Jnana-Yoga - The Way of Knowledge (An Analytical Interpretation)

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Item Code: IDD190
Author: Ramakrishna Puligandla
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 1997
ISBN: 8124600880
Pages: 155
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8" X 5.8"
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Book Description

From the Jacket:

Jnana-yoga or "The Path of Knowledge" is one of the four central paths to knowledge of man and the world and realization of the ultimate reality as obtained in the ancient religious and philosophical traditions of India. It is the way of overcoming doubt through the exercise and development of the buddhi (the discriminative intellect). The roots of this tradition are traced to the glorious Upanisads; and the earliest Jnana-yogis are none other than the Upanisadic rsis themselves. In this book, the author presents the fundamental insights of Jnana-Yoga based upon the teachings of two of the most prominent Jnana yogis - Sankara, the Hindu Philosopher, poet and mystic and Nagarjuna, the Buddhist philosopher and patriarh.

A result of Prof. Puligandla's theoretical and experimental study of their teachings for over three decades, the book systematically discusses in clear and unambiguous terms three central principles of Jnana-yoga, namely, the Principle of Superimpisition; the Principle of Dependent Origination; and the Principle of Two Truths. The broad-based approach of this work is evident in many ways as, for instance, in its use of the principles of modern science to illustrate the ideas of Jnana-yoga and discussion of concepts of the western philosophical tradition as well.

The book would immensely aid scholars of religious-philosophical traditions as well as students studying Indian traditional systems of thought.

About the Author:

Ramakrishna Puligandla is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toledo USA. He has received a B.S. degree in physics and an M.S. degree in applied physics from the Andhra University in Waltair, India and an M.S. degree in physics from the Purdue University in the US. His academic achievements in philosophy include an A.M. degree in philosophy from the University of South Dakota and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Rice University. His areas of speciality are logic, philosophy of science, and comparative philosophy and religion, with emphasis upon the Indian and Western traditions. Dr. Puligandla, Fulbright visiting professor in India in 1992, has written ten books and over seventy scholarly papers. Associated with many institutions and journals, he is a member of the American Philosophical Association, assistant editor of The Philosopher's Index and consultant and reviewer for Choice, a publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries.


One of the most fundamental problems of our times is that of coming to realize the unity underlying the multitude of fragmenting images we have of reality and ourselves. The great tensions within each of us that fracture our being and consume our energies in anxiety and self-doubt, as well as the political tensions in the world that threaten our whole species with extinction, are rooted in our failure to realize that beneath all of these differences is a single, unifying reality. Although the most profound wisdom of both the East and the West has proclaimed this underlying unity, human life has, for the most part, been lived in ignorance of this truth. The reasons we have ignored the deepest truth of our being are many, but they all rest on the assumption that all knowledge is dualistic, that it operates on the level of the subject-object dichotomy. Experience is thought to be impossible unless there is an experiencing subject separate from the objects to be experienced.

The merit of this book is that its author not only recognizes the possibility of a self-revealing non-dual consciousness that grounds all knowledge at the lower, subject-object level, but that he argues for his view. Entering into the discussion at the subject-object level, he analyzes the nature of this kind of knowledge, showing that its nature is that of a construction imposed on reality, rather than simply a revealing of what is really there. Because all dualistic knowledge is constructed by means of categories imposed on reality by the knower, dualistic knowledge, by itself, never reveals the existence of the deeper, underlying reality. But reflecting on the nature of dualistic knowledge points to the presence of something on which knowledge constructions can be imposed.

If dualistic knowledge were the only kind of knowledge possible we could not go beyond the mere possibility of a deeper reality in which it is grounded; what this deeper reality is should remain forever unknown. A kind of phenomenology of consciousness, however, as practised in yoga, reveals a consciousness beyond the level of mind and its objects. Stilling the movements of mind, yoga enables the deeper reality of unified consciousness to present itself directly, without meditaion, by mind or through mental objects. Although this higher, non-dual, knowledge cannot be described (precisely because it is non-dualistic) it is thoroughly experiential and therefore self-certifying, beyond the possibility of doubt.

In presenting this analysis of ordinary knowledge and the reasons for insisting on a higher, non-dual knowledge, the author helps us re-think not only the nature of hum an knowledge, but the nature of existence itself. He shows us a deeper ontological foundation of existence, a foundation that reveals communion and coexistence to be more fundamental than differences and strife. Herein we find reasons to use the dualistic knowledge provided by science for higher purposes, to enable us to dwell in the great family of existence in a spirit of compassion, sharing in the life we have in common, the life that grounds all existence. Whether you agree with the author's conclusions or not, his analyses and arguments are sure to stimulate you into deeper thought about the nature and conditions of knowledge and life.


Janana Yoga, The Way of Knowledge, is an ancient discipline and is one of the four principal paths to knowledge of man and the world and self-knowledge and the realization of ultimate reality. Although self-knowledge and insight into ultimate reality have been pursued by man throughout recorded history, it is in the religio-philosophical traditions of India that the path of knowledge had been systematically formulated and perfected over at least two millennia. The roots of Janana-yoga are traceable as far back as the Upanisads; and it is no exaggeration to say that the Upanisadic rsis - sages, seers, enlightened ones - are among the earliest of Janana-yogins. Needless to say, the Buddha is a master of the path of knowledge.

Drawing inspiration from the Upanisads and the Vedanta- Sutra of Badarayana, Sankara (AD 7-8), the most renowned Hindu philosopher, poet, mystic, and saint, formulated the central insights of Jnana-yoga into a system known as Advaita—Vedanta (non-dualistic Vedanta). And Nagarjuna (AD 1-2), the great Buddhist philosopher and patriarch, inspired by the profound teachings of the Buddha, in particular the Doctrine of Dependent Origination, expressed the fundamental insights of Janana-yoga in his celebrated works which form the foundation of Madhyamaka Buddhism (The Middle Way). The most famous of these works is the Mula-madhyamaka-karika.

The present work is based upon the teachings of these two Janana-yogins. I have studied their teachings both from theoretical and experimental standpoints for over three decades now; accordingly, this book represents my own study, reflection, and practice.

What is the reason for my writing this book? The main reason is that, although there are many works, both major and minor, on the other three paths as well as on Advaita- Vedanta and Madhyamaka Buddhism, there are few works which deal with the fundamental insights of Janana-yoga as such. It is thus the chief objective of this book to clearly present and discuss what I construe to be the essential insights of Janana Yoga, which may be expressed as the following three principles: the Principle of Superimposition, the Principle of Dependent Origination, and the Principle of Two Truths. I have endeavoured to state these principles in a clear and straightforward manner and systematically discuss their significance as well as that of their consequences. And in order to facilitate understanding on the part of Western readers, I have employed, wherever beneficial and appropriate, the concepts and terminology of the Western philosophical tradition - for example, categorial framework, analytic truth, contingent truth, necessary truth; in addition, I have drawn upon modern science to illustrate some of the concepts and ideas of Janana-yoga. And in order to familiarize the reader with the terminology of Janana-yoga, I have supplied in parentheses Sanskrit terms.

Janana-yoga, unlike many other philosophies, is not a merely logico-analytic or speculative inquiry which has no bearing upon our lives and experience. On the contrary, Janana-yoga includes in itself as an integral component experimental investigation, many methods and procedures of which are drawn from Raja-yoga, the yoga of psycho-physiological investigation. In other words, the theoretical-logico-analytic - part of Janana-yoga is based upon certain indubitable facts of our experience, our modes of being. For this reason, certain claims of Janana-yoga can only be certified through experimental inquiry. That is, for Janana-yoga, mere internal consistency is not enough; in addition, the inquiry should be securely grounded in our experiential base. Although the experimental part of Janana- yoga has no counterpart in the Western tradition, it shares certain methods and goals with phenomenology, a contemporary Western school of philosophy, founded by the German thinker Edmund Husserl, at the turn of the century. I shall therefore briefly explicate the notion of phenomenology.

Simply put, phenomenology, as a method of philosophic inquiry, consists of systematic investigation of the variety of modes of human consciousness. That is, a phenomenologist is one who carefully studies and faithfully describes the various states of human consciousness. What does it mean to describe a state of consciousness? To describe a state of consciousness is to describe the contents of consciousness - objects of consciousness - faithfully and in a detailed manner. Anything may be an object of consciousness, a so-called physical object, an emotion, a thought, an idea, a mental image, a dream, a hallucination, and so on. That is, insofar as phenomenological inquiry is concerned, anything, whether called 'physical' or 'psychological', can be an object of consciousness. The purpose of phenomenological investigation, then, is to provide a catalog of descriptions of the various states of human consciousness; such a catalog is indeed the phenomenological data, which serve as the basis for analytic inquiry.

When someone makes a claim about a certain state of consciousness, he should tell us as to how he came to make the claim and what one is to do in order to determine the truth or falsity of the claim. It is in this manner that phenomenological investigation is essential for the pursuit of Janana-yoga. Let me illustrate this point. Suppose that someone claimed that there is a state of consciousness without objects, and another countered by saying that there is no such state, because it is simply impossible. How is one to settle this dispute which concerns an extremely significant point? Mere definitional arguments, no matter how meticulous and elegant, are of no avail here; what is needed is a procedure by which to determine the truth or falsity of the claim and thereby settle the dispute. It is worth emphasizing that the thinker who denies the existence of objectless consciousness should also tell us how he came to know that such a state of consciousness is impossible and therefore does not and cannot exist. If neither party is able to provide us with any experimental procedure by which to determine the truth of his claim, we are entitled to reject both claims as dogmatic and groundless, and the fact remains that one of the two claims must be true and the other must be false; and any serious inquirer will look for methods or devise some to determine the truth or falsity of the claims.

It is thus clear that phenomenological investigation is part and parcel of Janana-yoga. At this point, it is to be noted that, although we have described the experimental procedures of Janana-yoga as 'phenomenology', phenomenology as done in the West is elementary compared to Raja-yoga, the source of various techniques of Janana-yoga, It is most unfortunate and disappointing that Western phenomenology is almost exclusively talk with little or no actual phenomenological investigation. In keen contrast, Raja-yoga is an extraordinarily rich phenomenological discipline, in that it investigates not only the various states of consciousness that form the bulk of our everyday life, but also formulates methods and procedures by which to bring about specific states of consciousness far from the ordinary and everyday. Such procedures enable us to bring about states of consciousness in a controlled fashion, and controlled experimentation is at the heart of all rational-scientific inquiry. And insofar as Janana-yoga employs the experimental techniques of Raja-yoga, in conjunction with rigorous logico-analytic inquiry, Janana-yoga is unquestionably rational and scientific.

Now to the inevitable question: Is Janana-yoga mysticism? Is there anything mystical about Jnana-yoga? It is common knowledge that the terms 'mysticism' and 'mystical' are notoriously ambiguous and mean almost anything one wants. Nevertheless, there is a core meaning of 'mysticism', acknowledged by various scholars as a result of systematic and detailed study of the writings of mystics of different times and climes. The core meaning may be expressed as follows: A mystic is one who has attained insight into ultimate reality, by realizing his identity with ultimate reality. This insight results in his feeling at one with all existence; in a word, the mystic sees himself in everything and all things in himself. That is, the mystic is wholly free of every form of alienation and is fully at home with the world.



  Foreword vii
  Preface ix
  Acknowledgments xix
1. Introduction: An Outline of the Four Paths 1
2. The Essentials of Jnana-yoga 11
3. Implications and Significance 73
4. Conclusion 117
  Bibliography 135

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