- Jnana (from the root jna, “to know”) literally means “knowledge” but is better translated as “gnosis” or “realization.” Specifically, it is the knowledge of the unity between the highest real-ity, or BRAHMAN, and the individual self, or JIVATMAN. The role of jnana is developed in the philosophy of the UPANISHADS and most clearly outlined in the ADVAITA (non-dualist) philosophy of SHANKARA.Much thought and writing have focused on the nature of jnana in Indian tradition. Some see it as a cognitive function: once one understands the truth of the unity of brahman and the self intellectually, that is enough. Others require a realization of a mystic sort. VEDANTA has often been characterized as interested only in gaining jnana, but it has many paths that stress BHAKTI or devotion as the first step on the path toward the ultimate. Jnana yoga is one of the three major yogas mentioned in the BHAGAVAD GITA.Further reading: S. N. Dasgupta, History of Indian Philosophy, vols. 1 and 2 (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.