Jnana Yoga of Brahma Vidya or the science of the Self is not a subject that can be understood and realized through mere intellectual study, reasoning, ratiocination, discussion or arguments. It is the most difficult of all sciences.
A student who treads the path of Truth must, therefore, first equip himself with Sadhana Chatushtaya - the "four means of salvation".
1. discrimination, (Viveka)
2. dispassion, (Vairagya)
3. the sixfold qualities of perfection, (Shad-Sampat )
4. and intense longing for liberation, (Mumukshutva)
Then alone will he be able to march forward fearlessly on the path. Not an iota of spiritual progress is possible unless one is endowed with these four qualifications.
These four means are as old as the Vedas and this world itself. Every religion prescribes them; the names differ from path to path but this is immaterial. Only ignorant people have the undesirable habit of practicing lingual warfare and raising unnecessary questions. Pay no attention to them. It is your duty to try to eat the fruit instead of wasting time in counting the leaves of the tree. Try now to understand these four essential requisites for salvation.
Viveka is discrimination between the real and the unreal, between the permanent and the impermanent, between the Self and the non-Self. Viveka dawns in a man through the Grace of God. The Grace can come only after one has done unceasing selfless service in countless births with the feeling that he is an instrument of the Lord and that the work is an offering to the Lord. The door to the higher mind is flung open when there is an awakening of discrimination.
There is an eternal, changeless principle amidst the ever-changing phenomena of this vast universe and the fleeting movements and oscillations of the mind.
The aspirant should separate himself also from the six waves of the ocean of Samsara - birth and death, hunger and thirst, and exhilaration and grief. Birth and death belong to the physical body; hunger and thirst belong to Prana; exhilaration and grief are the attributes of the mind. The Soul is unattached. The six waves cannot touch Brahman which is as subtle as the all-pervading ether.
Association with saints and study of Vedantic literature will infuse discrimination in man. Viveka should be developed to the maximum degree. One should be well established in it.
Vairagya is dispassion for the pleasures of this world and of heaven. The Vairagya that is born of Viveka is enduring and lasting. It will not fail the aspirant. But the Vairagya that comes temporarily to a woman when she gives birth to a child or when one attends a funeral at a crematorium, is of no use. The view that everything in the world is unreal causes indifference to the enjoyments of this world and the heaven-world also. One has to return from heaven to this plane of existence when the fruits of good works are all exhausted. Hence they are not worth striving for.
Vairagya does not mean abandoning one's social duties and responsibilities of life. It does not mean abandoning the world, for life in a solitary cave of the Himalayas. Vairagya is mental detachment from all worldly objects. One may remain in the world and discharge all duties with detachment. He may be a householder with a large family, yet at the same time he may have perfect mental detachment from everything. He can do spiritual Sadhana amidst his worldly activities. He who has perfect mental detachment in the world is a hero indeed. He is better than a Sadhu living in a Himalayan cave, for the former has to face innumerable temptations every moment of his life.
The third requisite is Shad-Sampat, the sixfold virtue. It consists of Sama, Dama, Uparati, Titiksha, Sraddha and Samadhana. All these six qualities are taken as one because they are calculated to bring about mental control and discipline, without which concentration and meditation are impossible.
1. Sama is serenity or tranquillity of mind which is brought about through the eradication of desires.
2. Dama is rational control of the senses.
3. Uparati is satiety; it is resolutely turning the mind away from desire for sensual enjoyment. This state of mind comes naturally when one has practiced Viveka, Vairagya, Sama and Dama.
4. Titiksha is the power of endurance. An aspirant should patiently bear the pairs of opposites such as heat and cold, pleasure and pain, etc.
5. Sraddha is intense faith in the word of the Guru, in Vedantic scriptures and, above all, in one's own self. It is not blind faith but is based on accurate reasoning, evidence and experience. As such, it is lasting, perfect and unshakable. Such a faith is capable of achieving anything.
6. Samadhana is fixing the mind on Brahman or the Self, without allowing it to run towards objects. The mind is free from anxiety amid pains and troubles. There is stability, mental poise and indifference amid pleasures. The aspirant has neither like nor dislikes. He has great inner strength and enjoys unruffled peace of mind, due to the practices of Sama, Dama, Uparati, Titiksha and Sraddha.
Mumukshutva is intense desire for liberation or deliverance from the wheel of births and deaths with its concomitant evils of old age, disease, delusion and sorrow. If one is equipped with the previous three qualifications (Viveka, Vairagya and Shad-Sampat), then the intense desire for liberation will come without any difficulty. The mind moves towards the Source of its own accord when it has lost its charm for external objects. When purification of mind and mental discipline are achieved, the longing for liberation dawns by itself.
The aspirant who is endowed with all these four qualification should then approach the Guru who will instruct him on the knowledge of his real nature. The Guru is one who has a thorough knowledge of the scriptures and is also established in that knowledge in direct experience. He should then reflect and meditate on the inner Self and strive earnestly to attain the goal of Self-realization.
A Sadhaka should reflect and meditate. Sravana is hearing of Srutis, Manana is thinking and reflecting, Nididhyasana is constant and profound meditation. Then comes Atma-Sakshatkara or direct realization.