Dhyana, Jnana and Bhakti - Living the Life of a Yogi
"First you need to experience the wave of pure love that is your Heart or Soul, your true self, your pure consciousness. When you experience the wave of your Heart, you'll experience God the infinite, eternal Ocean of Love that the wave of your Heart is arising out of."
What do you think is more important, love or truth? This is the wonderfully juicy question my wife posed to me a few nights ago on our drive home from the subway. Before I said anything I thought to myself, "That's my girl, no wonder we ended up together. How blessed can a guy be to have a wife (best friend) who would ask such a compelling question - who thinks and wants to talk about something so profound and meaningful". Amazingly enough that very question had been roaming around my heart and head a few days earlier. These are the kinds of things that you ponder and dwell upon when you're living the life of a yogi.
As my life has unfolded I've come to realize that I'm a Bhakta Yogi, so my immediate response was, "Love of course - it's the very nature of our being, the fabric and essence of our being. But sometimes we allow the heart to become obscured by characteristics of the ego such as fear, doubt, judgment, feelings of inadequacy and the like. Then the light of truth (Jnana) becomes absolutely essential to dispel the darkness of ignorance so that the love that is our natural state can be expressed in the first place".
Have you ever been sitting quietly; or driving alone in silence on a quiet stretch of highway; or walking alone in the forest or on a shore and suddenly found yourself overcome by the deepest happiness and joy, inundated by a sense of freedom from all doubt and fear, filled with love and inspiration that is beyond description? It's like in that moment you've slipped into the experience of pure beingness and the truth therein has liberated you from all ignorance; the love and joy therein saturates your whole being you're totally cleansed and healed in that blessed moment. Diane Cirincione calls this a "holy instant"; Paramahansa Yogananda called it a "sacred moment".
What is this wondrous part of us that's the source of love, inspiration, creativity, compassion and joy, and how do we come to know it? These are two very good, but tremendously challenging and profound questions.
It's easier to start with the second question, "How do we come to know this wondrous nature of our being?" For me personally the answer to this question is yoga and specifically meditation. This immediately raises two further questions - what is yoga? And what is meditation?
The word yoga can be translated as: to yoke or unite, union. In the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna describes and suggests many paths or perspectives of yoga. But as Chris Chapple points out in the following quote: "A panoply of perspectives is offered to the reader [of the Gita] in a nonjudgmental way; the many positions proposed by Krishna do not necessarily compete with one another; but rather complete one another. If one needs to act, one uses Karma Yoga; if one needs to meditate, one uses Dhyana Yoga."
Yoga is really a way of life. This is not evident, however, when you begin the practice of yoga. As you practice regularly over time, yoga not only becomes an integral part of your life, but it cultivates a conscious awareness or prospective through which your life is expressed or manifested. And, as mentioned above, many paths are offered to accommodate the different temperaments, tendencies and life situations of individuals. As we practice and evolve over time we're confronted with challenges and discover dimensions of our being that require implementing one or more of these paths of yoga. Life is a process of growth and evolution and yoga is a means to help us with this process of exploration and unfolding.
What is this wondrous part of us that's the source of love, inspiration, creativity, compassion and joy? I'll begin the answer to this part of the question with two analogies:
The three main paths or perspectives of yoga that have become my life practice are:
These three paths, or perspectives of yoga, all work together and are interrelated like the facets of a diamond or the pedals of a flower and flow into and out of one another as a continuous and cohesive process of unfolding and becoming - like the apple blossom becomes the apple.
What is meditation? If I had to answer this question in one sentence I'd say, "Meditation is a state of grace." Meditation is not a doing, it's the realization that "you are" it's an experience of beingness itself. The Sanskrit word for meditation is dhyana. Dhyana is a surrender into an unbroken awareness of awareness itself surrendering into the experience of beingness, of livingness, of consciousness.
In the practice of meditation, I liken the experience of flowing from one moment of liberated awareness into the next moment of liberated awareness, to tumbling through space. For it's the liberation itself, the freedom from defining the experience, the freedom from attachments and distractions, that allows you to flow (tumble) effortlessly into and through one moment of nowness, into and through the next and the next and the next, until you become established in a perpetual flow of unbroken awareness. It's as if you're sinking or falling into an infinitely deep, and infinitely vast ocean of joy, truth, and love. Through dhyana you consciously experience the true nature of the Self. And because truth and love are native qualities of the Self (Soul), Jnana and Bhakti arise from experiencing the Self through meditation.
"When you experience yourself as love, you're experiencing God, because that love, which is your Soul, is God's blessed loving presence within you, as you"
Here are several verses from chapter 6 of the Bhagavad Gita where Krishna refers to meditation and the Self.
Chapter 6 The Way of Meditation
In the references above you can see that Krishna talks about the Self in two ways: That the Self, your beingness or consciousness, is one with His consciousness. In essence this is saying that your consciousness is one with God's consciousness because Krishna is none other than a manifestation of God. And secondly, therefore, that the Self embodies the qualities of God. It follows then that when one experiences the Self, one consciously experiences these qualities of the Self. This is how and when Jnana and Bhakti begin to manifest.
Jnana can be translated as wisdom or knowledge. But it's not wisdom that is learned intellectually or brought in from the outside. As mentioned above, truth is a native quality or attribute of the Soul. Therefore the deepest and most correct understanding of the word Jnana is to intuitively know truth through the omniscience of the Soul by the conscious experience of your Self as Soul.
Here are several verses from chapter 7 of the Bhagavad Gita where Krishna refers to Jnana.
Chapter 7 The Way of Realized Knowledge Jnana
What is this wondrous part of us that's the source of love, inspiration, creativity, compassion and joy?
Kindness, compassion, understanding, patience and service are all products of unconditional love. Bhakti is a Sanskrit word that means love or devotion. But just as Jnana doesn't refer to regular knowledge, Bhakti doesn't mean expressing the emotion of love, although the source of that emotion is Bhakti. Sri Yukteswar Giri, the great guru of Paramahansa Yogananda, said "the deeper meaning of Bhakti is the experience of divine love through the union or merging of the wave of pure love that is your consciousness (Soul), with the ocean of infinite and eternal love that is God's consciousness." When you experience union of the love, that is your being, with the love that is God's being, you experience three dimensions of love simultaneously, like a three faceted diamond:
Here are several verses from chapter 12 of the Bhagavad Gita where Krishna refers to Bhakti.
Chapter 12 The Way of Love Bhakti
The following quote from the Gita is from chapter 5, the way of renunciation. I'm including this verse because I feel that the phrase, "as the inner most heart of all beings" captures the essence of what it has been my intention to convey in this writing.
Chapter 5 The Way of Renunciation
When I was initially drawn to the miraculous discovery of yoga I had no idea how momentous and meaningful it would be in my life. Now I can't imagine living my life without it, of seeing and experiencing life through eyes and a heart that haven't been opened by the living practice of yoga. It's a continuous unfolding of inspiration, love, compassion and truth that eventually leads us to the "knowing" that our very nature is love and truth and ultimately to the discovery of God's presence within us as our very own being. Thus the qualities of God are effortlessly and spontaneously manifested in and as our lives. We are transported into a way of living, into a way of seeing, where every breath becomes our prayer and meditation and even the simplest things in life are experienced with deep gratitude through a consciousness cultivated by living the life of yoga - for you see: life is yoga and yoga is life truly a manifestation of grace.
With humble gratitude, devotion and all surrendering love I bow my beloved teacher and Sat guru God's blessed loving presence within me Om God
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