What is Vijñāna Yoga?
According to the great Vedanta philosopher Śankara, vijñāna is a deep understanding or knowing that cannot come about merely through outer knowledge, that we receive through a teacher, or a spiritual textual tradition. Rather it is an inner clarity that is revealed through personal experience. Ramakrishna continues thus:
The awareness and conviction that fire exists in wood is jñāna (knowledge). But to cook rice on that fire, eat the rice and get nourishment from it is vijñāna.
The yoga practice coming from such inner knowledge and clarity allied to the guiding principles – relaxing the body, quieting the mind, focusing through intent, rooting, connecting, awareness of breathing and expanding –allows us to go deeper within and from that place we see, feel, understand and act skillfully.
Vijñāna, - the act of distinguishing or discerning, understanding, recognizing, intelligence, knowledge, skill, art, science.
(Monier Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary, p. 961)
Verily, different from and within the sheath consisting of mind (manas) is the atma consisting of vijñāna (understanding). This has the form of a person…
Faith (śraddhā) is its head,
Order (rta) is its right side.
Truth (satya) is its left side.
Yoga is its body.
The Great Intelligence (mahat) is its lower part, the foundation.
(Taittrīya Upanishad II.41)
At the stage of mind (manas), we accept authority which is external.At the stage of vijñāna, internal growth is affected. We develop faith, order, truthfulness and union with the supreme.
(from S. Radhakrishnan’s commentary on the Taittrīya Upanishad)
As directly as the physical vision sees and grasps the appearance of objects, so and far more directly does the gnosis (vijñāna) sees and grasps the truth of things.
(Śri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, page 463)