I want to get/achieve/realize/attain the Ultimate/Absolute Truth (Aatman & Brahman). And I think Jnana path is perfect for this. And I believe if one truly achieves Jnana, then one gets moksha also!.

So, I want to know complete/true understanding about Jnana i.e:

  • First of all What is Jnana?
  • How to achieve it?
  • In this post, I've read that Dhyana is primary part of it. Then How-to?

Note: I believe that among the other path (Bhakti,Karma etc.), jnana should be most effective/efficient way and other way should merge into this ultimately

Further: Do I've to follow Karma and Bhakti marg in order to achieve Jnana? Or Can I directly go for Jnana with the help of Dhyana?

Upanishad and Vedanta are source/known for knowledge/philosophy about Ultimate Reality and Jnana so, What information/knowledge is available from Upanishads/Vedanta about Jnana/Dhyana and regarding to achieving it?

  • Jnana is realizing and experiencing Brahman. It is usually obtained by Raja yoga. It is supplemented by savanna, manana and nidhidhyasasa of the upanishads, Gita and Brahma sutra.
    – user1195
    Sep 10, 2015 at 0:41
  • Upvoting your question to contribute to your reputation. Because by starting this bounty whether you get Jnana Marg or not. You will require the reputation in future for another bounties for Karma Marg and Bhakti Marg (and may be Kriya Marg).
    – iammilind
    Sep 24, 2015 at 4:45
  • Hi, what is the difference between your second q and last q?
    – Sai
    Sep 24, 2015 at 14:24
  • @Sai second question may answer by process or paths/steps in order to achieve Jnana. Whereas last question ask for co-operation/relation of Dhyana (may first step) with Jnana.
    – Pandya
    Sep 24, 2015 at 14:33
  • Please refer to this link, my friend: saibaba.org/satcharitra/sai16_17.html
    – Doraiswamy
    Oct 10, 2015 at 8:47

6 Answers 6


The path of knowledge is commonly referred to as Jnana Yoga. What is meant by Jnana depends upon the scripture being read. Oftentimes scripture will distinguish between

  • Vijnana (refers to Knowledge -meaning Realization of Brahman, Transcendent Perception of the Ultimate) and
  • Jnana (meaning mental and scriptural knowledge/understanding of Brahman, but not Realization).

Other times Jnana is simply referring to Vijnana.

Swami Vivekananda says (Complete Works, V7, p 197-198; and here under the title Conversations and Dialogues, sub-title I - XXIX, sub-sub-title XV - http://cwsv.belurmath.org/volume_7/vol_7_frame.htm):

Disciple: Sir, now you are speaking of Jnana; but sometimes you proclaim the superiority of Bhakti, sometimes of Karma, and sometimes of Yoga [meaning Raja]. This confuses our understanding.

Swamiji: Well, the truth is this. The knowledge of Brahman is the ultimate goal — the highest destiny of man. But man cannot remain absorbed in Brahman all the time. When he comes out of it, he must have something to engage himself. At that time he should do such work as will contribute to the real well-being of people. Therefore do I urge you in the service of Jivas in a spirit of oneness. But, my son, such are the intricacies of work, that even great saints are caught in them and become attached. Therefore work has to be done without any desire for results. This is the teaching of the Gita. But know that in the knowledge of Brahman there is no touch of any relation to work. Good works, at the most, purify the mind. Therefore has the commentator Shankara so sharply criticized the doctrine of the combination of Jnana and Karma. Some attain to the knowledge of Brahman by the means of unselfish work. This is also a means, but the end is the realization of Brahman. Know this thoroughly that the goal of the path of discrimination and of all other modes of practice is the realization of Brahman.

Disciple: Now, sir, please tell me about the utility of Raja-Yoga and Bhakti-Yoga.

Swamiji: Striving in these paths also some attain to the realisation of Brahman. The path of Bhakti or devotion of God is a slow process, but is easy of practice. In the path of Yoga there are many obstacles; perhaps the mind runs after psychic powers and thus draws you away from attaining your real nature. Only the path of Jnana is of quick fruition and the rationale of all other creeds; hence it is equally esteemed in all countries and all ages. But even in the path of discrimination [Jnana Yoga] there is the chance of the mind getting stuck in the interminable net of vain argumentation. Therefore along with it, meditation [Raja Yoga] should be practiced. By means of discrimination and meditation [Jnana and Raja], the goal or Brahman has to be reached. One is sure to reach the goal by practicing in this way. This, in my opinion, is the easy path ensuring quick success.

Dhyana is a stage of meditation. It is defined in Patanjali's Yoga Aphorisms and I think there are definitions given already on Hinduism SE.

The best way to achieve all of this is by finding your guru. Your guru will know what way or combination is best for you. All the great saints had their own gurus for guidance. The goal is easy to achieve with the guidance of your guru. It is said over and over in scripture to find your guru.

  • I found your answer very helpful and covered almost topic as questioned. Finally I've accepted your answer. But the last point in question "What information/knowledge is available from Upanishads/Vedanta about Jnana/Dhyana and regarding to achieving it?" is missing
    – Pandya
    Oct 6, 2015 at 12:40
  • What is mean by "But man cannot remain absorbed in Brahman all the time"?
    – Pandya
    Oct 12, 2015 at 15:01
  • It can be interpreted from a higher and a lower level. From a higher level, a person who becomes absorbed in Brahman (nirvikalpa samadhi) all the time gives up the body, his being dissolves into Brahman. From a lower level a person who is studying and meditating on Brahman cannot do so 24 hours a day, and will have time to do other things, so Swamiji is suggesting that helping other beings - in an unattached manner - is a noble cause that will also help in Realization. Oct 13, 2015 at 5:19
  • @SwamiVishwananda '....Shankara so sharply criticized the doctrine of the combination of Jnana and Karma' .Could you please explain what does it mean to mix jnana and karma? Apr 29, 2016 at 7:07
  • I've added couple of verses from Adhyatma Ramayana citing Jnana and Vijnana.
    – Pandya
    Dec 15, 2017 at 11:47

Good question sir. Here is an advaita view on this. According to this view, the jiva and Paramatma are one.


Jnana means wisdom. Wisdom of what? Wisdom of your own True Nature is Jnana.

You are not this body, nor are you the mind, nor the intellect, nor the individual ego. You are the Brahman, God.

Adi Shankaracharya's Nirvana Shatakam

Mano-Buddhy-Ahangkaara Cittaani Naaham

Na Ca Shrotra-Jihve Na Ca Ghraanna-Netre

Na Ca Vyoma Bhuumir-Na Tejo Na Vaayuh

Cid-Aananda-Ruupah Shivo[a-A]ham Shivo[a-A]ham ||1||

Neither am I the Mind nor Intelligence or Ego,

Neither am I the organs of Hearing (Ears), nor that of Tasting (Tongue), Smelling (Nose) or Seeing (Eyes),

Neither am I the Sky, nor the Earth, Neither the Fire nor the Air,

I am the Ever Pure Blissful Consciousness; I am Shiva, I am Shiva,

Knowing this is Jnana.

Jnana is not different from self-realization or Moksha.

Thus in order to obtain Jnana, one follows Jnana Yoga.

What is Jnana Yoga?

Jnana Yoga is the path by which one tries to experience Himself as He is, without any impurities or falsehood.

Self-enquiry is the way to practice Jnana Yoga.

Daily question ourself Who am I really? Am I this body? Am I this mind? Am I something else?

Who is meditating right now? Who is the one that thinks? What exists in between two thoughts? What is that Reality that is there even in sleep, waking and dreaming state of consciousness?

Sri Ramana Maharishi on self-enquiry, the sword called 'Who Am I?'

The thought ‘who am I?’ will destroy all other thoughts, and like the stick used for stirring the funeral pyre, it will itself be burnt up in the end. Then, there will be Self-realization. When other thoughts arise, one should not pursue them but should diligently inquire: ‘To whom do they occur?’ It does not matter how many thoughts arise. As each thought arises, one should inquire with alertness, “To whom has this thought arisen?” The answer that would emerge would be “to me”. Thereupon if one inquires “Who am I?” the mind will go back to its source; and the thought that arose will subside.

This is Jnana Yoga.

Jnana is not book knowledge or reading books

Jnana is knowledge through experience and not bookish knowledge. Thus one cannot become a Jnani by simply reading all scriptures, one actually has to put these principles into practice and thereby realize the Truth.

Sri Swami Sivananda on Jnana Yoga

The Jnana-Yogin realises that Brahman is the Life of his life, the Soul of his soul. He feels and knows that God is his own Self. He realises that he is one with the Eternal through spiritual insight or intuition, Aparoksha Anubhuti or divine perception, but not through mere study of books or dogmas or theories. Religion is realisation for him now. It is not mere talk. He plunges himself in the deep recesses of his heart through constant and intense meditation—Nididhyasana—and gets the wonderful pearl of Atman, a wonderful treasure much more valuable than all the wealth of the world.

Jnana is not mere intellectual knowledge. It is not hearing or acknowledging. It is not mere intellectual assent. It is direct realisation of oneness or unity with the Supreme Being. It is Para Vidya. Intellectual conviction alone will not lead you to Brahma-Jnana (Knowledge of the Absolute).

Examples of Jnanis

  • Swami Vivekananda
  • Sri Ramana Maharishi
  • Sri Adi Shankaracharya

All the best.

  • You should mention somewhere that this is the Advaita view. In other philosophies, self-inquiry is insufficient to attain Moksha through Jnana Yoga, because you and Brahman are both real but not identical. Sep 9, 2015 at 20:50
  • By the way, regarding Ramana Maharshi, do you know any of his works which are actually his own words? Because "Who am I" was written by someone who asked him a bunch of questions. Ramana Maharshi responded in sign language, and the guy wrote down what he thought Ramana Maharshi probably meant, and he showed it to Ramana Maharshi who signed off on it. But are there other works where the words are actually his? Sep 9, 2015 at 21:03
  • @KeshavSrinivasan Yeah there is the book 'Talks with Ramana Maharishi' where Bhagavan Ramana answers questions. :) Yes you are right, this is the advaita view.
    – Sai
    Sep 10, 2015 at 13:11
  • 1
    @iammilind You may be interested in the Chandogya Upanishad chapter quoted here. Uddalaka Aruni says "In the beginning, my dear, there was that only which is, one only, without a second. Others say, in the beginning there was that only which is not, one only, without a second; and from that which is not, that which is was born. But how could it be thus, my dear? ... How could that which is, be born of that which is not? No, my dear, only that which is, was in the beginning, one only, without a second. It thought, may I be many, may I grow forth." Sep 24, 2015 at 15:41
  • 1
    @iammilind Well said buddy! The nothingness that is being spoken of is not absence of existence :). But it is absence of all attributes. it is called as Nirguna. The Pure Consciousness AKA Awareness also called as Brahman, remains in all states. The Mandukya Upanishad is a short upanishad with 12 verses. In these 12 verses it talks about this 'nothing-ness' or absence of duality. The Mandukya Upanishad says that the Silence that pervades this Universe is the Real 'I' and it has no qualities. It is the purest of the purest states. If ever you are interested you can go through all the best
    – Sai
    Sep 24, 2015 at 16:04

Jnana or Jivanmukti is a state wherein, all the perceptions of duality is removed and the non-dual alone remains. In Isha Upanishad a Jnani is defined as a person "who perceives his Self in all objects and all objects in his Self/Atman"

Basically, Atma-Jnana or Brahma-Jnana means, realizing first-hand that one's true identity is not body or mind, but is Innermost Self or Atman which is non-difference from Brahman/God. This realization is difference from philosophical or rational understandings.

Please read these two blogposts I ahve written for more clarity- Notes on Moksha- https://nithinsridhar.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/random-musings-part-29-notes-on-moksha/ Paroksha and Aparoksha Jnana- https://nithinsridhar.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/random-musings-part-28-paroksha-and-aparosksha-jnana/

How to attain Moksha requires an elaborate answer. To attain Jnana, one must practice Vichara. Vichara means, Self-enquiry. It is not rational inquiry, though it is also a part. Vichara includes, Sravana, Manana, and Niddhidhyasa i.e. hearing, intellectualizing, and then meditating on the meaning of Upanishad instructions.

But, before you practice that, you must have attained required competencies like Dispassion, Sense control, Discrimination etc. that are termed as "Sadhana Chatushtaya."

So, the first question is, do you have viveka and vairagya? If yes, then you should approach a Guru and take Sannyasa. If you dont have vairagya/dispassion and are still attached to worldly pleasures, then you should practice Karma and Bhakti. You should practice both your Sva-dharma, as well as Bhakti or Yoga etc.

These practice help in cleansing the mind and imparting dispassion etc.

So, in a sense path of Jnana first begins in Karma and Bhakti. You must practice your duties, live by dharma, and practice Bhakti sincerely.

For more read these- 1. Jnana, Bhakti and Karma- https://nithinsridhar.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/jnana-bhakti-and-karma/ 2. Two ways of performing actions- https://nithinsridhar.wordpress.com/2012/12/09/the-two-ways-of-performing-action/

  • nithinsridhar.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/jnana-bhakti-and-karma is appreciable! Can you say more about Dhyana-Jnana?
    – Pandya
    Sep 28, 2015 at 16:06
  • Dhyana is included in Bhakti, Raja Yoga as well as Jnana. Sep 28, 2015 at 17:26
  • What about Do I've to follow Karma and (especially) Bhakti marg in order to achieve Jnana? Or Can I directly go for Jnana with the help of Dhyana?
    – Pandya
    Oct 1, 2015 at 14:18
  • Without Karma and Bhakti, there cannot be any purification of mind. And without purification, its very difficult to practice even dhyana, let alone Jnana marga, Oct 1, 2015 at 16:18
  • 1
    Without purification of mind (which is gained by practicing karma), one cannot practice even Dhyana/Raja Yoga. And Bhakti which is nothing but Upasana is also necessary to attain one-pointed concentration, without which again Raja-Yoga cannot be practiced! Hence, practicing one's duties and devotion are important irrespective of the path. Oct 7, 2015 at 4:44

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 is a good starting point.

See: Chapter 4 text and commentaries by 4 renowned Vaishnava Sampradayas Video Lectures on Chapter 4 of Bhagavad Gita

To get the gist of it see these series of videos by Swami Sarvapriyananda of Ramakrishna Mission: Message of the Upanishads and Who am I? videos


The clearest statement of Jnana that I have come across is that of Yudhisthira in Mahabharata:

There are two well-known paths (for us), viz, the path of the Pitris and the path of the gods. They that perform sacrifices go by the Pitri-path, while they that are for salvation, go by the god-path. By penances, by Brahmacharya, by study (of the Vedas), the great Rishis, casting off their bodies, proceed to regions that are above the power of death. Worldly enjoyments have been styled as bonds. They have also been called action. Liberated from these two sins (viz, bonds and action) one attains to the highest end. ….As a person on the hill-top looketh down upon men on the plain below, so he that has got up on the top of the mansion of knowledge, seeth people grieving for things that do not call for grief. He, however, that is of foolish understanding, does not see this. He who, casting his eyes on visible things, really seeth them, is said to have eyes and understanding. The faculty called understanding is so called because of the knowledge and comprehension it gives of unknown and incomprehensible things. He who is acquainted with the words of persons that are learned, that are of cleansed souls, and that have attained to a state of Brahma, succeeds in obtaining great honours. When one seeth creatures of infinite diversity to be all one and the same to be but diversified emanations from the same essence, one is then said to have attained Brahma. Those who reach this high state of culture attain to that supreme and blissful end, and not they who are without knowledge, or they who are of little and narrow souls, or they who are bereft of understanding, or they who are without penances. Indeed, everything rests on the (cultivated) understanding!’

Mahabharata Santi Parva Section XVII

The bolded sentence which says essentially that Brahman is the sole independent essence is what is called Jnana.

How can one obtain the experience of Jnana? Again the clearest statement is given in Mahabharata in a conversation between Ashtaka and Yayati:

Ashtaka asked, 'Who amongst these, O king, both exerting constantly like the Sun and the Moon, first attaineth to communion with Brahma, the ascetic or the man of knowledge?'
Yayati answered, 'The wise, with the help of the Vedas and of Knowledge, having ascertained the visible universe to be illusory, instantly realizes the Supreme Spirit as the sole existent independent essence. While they that devote themselves to Yoga meditation take time to acquire the same knowledge, for it is by practice alone that these latter divest themselves of the consciousness of quality. Hence the wise attain to salvation first. Then again if the person devoted to Yoga finds not sufficient time in one life to attain success, being led astray by the attraction of the world, in his next life he is benefitted by the progress already achieved,…...' (Mahabharata, Adi Parva XCII)

There are 2 methods to acquire Jnana. The path of Jnana Yoga is supposed to give instant illumination. The disciple acquires Jnana as soon as he is initiated in one of the 4 maha vakyas. The other method is the Yogic path of krama mukti where one has to meditate and do Japa to gradually get Jnana. The Yogic path might be Bhakti Yoga or Karma Yoga or Mantra Yoga etc.


In the Bhagavad Gita Arjuna Enquires from Bhagavan who is perfect? Whether a person engaged in devotional service to him or those who worship the impersonal brahman.

Then Lord replied that "mayy avesya mano ye mam nitya-yukta upasate sraddhaya parayopetas te me yuktatama matah"

He whose mind is fixed on My personal form, always engaged in worshiping Me with great and transcendental faith, is considered by Me to be most perfect.

Here lord clearly says that Bhakti yoga or those engaged in devotional service is considered to be perfect.

And again in the slokas 6-7 of Chapter 12 lord clarified that

"For one who worships Me, giving up all his activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, who has fixed his mind upon Me, O son of Pṛthā, for him I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death." So those engaged in devotional process are quick to attain moksha(or the cycle of samsara).

In the sloka 12 of chapter 12 Bhagavan compared the processes of attaining the supreme. "sreyo hi jnanam abhyasaj jnanad dhyanam visisyate dhyanat karma-phala-tyagas tyagac chantir anantaram"

If you cannot take to this practice, then engage yourself in the cultivation of knowledge. Better than knowledge, however, is meditation, and better than meditation is renunciation of the fruits of action, for by such renunciation one can attain peace of mind.

So if you can fix your mind upon the Bhagavan Lord krishna(absorption of mind on the lotus feet of the lord) you are sure to attain him (like many Bhakti saints and acharyas) , if you cannot fix your mind then practice the regulations of bhakti yoga, if you are unable to do it then work for him you will attain that perfect stage, if you are unable to do that also try to renounce the fruits of action and be self-situated.

Finally, Jnana gives you the knowledge of the absolute but the realization or experience of the absolute comes through unflinching devotion or Bhakti yoga.

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