A day consists of not only new tasks, but of new thoughts and perceptions.
You hear a lot about Yoga philosophy in this day and age. It has become quite fashionable; let go, have faith in the divine, seek peace. It’s what I refer to as the blue sky doctrine.
Put your body in impossible positions? Oh, asanas are not the main element of Yoga. They are an aid, but not the path. The lotus position is to help in meditation. If you fall asleep in lotus position while meditating you won’t fall over, but that requires a proper lotus position which most people don’t get into.
Yoga comes from their word for yoke, it’s a reference to union, a measure of focus in your awareness. This is part of why the “blue sky doctrine” is sort of damaging. Traditional Yoga has nothing to do with emptying your head or sublimating your sense of self, not even in the Bhakti or devotional path which is a form of religious Yoga. Not all Yogis are devoted to any traditional divinity. Thus here we will discuss the Gnani path.
If you get your information on Yoga from people like the devotees of Osho, you would perhaps get the impression that the only path is sort of the hippy movement, let go and zone out, but the practice is very old and has many paths. They explored them all, and the Gnani path is the “path of knowledge”. They recognized that the process of inquiry, asking questions of life and the world, can move one to the transcendent point. In Gnani you “think till you reach the end of thought” and many of the other Buddhist traditions involved some of those elements of Gnani, like the Zen koan. A question that is logical, but can’t be answered logically, like “Do you remember what it was like before you were born?” Another Gnani practice is japa, prayer or writing of sacred passages to the point where your mind cannot be thinking about anything but the passage.
Do you have an example? Transcendental meditation. Transcendental meditation is a modern school of a much older tradition. It is getting to no thought through thought. A Yogi of the Gnani school is in a sense an experiential scientist. They question everything including stuff we think is absurd.
Is it kind of like a teacher making a student write lines? Writing it over and over until you understand it? Well, usually no. That is usually to irritate the student into having an aversion for the activity that broke the rule.
Do they document their work? Yes, they do. Many of the texts that are considered cannon, well specifically the Pali cannon, are examples of the Gnani path. A Bhakti Yogi tends to favour ritual, a Gnani Yogi favors inquiry, a Karma Yogi is sort of a performance artist or sociologist. They focus on cause and effect. In the total philosophy of Yoga they acknowledge multiple valid paths and each is suited according to the individuals temperament.
Is the inquiry in Gnani reverent or irreverent? The path tends to be irreverent. Many of the discoveries regarding Indian medicine were arrived at by Gnani students, ayurveda and all, but though the Gnani path doesn’t preclude devotion it requires questioning everything. The element of transcendence is on all paths. In the case of the Bhakti path they devote themselves so totally to a divinity that they lose themselves. The most recent Indian saint was a Bhakti devotee and venerated Kali, the goddess of death and rebirth. He was known for entering such rapturous emotional states that he could be aware of nothing but the focus of his devotion. Swept away in love for Kali.
How was he “canonized” as a saint? It’s usually from certain signs, and it’s sort of debated. It’s not a truly organized religion, but he was apparently given to bouts of what they felt were divine insights.
Is there a Gnani saint? Pali. There have been hundreds in their total history.
Your thoughts are welcome. Be well friends.