Most of us, who have done any kind of work on ourselves, know to an extent that the human mind is the main obstacle to freedom.
The human mind is naturally cluttered by obstacles, fear, worship, ego, projections, judgments and so forth; to such an extent, it can be very difficult to tell the truth from the false. This is especially true when it comes to matters of the heart. It also applies when we stand to lose something we feel we have gained or earned.
Jnana yoga requires a very disciplined, sharp and contemplative mind. Jnana is not a path that can be easily grasped, nor dipped in and out of. Those that follow Jnana will have the assistance of an experienced Guru (spiritual teacher) to guide and advise them.
Preparing the Mind for Jnana Yoga - The Requirements
To facilitate the practice of Jnana Yoga, there are four prerequisites. The prerequisites are conditions to prepare the mind. These are referred to as the four pillars of knowledge: Viveka, Vairagya, Shat Sampat and Mumukshutva
The four pillars of knowledge are systematically designed to reduce dissatisfaction with life and self-inflicted suffering. Something that we all suffer with to some extent, whether in recovery from addiction or not.
The four steps (or pillars of knowledge) are designed to be practised in sequential order. Each step builds upon the previous one, further assisting in purifying the mind.
Shat Sampat, the third pillar of knowledge, consists of six virtues. The virtues are practised to help stabilise a yogi’s mind and emotional state; thus enabling them to see beyond themselves, and their delusions and separate themselves from the material world.
The 6 virtues of Jnana are :
- Shama - (calmness) the ability to remain calm in the face of adversity. To remain emotionally at peace regardless of what is going on externally
- Dama - (restraint) practising Dama helps to strengthen the mind so it can be used as an effective tool in Jnana. Dama teaches emotional restraint in response to the senses. Enabling the yogi to gain control of their senses and their mind.
- Uparati - (withdrawal) The Jnana yogi must withdraw from any activities that distract from their path, aside from duties. Jnana is a simple life with no distraction from the spiritual path.
- Titiksha - (endurance) Titiksha is the endurance of external situations that commonly cause unnecessary suffering; especially those states which are extremes and polar opposite ( ie, success and failure, pleasure and pain). These states must not deviate the yogi from their spiritual path, nor evoke extreme emotional responses.
- Shraddha - (faith) Shraddha maintains complete faith and security in one's yoga path, their Guru ( spiritual teacher), and the yogic scriptures.
- Samadhana - (focus) Samadhana maintains complete one-pointedness of focus of the mind.
The six virtues that assist in preparing the Jnana yogi for living in truth and enlightenment are extremely challenging.
You can perhaps begin to understand why Jnana Yoga is considered the hardest path of all yogic paths to enlightenment
Embracing the journey from the mind to the heart, through Jnana yoga in addiction recovery
Jnana is wisdom and refers to knowledge that is completely separate from education or judgments formed on experience or based on science. This is especially true when it comes to reality and the divine. This concept alone is pretty confusing to most, isn't most knowledge based on the experience of what we learn?
To put it into a simpler context, Jnana Yoga is the journey from the mind to the heart. Leaving what you intellectually ‘know’ to be true in your mind for what you ‘know’ to be true in your heart.
The wisdom that is gained through practising Jnana Yoga transcends beyond the intellectual mind. It is knowing the deepest parts of yourself through listening, meditation and enquiry and through practising the four requirements (pillars of knowledge)
How often do we go to do or say something and our hearts conflict with our words or actions? Well, this is where practising Jnana yoga comes into its own. Every intention and every action is questioned by the mind and every question is listened to for the answer in the heart. Wisdom comes from knowing the difference between the two and living everyday life within the heart - a calm and quiet place of intuition that has little or nothing to do with science, intellect or knowledge.
For those in 12 Step fellowship, the serenity prayer will no doubt resonate with the “wisdom to know the difference”. Wisdom is something that comes with time. For most of us, this means learning from our mistakes. Jnana yoga focuses on connecting to and living within this wisdom. It enables a Jnana yogi to fast-track in this sense.
How Jnana Yoga connects to absolute truth
When practising Jnana Yoga and living the path to spiritual freedom, a Jnana yogi is completely free from self-doubt. They know their absolute truth in any given situation. How do they achieve this? Strange as it may seem, they achieve this with their mind, the very thing that seems to stand between them and true spiritual liberation.
In Jnana Yoga the mind is used as a tool, for self-enquiry, examination and questioning in order to find the absolute truth. Jnana meditation is asking yourself a single question of self-inquiry, such as “Who am I?”, then removing the non-truths and ‘illusions’ created by concepts, beliefs, judgments, opinions and perceptions and listening for the absolute truth that is free from the intellectual mind.
This absolute truth must then be lived without doubt. In doing so the Jnana yogi is at one with themselves, their true nature and their purpose of life.
How to Practice Jnana Yoga in addiction recovery
Jnana Yoga techniques can be practised in everyday life, and in essence, should be practised consistently by anyone in addiction recovery following the path.
Jnana Yoga involves a single-focused meditation that involves one question of self-enquiry at a time. The question is asked and the Jnana yogi sets aside all concepts, beliefs, illusions, opinions and world views in order to access the ultimate truth to the answer.
Once a yogi is sure of the complete truth, which is achieved through further questioning and contemplation, they then practice this truth, without reservation - they live in the truth. In doing so, a Jnana yogi avoids conflict both within themselves and with others. They are at complete peace and at oneness with the universe.
The benefits of Jnana Yoga may seem out of reach or unattainable to most, yet are easily gained through the complete removal of ignorance and ego. The removal of ignorance and ego enables the pure, unadulterated truth to shine through. This is where Jnana yoga comes full circle. How do we get this truth? This knowledge? This wisdom?
Practising the three pillars of Jnana Yoga in addiction recovery
Ultimate knowledge and truth can be attained in addiction recovery by practising the three pillars of Jnana Yoga.
The three pillars of Jnana yoga are- Shravana, Manana and Nididhyasana and the four pillars of knowledge - Viveka, Vairagya, Shat Sampat and Mumukshutva
Often, the truth can be obscured as the mind becomes a mental clutter of random thoughts, beliefs and assumptions. This is what a Jnana yogi will gain from practising Karma Yoga and Bhakti yoga.
Karma Yoga consists of service (seva) to all living creatures, or ritual worship of the Divine, healing work, teaching work, and political action - all for the betterment of society. A Karma yogi's prayer life is lived throughout their daily actions. In this way they can bypass the mental battlefield and quieten a busy or disruptive mind. Carrying out selfless acts that are pure in motive and intention paves the way to mind meditation with a pure mind, a mind that seeks the ultimate truth within.
Practising Bhakti yoga sets aside the material world with complete love and devotion to the divine. Bhakti yoga quietens the ego and again helps the yogi to connect to the ultimate truth and attain spiritual liberation (Moksha)
The goal of Jnana Yoga
The goal of Jnana yoga is ultimately already attained within ourselves. Each and every one of us is already Brahman (ultimate truth and reality), yet this Brahman is obscured by ego, by knowing, by possessions, by beliefs and by half-truths.
Jnana yoga enables a follower to leave behind everything associated with the ego. A Jnana Yogi knows that they are not the “ultimate reality” and to think that one is, is considered ignorant and self-indulgent.
If we look at the meaning of “ignorance” it means to be unaware, it implies a lack of intelligence, not the educated kind of intelligence but a close-minded unawareness. During active addiction, we will have had one single focus, one purpose, one goal - to get high. We will have been unaware and unconscious of the truth; some call this denial
Coming into recovery, there is a great need to live in the truth or the light, as some may put it. This truth and light give us purpose and direction, it allows conflict and negative emotions to fall away, it sets us free!
For many of us in recovery from addiction, we seek a spiritual solution to a chemical problem. Our belief systems may have made life intolerable, causing us to compulsively seek complete escape from ourselves and the material world.
A spiritual path provides the purpose and endless learning and yoga is one of the many paths available to choose from. However, the yogic paths designed to lead to enlightenment require sacrifice, discipline and complete devolution. Because of this, Jnana will therefore only appeal to a very few, those that want to devote their entire lives to the practice.
The Benefits of Jnana Yoga in addiction recovery
You may be wondering who Jnana Yoga is best suited to and what the benefits of practising Jnana Yoga are for someone in addiction recovery.
Firstly, the true path of Jnana yoga is not for everyone, it requires a very contemplative mind and sharp intelligence. It requires those that follow the Jnana path to turn inwards and away from worldly possessions.
However, learning some of the Jnana meditation techniques can benefit anyone seeking to further develop and better themselves and add a further dimension to a person's spiritual life.
For those that are ultimate truth seekers with a sharp and enquiring mind, Jnana yoga will fit perfectly. Whilst not an easy path by any means, it certainly has its benefits, the main one being - a Jnana yogi in recovery from addiction is less susceptible to addiction relapse.
Benefits of Jnana Yoga addiction recovery:
- Living without inner conflict
- Love and compassion for oneself and for others
- Contentment and peace come from just knowing the truth and living it
- Life takes on a new meaning and purpose
- Feeling connected to the divine, to the universe and at one with everything
- Ego is set aside
- Learning that the mind is not the enemy when used in a constructive and pure way
- Living a peaceful life of simple means
- Feeling fulfilled and whole
- Endless learning and personal growth
- Building trust with intuition and the divine
- Ability to see the ultimate truth
- Having complete faith
- Mental control and control over emotions
- Tolerance and endurance
- Ability to restrain from the senses
Walking a spiritual path with Jnana Yoga
Many people in addiction recovery choose to follow a spiritual path and Jnana Yoga can greatly assist with this.
“Jnana Yoga, or the science of the Self, is not a subject that can be understood and realized through mere intellectual study, reasoning, discussion or arguments. It is the most difficult of all sciences.” – Swami Sivananda
When people talk of yoga today, most are only aware of the physical types of yoga that incorporate Asanas (poses). It is evident from examining all the different types of yoga, that yoga is so much more than just a physical practice! The main purpose of all the various different types of yoga is to walk a spiritual path and attain spiritual enlightenment through continued personal and spiritual growth. Different types of yoga enable spiritual freedom to be achieved in different ways, through the heart, the body and the mind.
Bhakti yoga and Jnana Yoga are considered to be the two main branches of Yoga - knowledge and devotion and are generally used in unison to attain both self-realisation and God-realisation.
Jnana helps a yogi to truly embrace themselves as a whole and unique person, even the darkest parts, which previously they may have run from or have avoided.
No human is all good and no human is all bad, we all have complex relationships with our own body and mind. This complexity often extends to our relationships with others. Jnana Yoga is the path to set aside all that we “think” we in order to access what we truly know. The payoff from this self-searching type of yoga is complete and utter peace with oneself, the universe and the divine.
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- Jnana Yoga - The yoga of wisdom - https://www.yogabasics.com/learn/jnana-yoga-the-yoga-of-wisdom/
- Jeaneane D. Fowler (2012). The Bhagavad Gita: A Text and Commentary for Students. Sussex Academic Press. p. 89. ISBN 978-1-84519-346-1.
- What is Jnana Yoga? https://www.ekhartyoga.com/articles/philosophy/what-is-jnana-yoga
- Definition - what does Jnana yoga mean? https://www.yogapedia.com/definition/5019/jnana-yoga
- The path of knowledge - Jnana Yoga https://vedanta.org/yoga-spiritual-practice/the-path-of-knowledge-jnana-yoga/