Stages of Jnana Yoga
Non-dual practices have strict qualifications which were explained by Jagadguru Shankaracharya (the founder of nondualism) in his writing, "Vivek Chudamani":
These are called "sadhana chatushteya sampanna".
- Vivek or discrimination -- discerning between knowledge and ignorance, the real and unreal, the permanent and temporary, the self and the non-self
- Vairagya or complete detachment from all material attachments and attractions, including attachment to one's own body and bodily comforts
Dam-shamadi sampatti or six virtues
- Sham -- Controlling the mind
- Dam -- Controlling the senses
- Uparati -- Withdrawal of the senses
- Titikcha -- Tolerance
- Shraddha -- Faith in the Guru and scriptures
- Samadhan -- Single-pointed concentration
- Mumukchutva -- an intense desire for liberation
Perfecting the above stages qualifies a jnani to advance to the following stages:
- Shravan -- Properly receiving the teachings of jnana from a Guru who is a realized brahm jnani Saint
- Manan -- Conceiving this knowledge through constant remembrance
- Nididhyasan -- Practicing the this knowledge according to meditation guidelines of Yoga Darshan until the mind becomes a form of that knowledge
- Samadhi -- perfection of thoughtless, satvik meditative trance to the stage of nirvikalpa samadhi
Under the guidance of a true jnani Saint, an aspiring student of the jnana yoga is expected to meet these rigorous qualifications or he is not allowed to pursue these teachings. This is not to exercise a tyranny over the student, but to protect him from wrong consequences.
The Mandukya Upanishad (2/7) indicates how subtle and difficult it is to hold this conception of absolute truth:
But the practice of jnana is to properly conceive the absolute truth as an expansion of your self, or, to conceive your 'self' as absolute truth.
The attempts of an unqualified practitioner who is emotionally attached in the world and who has not purified and controlled his mind to conceive Divinity according to nondualism philosophy will only increase false spiritual pride. This proves a greater impediment to his spiritual progress than if he had never started his practices of jnana.
The unqualified spiritual aspirant may not see this as a dilemma, and may delight in feeling himself identical with absolute truth according to his own conception, but realized brahm jnani Saints see the obvious pitfalls for these souls and know that a subtle intellectual pride is the greatest and most deceptive obstacle on the path.
For this reason, before starting meditation, Maharishi Patanjali prescribes in his Yoga Darshan the first five steps of ashtanga yoga for achieving complete renunciation. If this renunciation is not complete, a false pride is inevitable.
Jagadguru Shankaracharya said,
Brahm vritti is a state of consciousness in which the entire world is seen as only a from of nirakar brahm (absolute truth) and the practitioner does not acknowledge any material joy or happiness.
To accomplish this, Jagadguru Shankaracharya has actually divided the last stage of nididhyasana (above) into 15 steps -- the first 12 are for developing renunciation from the world. The last 3 are for introverting the mind and starting jnana yoga meditation(dharana, dhyana, samadhi).
If this principles of jnana yoga are strictly adhered to, the jnani has the greatest chances for success in his samadhi meditation practice.