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A mundane interpretation of ज्ञान योग [Gyan Yog]


Today is International Yoga day - a day on which the whole world 'celebrates' the ancient practice of Yog / Yoga, albeit in a much-simplified form as a mere 'exercise' regimen. Unlike its popular format - the Hath Yoga - the term Yoga denotes a set of practices which can be used by a human being to take the path of salvation - Moksha [मोक्ष].

Background

There are mainly three pathways to salvation - Karm Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Gyan Yoga. The three paths are not mutually exclusive. Karm yoga is the path of unselfish action without being attached to the fruits or consequences - the path taught by Lord Krishna in the Bhagwad Gita. Bhakti Yoga is about attaining salvation through extreme devotion towards a god - some examples are those of Meera and Varkari devotees of Bhagwaan Vitthal in Maharashtra. [You can look up more on these online - a lot of information is available on Wikipedia and blogs about these]

Gyan Yoga means that one can achieve salvation by gaining knowledge of God. A deeper exploration of Gyan Yoga, however, would indicate that it's not the knowledge of God but rather knowledge of reality which is being sought by the individual under the practices of Gyan Yoga. Knowledge leads to 'awareness', which ultimately leads to 'self-awareness' - which is the ultimate attainment of Moksha. 

Conjecture 

Apart from being the International Yoga day, today was also an Annular Solar Eclipse. As I watched the news coverage with a dual emphasis of how Astronomers and Astrologers were camped jointly under a tent on the banks of Brahm Kund to study the eclipse - I had a realisation that while spiritual awakening is a much complex ultimate objective, one could interpret Gyan Yoga in a much more mundane way. While spiritual awakening or Moksha is about 'self-realization', one can interpret 'Gyan' or knowledge as the pathway to mundane  'realisations'; and just like spiritual-awakening can liberate us spiritually, mundane realisations would liberate us from fear, uncertainties or doubts of our daily struggles.

Substance

Take the example of Solar eclipse itself - millennia/centuries ago when we humans didn't know much about the phenomenon of Eclipses, we feared them. Several superstitions were promulgated in the name of an Eclipse and other related phenomena. Rather than actively look forward to the opportunity to observe such seemingly rare celestial events, we feared its occurrence. Knowledge / Gyan however, has empowered us, liberated us from the fear and delivered us into this age of 'enlightenment' when we understand and appreciate the Eclipse - we marvel at the heavenly event unfolding right in front of us; we thank our stars for being born in a Solar System and an age when we can experience this phenomenon. 

Another such example struck me when I was watching a web-series. As a child, adolescent or even until my 20s when I used to watch movies or TV series with graphic or disturbing content, it used to create havoc in my sleep sequence for days. No, I didn't get nightmares but my mind used to wander endlessly into the known / unknown possibilities, motives and outcomes that these sequences could have on the storyline. In some cases, though after a lot of mental deliberation I would realise that these events were avoidable and had little or no bearing on the plot or story.

Then, a few years back, I went through an online course about storytelling. It included a section on how movie makers and scriptwriters deliberately insert plot twists or shock events after the entire script has been written, to create a sense of jounce in their presentation. These shocks come in the form of sudden violence, sexual scenes or gory depiction of other excesses such as gluttony or greed. These shocks are created to make the viewer remember the plot, though these events could as well have been absent from the plot itself without changing the outcomes in any way. 

So this time, when I was watching this web-series, I was conscious of this adulteration in the plot. Whenever such shock events occurred I sensed them instantly - I would even skip some of them forward [thanks to streaming!! :-) wouldn't have been possible on live TV].  I did not have the fear of 'missing out' some key detail of the plot so as to impact my understanding of the storyline because I knew now that these plot twists had been inserted for a different reason. So this knowledge, this gyan liberated me to watch the movie / web series in a peaceful and qualitatively better method.

Yet another example of how knowledge liberates you is when you start seeing the political upheavals through the prism of time. This is one reason why the young are more emotionally charged with political events than the old. The old people have seen the sequence of political manipulations umpteen number of times and they know how things turn up just fine or just as earlier irrespective of how microscopic events unfold. Knowledge gained through experience of being the audience to earlier political theatre liberates them from the uncertainty or doubt [and in some cases the hope] which the young often get swayed by.

Summarising, while I am not sure how really Gyan Yoga liberates the soul, enlightens it and leads it towards a larger spiritual awakening or salvation / Moksha; I am reasonably enlightened today about the more mundane role knowledge plays in liberating us from our FUDs - Fears, Uncertainties and Doubts, which keep us away from peaceful existence in our daily lives.


Image Source: Bekir Dönmez from Unplash 

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