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Understanding Jnana and Karma Yoga

Ancient Hindu Scriptures taught Sankhya and Yoga. Sankhya is knowledge (jnana). Yoga is action (karma). Many men separate the two. But the true yogi does not divide them. The two are inseparable.

Jnana and karma yoga are in harmony: there is no conflict between the two. There is only a question o discipline. One man has the discipline of jnana: another has the discipline of karma. Those who follow the discipline of jnana are called Sankhyas. Those who follow the discipline of nishkama karma (selfless action) are called Karma yogis.

Jnana Yoga is also called Sanyasa Yoga because true jnana leads to sanyasa. Adi Shankaracharya in his commentary on Gita urges that a true jnani must be a sanyasi. But to be a sanyasi does not mean to be homeless. The Gita teaches that true sanyasa is not outer but inner renunciation of desires. Raja Janaka lived in a palace, but was non-attached. He was a jnani and practiced sanyasa.

Jnana Yoga, sanyasa yoga and sankhya yoga are synonymous. The terms are interchangeable.

As per Hindu saints, jnana does not mean book knowledge. A jnani is not a bookworm. A man may quote from books which he has read but he may not have jnana. Jnana is direct perception. A true jnani is a rishi, a seer. He sees truth. He is not a mere reporter. He does not talk by hearsay. He speaks because he sees and feels. He has sakshatkara or direct perception.

Jnana is not gathered from books, but from inner life. Jnana means self realization. Hence the value of silence. Wisdom comes in hours of illuminated silence. The more we cultivate the habit of silence, the more we gather wisdom.

Jnana is culture of meditation : karma is culture of will. Both lead to wisdom. Karma of the right type, action which seeks no fruit, no reward, is a means to wisdom.

Source The Bhagavad Gita: The Song of Life – Sadhu Vaswani – Page 120 and 121 – an explanation to Gita Chapter 3 verse 3.