Question: Is there a distinction between Buddhi Yoga and Jnana Yoga, or there is none?
There is a distinction. Buddhi Yoga, (we had already seen in the 2nd chapter, in which the practise is much simpler, not as elaborate as here in Raja Yoga), Buddhi yoga insists upon your intellect to arrive at a point where it can discriminate between the Real and the unreal. You remember the 2nd chapter starts with the statement of the Real and the unreal. Because Sri Krishna explains to Arjuna: “You are talking of killing and being killed, and your entire bewilderment arises out of this; but those who are wise, they make a distinction between that which is immortal, and that which is mortal. You are talking only of mortality. But real Reality is immortal.” So, Buddhi Yoga is a Yoga in which the intellect is able to perceive the distinction between mortality and immortality, that which is unreal and the Real. And Sri Krishna declares in the 2nd chapter:
nāsato vidyate bhāvo nābhāvo vidyate sataḥ | (II, 16)
“That which is non–existing cannot come into existence; that which exists can never go out of existence.”
This distinction, you must fully grasp. Buddhi yoga is therefore a process in which the intellect arrives at a point where this distinction is realised. And once you realise this, you are shifted from the unreal, and you become fixed in the Real. In that fixation you become ṣṭhitā prajñā; you arrive at this condition in which you are stabilised in your intelligence. That is one part of Buddhi yoga.
Then Sri Krishna says: “I will also apply this Buddhi yoga to the field of Action, and how while doing action, you can come to realise the distinction between the Real and the unreal.” And then, after the 2nd, 3rd and 4th chapters are devoted to that process in which the entire detail is given, so that even while you do action, you still become free. In the pure Buddhi yoga, as applied only to the distinction between the Real and the unreal, action is not involved. You just distinguish between the Real and the unreal, and by this distinction you then become fixed in the Real.
But even “‘while’ doing actions, you see the Real and the unreal and then become fixed in the Real” is the distinguishing mark of Karma yoga. Buddhi yoga applied to Karma, by utilising the means of karma, you attain still the same kind of freedom and the same kind of liberation: that is Karma yoga. So, that is the task, which has been done in chapters n°2, 3, and 4. In chapter n°5 we are told that actually speaking what is required in Buddhi yoga and in Karma yoga, (or what is given in Sankhya yoga, or in the Karma yoga), whatever distinctions there are, ultimately both of them are one, because in both the cases, one element which is common is na kāṅkṣati na dveṣṭi (V, 3); whether you call that process, or that process, in both the processes what is common is: ‘you don’t have any desire, you don’t envy anybody’. In that common element, you find that ‘Sankhya’ and ‘Yoga’ are one and the same. Those who distinguish between the two are bālāḥ pravadanti, it is only children who make a distinction, na paṇḍitāḥ (V, 4), the wise men do not make a distinction between them.
Now, having explained all this, you are raising the question: what is this Jnana yoga? Is it different from Buddhi yoga? Is Raja yoga different from Buddhi yoga? The answer is this: in Buddhi yoga, the processes of Asana, Pranayama, and gradual processes of Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi, all that is not in a regulated manner given. By ‘mere process of thinking’, very clearly, you arrive at a distinction between the Real and the unreal, and then you get fixed in the Real. In that process, you are not required to seat down quietly, in an Asana, you are not required to do Pranayama, you are not required to go gradually from step to step, but it will show that Buddhi yoga is something relevant to those who are capable, intellectually, of making a distinction between the Real and the unreal. But all people may not be capable of that distinction. It is ready for those who are able to think so clearly, their minds are so clear that they can arrive at this distinction. But those who are not capable, for them a regular, a slow process is necessary. Therefore, you might say that elements of Buddhi yoga are present in Raja yoga, but the details of Raja yoga are not present in Buddhi yoga. Ultimately the distinction that has to be made between the Real and the unreal, that distinction even here in Raja yoga ultimately you have to do, but in a gradual manner, because this Raja yoga is particularly addressed to those people whose minds are really unstable. It is a special kind of a process given to those whose minds naturally does not seat quietly; and in fact most of us are like that therefore it is very valid for all of us, mostly. But it may not be so for those who really have developed…by birth it self they have a great capacity to be very quiet, so for them, all the Ashtanga Yoga is not necessary: this is the distinction.