What is Jnana Marg?
This Marg (path) relies on person developing discriminating abilities to find real self and discard everything else as illusion. In order to do this person needs to master the logical reasoning (methods like “neti-neti”, not-this-not-this) and use the knowledge given in various scriptures to contemplate and find that real self within him/herself.
There two major schools of thoughts in Hinduism, Advaita and Dvaita. As per Advaita School, that real self is everywhere, in everything, and if there is a God, that is also same as that self inside you. As per Dvaita school, God is different than yourself, but your “self” is same as everything in this universe. At very high level, this is the main difference between these schools of thoughts. Due to this, Advaita school doesn’t necessarily need one to believe in God, while one still can. While Dvaita school believes God as a mandatory actor in this universe. Apart from this high level difference, the goal for life of both schools, at gross terms stays same, i.e. to find real self, which is same as everything in this universe, by cutting the bondages of form, name and shape.
A person who sees through these various physical forms, and worldly bondages, in short sees through the illusion of maya, sees the real Self/Brahman behind it. He/she is considered a Jnana yogi, and Even though living a life of normal human, is already self realized.
One way to understand this illusion of maya, the very essence of Jnana Yoga is through the story of Narada and Krishna. One day Narada came to Dwarka and asked Krishna to tell him about maya. Krishna says ok and they set out for a walk. While walking through the desert nearby, Krishna feels thirsty and asks Narada if he can get some water from nearby village. Narada goes to nearby village and knocks a door. A beautiful girl comes out and Narada asks her for water. She asks him to come inside, where Narad and that girl start talking and her parents. Knowing Narad as great Scholar, the girl’s parent put forward proposal of marriage with their daughter. Impressed with beauty and brilliance of the girl, Narad readily accepts and they get married in a quick ceremony. Girl’s father is the village king, so Narad has been crowned as a prince. As time passes by, girl’s father dies, Narad is made the new king of village, and by now he is also a father of few children. Narad is living a life of happy and content householder. After few years, Narad’s kingdom is attacked by enemy, and due to his inexperience with weapons/war Narad is defeated. He runs away from village with his wife and children. While crossing a river, Narad’s wife and Children are get drowned in the water and Narad is crying, shouting and frantically trying save them, but all in vain, he has lost everything. At this time he hears a pale voice from distance saying “Narad, when will you get water, lt has been quite a while”. By hearing Narad’s wakes up from sleep, and realizes that he just dosed off while fetching the water from Krishna, and all that marriage, children, war was just a dream, an illusion. Even though it felt real while experiencing that, but it was just an illusion. This way Narad understood the real nature of Maya.
This way the aim of Jnana Yoga is to discard everything that is illusion and to contemplate and be one with what is not illusion, i.e. Brahman/true-self, the only basic element present in this universe.
Things to take care in this path
There are few things that the voyagers of this path have to care about. One not to get tangled in the technicalities of the words on what is true and what is not; and not to be too proud of ones knowledge, spending too much time on proving others wrong, and missing on contemplating on real Brahman/self and not making own’s spititual progress.