Living beings are essentially governed by the rhythms of sun, moon and stars in the subtle ways. The basic unit of living beings, Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) molecule carries blue print of individual characteristics accumulated in millions of years. Molecule can be further break down into atoms. Each atom seems to be like a whirlpool of centre where cosmic forces are focussed. Hence, each particle in the universe is connected to the infinite.
The four paths of yoga can be represented in the deities of panch-parmeshwar (five deities in Hinduism – Sun, Ganesh, Shiva, Shakti and Vishnu). Sun has been termed as biggest karma yogi as it rises & sets without any break (Karma yoga). Ganesh ji can be a symbol of intellect (Jnana Yoga). Shiva & Shakti are the essence of Kriya Yoga. Bhakti movement and its various sects revolve around Bhagwan Vishnu and his avatars. Daily movement of sun (Rising sun, midday and setting) is also symbolized as the trinity (Brahma – the creator, Vishnu – the sustainer and Shiva – the destroyer to complete the cycle of universe). All forms of yoga develop willpower. All the different yogic paths mutually reinforce each other.
Yoga means union, the union between the limited self (Jiva) and the cosmic self (Atman). The path of yoga is to explore the deeper layers of mind viz. sub-conscious realms of mind, unconscious realms of mind. Yoga aims to bring about total harmony between one’s fundamental drives, emotions, feelings, intellect, will and one’s interpersonal and social relationships. Hence, it tends to bring about mental peace and tranquillity as well as physical relaxation.
Different Paths & one soul:
There are so many paths of yoga such as Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga, Jnana yoga, Raja yoga, Hatha yoga, mantra yoga, Kundalini yoga, Dhyana yoga, Swara yoga, Laya yoga, Kriya yoga etc. But, all paths of yoga incorporate action, devotion, introspection, benevolence & enquiry and aim at physical health, mental peace and higher awareness. Swami Sivananda said that one should: “Serve, Love, Give, Meditate, and Realize”. All forms of yoga develop willpower. All the different yogic paths mutually reinforce each other. In hatha yoga, the mind is made one-pointed by awareness of the breath or different parts of the body. In raja yoga the mind is made one-pointed by awareness of a fixed symbol or a psychic centre. In jnana yoga the mind is made one-pointed by total absorption in an enquiry. In karma yoga the mind becomes concentrated by complete absorption in one’s work. In bhakti yoga the same result, namely one-pointedness of the mind, is achieved through love and devotion.
Salient features of different paths of Yoga:
It is the path of activity or action. By the very nature, everybody is forced to perform actions. By totally absorbing the self in the work at hand, we tend to reduce his individuality or ego. In Karma yoga, one surrenders ego when one ceases to be the doer. The detachment from results (good or bad) leads to less emotional and mental upsets in the life. When work is done for a higher or spiritual purpose then it becomes karma yoga. The action is same, but the motive is different. The attitude must change. Higher states of karma yoga become meditation. Salient features are as under -
To gain lasting peace in life it is not sufficient to attain perfect physical health and some control over thoughts. The emotions must also be transformed in accord with every action and thought. Without gaining emotional harmony and one-pointedness it is impossible to gain mental and physical harmony. Bhakti yoga is the powerful means of harmonizing the emotions. It is path of channelling emotions into devotion. Bhakti comes from the heart, not the mouth or the head. The bhakta absorbs himself completely in his object of devotion, losing his individuality or ego. Emotional and mental problem disappears.
Faith (Shraddha) and Bhakti are different. Faith implies that one believes in something. Bhakti is an experience. If one is emotionally inclined, then one can follow the path of Bhakti yoga. This involves intense concentration of one’s entire being on an object of devotion. This leads to a transcendental experience of overwhelming bhakti. Bhakti is both the means and the expression of higher awareness. Great works are an expression of the heart. The seed of bhakti lies in the heart of every person. Each person is potentially a bhakta.
As Swami Sivananda said: “Love in the law of life. Love means constant awareness. Devotion means that there will be unceasing thirst, unforgettable, remembrance and unswerving aspiration to unite with one’s ishta. Love has two forms – ego-centred love (in which one loves another person, deity, saint or whatever with the expectation of love in return) and egoless love (without any expectation of love in return, that is bhakti). Ego-centred love will take one to the finite. Egoless love leads to infinite. Ego-centred love tends to quickly subside with time, whereas bhakti increases and grows with every passing minute. The burning aspiration for the supreme and when thought is continuous, then there arises unspeakable love and bliss. This is intense bhakti.
Bhakti can be towards anything…Krishna, Christ, Rama… anything that spontaneously creates feeling of devotion from the heart. It should be something that one cannot stop thinking about. If one is a devotee of Krishna, then one can try to see Krishna, in form or essence, in everything. This is love of the divine in everything (madhura Bhakti). This leads to freedom from hatred, envy, malice, self-conceit. Blindly following rituals without any real feeling, is exactly opposite to the purpose of worship and bhakti.
All the paths of yoga aim at reducing and eventually eliminating the compulsive grip of mind – ego. Bhakti does this by relegating all one’s impulses towards the object of bhakti. This eradicates the fluctuation of the mind and induce one-pointedness. In Uddhava Gita, Krishna said: just as fire steadily grows from a small flame to a blazing fire and burns fuel to ashes, so does devotion to me, blaze forth and consume all obstacles. This makes the mind one-pointed and the fit receiver for the grace of illumination and bliss. Prayer combined with devotion helps to purify the mind and reduce the power of the ego. The greater the level of bhakti, the less the ego.
The path of bhakti provides a perfect method of expressing the unruly emotions. The essence of karma yoga is awareness, detachment and renunciation of the fruits of action. When bhakti and karma yoga are combined, it becomes almost easy to renounce attachment to the fruits or rewards of one’s actions. All rewards, praise and fruits of one’s work are dedicated to the object of devotion. This is the way to rapidly harmonize the mind and reduce egoism. If one adopts the following attitude: “I do not serve…. the Supreme along serves. It is feeling and sincerity which is important. A poor person can offer even meanest object as devotion with feeling & sincerity, is better than a rich person who gives vast wealth, but without slightest devotion.
The essence of devotion to Krishna is summed up in the Uddhava Gita when Krishna says: “All the desires, which are rooted in the heart of the sage who worships me with the yoga and devotion, gradually wilt away and when he realizes me, the knot of ignorance which is lodged in the heart is destroyed. All his doubts are annihilated and his stock of karma is exhausted. Therefore, by bhakti yoga my devotee gains all that is gained by the other paths of yoga and by austerities, dispassion, charitable acts and pilgrimages.” Shankaracharya points out: “the characteristics of pure sattva are cheerfulness, realization of one’s self, peace, contentment, bliss and steady bhakti towards atman, by which the aspirant enjoys eternal bliss,” the cleaner the mind the greater the flow of bhakti and the mind becomes intensely one-pointed.
The sadhana of the great bhakta Ramdas, mantra upasana included four steps –
This is the path of Intuitive knowledge. In Sanskrit, jnana means knowledge. It means both knowledge acquired from outside since birth by listening, reading and watching, knowledge attained inside i.e., intuitive or illuminative knowledge. Jnana does not mean intellectual or logical knowledge.
Jnana yoga requires to throw all concepts, dogmas, ideas and believe in the truth realized through personal experience. It requires obsession for answers to the enquiries, 24*7. Ask question: what is the thing called ‘I’; what is consciousness; is there any truth in the atma; why I should believe. The success depends on the intensity of the purpose to pursue the enquiries.
The foundation of jnana yoga is that one should know and feel the limitations of intellectual thought. Examining any of the subject logically as well as contrary to it i.e., opposite of logical conclusion. The result will erode the prestige of intellect. Intense reflection on the subject reveals higher truth through intuitive flashes in relaxed mind. In Jnana yoga, one surrender ego by intuitive realization that the ego is not the totality of the Being.
This is path of Introspection. One attempts to explore the different realms of the mind: conscious, subconscious, unconscious and beyond. The perception of external objects is cut off and directed towards inside. In Raja yoga, the surrender of ego is attained by understanding the vast underlying substratum of each human being and every manifested object. It has many forms -
Reference: A systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya – by Swami Satyananda Saraswati