Jnana Yoga

These four paths are interrelated and any individual practicing any discipline within any of those paths will also end up practicing some elements of the other three. But the degree to which the other three paths will influence the practice of any particular discipline will also depend on each individual's natural predisposition.

In my case, given my natural skeptical approach to most things I perceive, I was easily caught in the practice of Jnana Yoga from the moment I first read about it. There are basically two main exponent individuals within the Jnana Yoga discipline: Shankaracharya and Ramana Maharshi. I first found out about Ramana's teachings and then I read about Shankara's. Ramana gave me the key to Realize the Self, the Atma Vichara, and Shankara sharpened my mind and my resolve to use that key.

The Atma Vichara is also known as "Self Inquiry" and, when it comes to the application of Ramana's teachings, I cannot think of a better term to define the method he prescribes. The Atma Vichara prescribes precisely a constant inquiry into our minds as to who or what is the real essence of our consciousness. In constantly asking the question "Who Am I," not as a Mantra, but with the fervent one-pointed desire to unveil our real " I ", seriously dedicated inquirers will sooner or later get beyond their day-to-day consciousness and will attain that consciousness which is always underlying everything we think, say, hear, do, or see (to read more about the Atma Vichara please click here).

In my case, it took me three years of intensive practice to Realize the Self.

To Realize the Self is to Realize that the core consciousness which is the basis of everything that exists in the Universe is of exactly the same nature as the underlying consciousness who constantly witnesses everything we think and perceive. This perennial witness is usually referred to as the Atman. The Atman is also the witness to everything we may dream while asleep. To realize the Self, therefore, is to Realize that we constantly ARE that Universal Consciousness known as the "Self." It is also when we attain the "Self" that we realize that our day-to-day consciousness is nothing but a spurious superimposition over the real Eternal Consciousness which we always are.

To Realize the Self is to Be the Eternal Universal Consciousness which is the Atman and to Be the Atman is to Be the Eternal Universal Consciousness which is the Self.

This brings me to explain the concept of the Atman or Ankh, which is also known as "The Breath of Life." The Atman is the "individual" Eternal Consciousness, or Samsarin, that travels from one body to another as it reincarnates according to its own cycle of evolution. This Atman, so often mentioned in Yoga literature, is the same Ankh found in Egyptian Symbology and has its equivalent in Christian Theology in the idea of the Soul.

The Self and the Atman are one and the same, but, in some mystical way, they are somehow separated from each other, like a "Father" separated from the "Son." The Eternal Consciousness which is the Substance of the Atman, is exactly the same Eternal Consciousness which is the Substance of the Self, except that the Atman-Consciousness is mysteriously enveloped in a layer of individuality that somehow allows it to acquire particular clusters of characteristics within the Universality of the Self.

Those particular characteristics that the Atman acquires across time are what determines its own individual cycle of incarnation and evolution. These acquired characteristics are also the ones that manifest themselves as the innate tendencies that prompt all living beings to act in one way or another, thereby generating the different kinds of Karma that keep them reincarnating (For more details about the Atman, please click here.)

In Realizing the Self, I melted my human consciousness into the Eternal Consciousness of the Atman which is exactly the same as the Eternal Consciousness of the Self, thereby Realizing what my true Universal Identity is. In so doing I completed the Cycle which first sends the Atman into a state of individual consciousness and finally allows it to consciously come back into Itself after myriad years of Karmic evolution.

It is worth noticing that for the Atman to complete its Karmic cycle it needs the aid of a human incarnation, as human beings are the only beings on this planet with the intellectual capability to reflect upon themselves. Without the help of this kind of introspective means from the part of an "external" consciousness, the Atman would be unable to Self-Realize Itself.

There comes a time, however, when the Atman is able or is entitled to choose a reincarnation that possesses the necessary kind of intellectual depth and the required level of introspective ability to attain direct knowledge of Itself. Having reincarnated in an individual possessing such characteristics, the Atman is able to Realize Itself, thereby eventually attaining Liberation from the recurring Karmic cycles.

To Realize the Self, therefore, is just the act of consciously going back to being that which we have always been.

Once the main concepts related to these writings have been clarified, I will now relate to you the short story of how I came into the Realization of The Self through the constant practice of the Atma Vichara. Before I do that, however, I would like to add that, in looking back at my humble existence, it is quite clear for me to see that all the steps I may have taken and all the roads I may have chosen across the span of my life, have all been merely part of the pre-designed script handed to me on the day I was born and that all that I have done, consciously or unconsciously, is to follow the path I was ordained to follow, which has thus far led me to the Realization of the Self and which, in less time than the blink of an eye, will inexorably lead me into Eternal Liberation.

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