Vanity arises when you believe beauty is a moral or social virtue. True virtue needs no classification.
I do get very emotional about knowledge, does Gnani preclude bliss? No, in fact it acknowledges that some people most naturally arrive at bliss by intellectual contemplations. That they are moved to awe by inspiring ideas, and religious observance may not speak to them. It’s not considered to be profane to be unmoved by ceremonial dancing for example.
There is the “eureka wave” when you connect two previously unconnected ideas that is totally blissful. Yes, the Brahmins, as the Indian sages tend to be called even if they didn’t ascribe to Brahminical philosophy, had a saying; “All paths lead to Brahma” which was a divinity that was symbolic of the absolute principle which was known as the all encompassing. Even the Buddha did not teach a single path, nor did he teach ignorance of any element of life. He did question the traditional Indian views, so in that case he was more an example of the Gnani path than the devotional. Actually, Chinese internal alchemy is connected to a path of Yoga, Raja Yoga, transcendence by physical exercise and austerity. It is one of the bigger schools of Yoga thought. It is seen as noble and many Raja Yogis take vows of poverty.
Their idea is to take your strength and ride it to the edge, hence the different schools? Yes.
Is it primarily Yogis or does it extend to the laymen at all? Well, many Yogis are actually in a sense laypersons. More like monks, not like priests. To use the western concepts, they have the social position of what would equate to a church deacon or elder.
Is there a way to practice it for anyone, like one would walk into a temple of faith, or do they have that? A temple of Yoga? No, Yoga is more like a martial art, and India has a native martial art that arose from Yogic insights. It‘s called Silat.
Are there guidelines to Gnani, where if you cross over you are not doing Yoga but just doubting? Indeed, as there are for any Yoga path. The Gnani Yogi doesn’t settle. They engage in life long inquiry, so if you were to speak to a Gnani Yogi and make a firm statement even of science, the likely answer would be “maybe so“. Or Yogin, there is even a rare form of Yogin not as well appreciated in India as their counterparts were in the Americas. They are called Mayin. Many of the Fakir were or are also Mayin. Maya is the goddess of illusion, so like the Native American Heyoka, the Mayin would engage in “trickery” to provide opportunities for people to note how they are not aware. If you asked a Mayin a question they might arbitrarily answer no or yes, and alternate with the sequence of questions.
Is there such a thing as attachment to not knowing? Yes, and one of the common criticisms between Yogins is that they are blinded by attachment to their own way. The point of Gnani Yoga is not to become obsessed with knowledge, attached to knowledge, but to use the path of inquiry to transcend the path.
Someone said seeking the truth can sometimes be an excuse for not seeing the truth, so you are aware of not settling on a truth purposefully as to prolong the journey? Indeed, and a common stumbling block that is even more common in Gnani Yoga is the development of what they call the “sidhis” or powers. They discovered that on the path certain human potentials can awaken, and they teach that they are distractions. One student may discover they start having visions of the future that come true. They are cautioned to not be distracted by that, in part because they have accounts of horrible falls by students who went astray when those surfaced.
They are indicators that you are practicing well, and don’t stop there. Yes. They aren’t seen as inherently evil as they are seen by many western thinkers, but all schools of Yoga practice some form of reflection and meditation so these insights occur.
Buddhism is also similar in de-emphasizing these ‘powers’. It is, and the yellow emperor of China, and old hero divinities of Indias “history”, were said to manifest the sidhis.
How old is this practice? Gnani Yoga? Ah, it originally was for all intents and purposes oral before the Pali cannon. So its exact age as a practice isn’t actually known.
Does Gnani go with any sort of work with the body, or is it all in the mind? It’s mental. It doesn’t preclude the physical, but it’s seen that Raja Yoga isn’t suited to everyones temperament or even constitution.
I just have this guilt sometimes of being too much in my head and letting the body weaken. I wondered if they resolved it somehow? Ah, the asanas are seen as universally beneficial. The Raja path is like a path long purification right and is not the Gnani way, but all Yogin make some use of the asanas, the Yoga exercises, if only the simple ones. Prana yama, breath control, mind state and breath patterns were found by them to be intimately linked.
Raja was for some reason the only Yoga okayed by communism. Why do you think that is? It can be dismissed as a health practice, and the asceticism helps. Otherwise it is tainted with the opiate of religion.
Your thoughts are welcome. Be well friends.