This article on Jnana is taken from “Perspectives on Yoga,” a book by Abbot George Burke to be published later this year.
We must not mistake intellectuality and philosophizing for jnana, as is commonly done. Perfect jnana is Self-realization: liberation here and now.
Jnana is not a set of ideas or even of insights, but a condition of the buddhi itself, the state of enlightenment even in its beginning stages. So a jnani is not a philosopher but a yogi whose inner eye is opened and steadily developing.
Darkness and Ignorance
Darkness is not an entity, but only an absence of light. Therefore, no matter how dark the place, light will still shine forth, even if in a limited manner. Ignorance is darkness, and wisdom-knowledge (jnana) is light. In even the darkest mind if light enters, it dispels at least some of the dark, and the more light the less darkness. By holding on to the knowledge we gain, we make it possible for more to enter and more ignorance to recede. In time we shall be all light, and we can go home to the Light from whence we came. That is why Shankara insists over and over that jnana alone liberates and that it alone should be sought.
Intelligence (buddhi) and knowledge (jnana) are divine powers inherent in us. They are the highest levels of our being which in their totally purified (vishuddha) state actually “touch” Brahman and act as a conduit through which the divine life descends and transforms us. Eventually they themselves merge into Brahman and are revealed as Brahman.
Jnana consists of one thing only: Self-knowledge–not in the sense of philosophy about the Self, but as direct experience of the Self as the Self. And that is experience of Unity.
True jnana results in renunciation of worldly things (vairagya), and adopting the practice of yoga which results in the realization of God. Everything else is elementary and only a reflection of jnana: steps to jnana, but not jnana itself. Only the dispassionate yogi has a hope of gaining Self-realization.
Three things are necessary for the attainment of jnana: