In the first two articles, we talked about what is yoga, the basis of Yoga, the benefits, and misconceptions of Yoga. Going further we shall see what the streams of Yoga are. Just like how river branches out into a tributary, so does Yoga, as a knowledge system, branches out into four major streams.
Swami Vivekananda has said thus about the various streams of Yoga – “Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within, by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy-by one, or more, or all of the these-and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details.”
The four streams of yoga are:
1. Jnana Yoga (The path of knowledge or wisdom or spirituality)
2. Bhakti Yoga (The path of devotion or love or bhakti)
3. Karma Yoga (The path of work or action or selfless service)
4. Raja Yoga (The path of will power or psychic control or the royal path)
The 4 Streams of Yoga: Explained in detail
The word ‘Jnana’ means knowledge. Therefore, ‘the path of knowledge or wisdom’ that leads to the ultimate reality is known as Jnana Yoga. Jnana here does not refer to “Qualifications”. A Ph.D., or a graduate or post-graduate degree, or any scholarly work, is not referred to as Jnana. Our ancestors had a more profound and subtle understanding of what knowledge.
It is said thus in the Gita by Bhagawan Sri Krishna,
विद्या विनय संपन्ने ब्राह्मणे गवि हस्तिनि ।
शुनि चैव स्वपाकॆ च पण्डिताः समदर्शिनः ॥
He is wise (pandit), who by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle Brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [social deprived].
The path of Jnana Yoga is to realise that all are but same. This is wisdom & this is knowledge. To see all beings (Living & Non-Living) on this planet with “equal vision”, without any discrimination is “Jnana” or the “wisdom” (knowledge).
Jñāna yoga teaches that there are four means to salvation:
1. Viveka – Discretion: The ability to differentiate between what is real/eternal (Brahman) and what is unreal/temporal (everything else in the universe.) This was an important concept in texts older even than the Bhagavad Gita.
2. Vairagya – Dispassion: After practice one should be able to “detach” herself/himself from everything that is “temporary.”
3. Shad-sampat – The 6 Virtues: Sama-Tranquility (control of the mind), Dama (control of the senses), Uparati (cessation/renunciation of activities that are not duties), Titiksha (endurance), Shraddha (faith), Samadhana (perfect concentration/peace).
4. Mumukshutva – Intensely focused longing for moksha, liberation from temporal entanglements that bind one to the cycle of death and rebirth.
The term Bhakti comes from the root ‘Bhaj’, which means ‘to be attached to God’. Bhakthi means ‘surrenderance’ (to the Almighty). Bhajan, worship, Bhakti, Anuraga, Prema, Priti are terms that are used interchangeably. Bhakti is love for love’s sake. The Devotee wants God and God alone. There is no selfish expectation here. There is no fear also. Therefore it is called ‘Parama Prema Rupa’. The devotee feels, believes, conceives and imagines that his Ishta-Devata (tutelary deity) is an Ocean of Love or Prema.
Bhakti is the slender thread of Prema or love that binds the heart of a devotee with the lotus feet of the Lord. Bhakti is intense devotion and supreme attachment to God. Bhakti is supreme love for God. It is the spontaneous out-pouring of Prema towards the Beloved. It is pure, unselfish, divine love or Shuddha Prema. There is not a bit of bargaining or expectation of anything here. This higher feeling is indescribable in words. It has to be sincerely experienced by the devotee. Bhakti is a sacred, higher emotion with sublime sentiments that unites the devotees with the Lord.
Bhakti can be achieved with complete surrenderance to the almighty. This can be done only through controlling the emotions of the mind and even surrendering such emotions of the mind to the ‘ishta-devata’ (chosen deity). In short Bhakti Yoga is ‘The Science of Emotion Culture’, intended to reach the ‘God’ state through complete surrenderance.
TAD VIDDHI PRANIPATENA PARIPRASHNENA SEVAYA
UPADEKSHYANTI TE’ JNANAM JNANINAS TATVA DARSHINAHA
Know that by full prostration, question, and service, the sages who have realised the
truth will instruct you in that knowledge.
The word ‘Karma’ means action. The interesting part is the attachment of the word yoga to the word karma. ‘Karma Yoga’ means actions that are performed without attachment. The practitioner of karma yoga does not bother about the peaks and falls, praises and scorns, pains and pleasures, etc., that come by his way. ‘Selfless service’ is a word that can be closely associated with the word ‘Karma Yoga’. There is a famous adage that can be associated with karma yoga i.e. ‘Work is Worship’. A karma yogi puts his heart and soul into the work that he is performing and has no selfish motives attached to it. He is ‘indifferent’ towards the fruits of action and at the same time, he is always engrossed in his work or duty. A karma yogi should not be confused with the modern usage of ‘workaholic’ – they differ entirely in their object of work.
The steps in Karma Yoga may be cited as follows:
1. Unattached action
2. Duty sense and working the Yajna way
3. Reduction of personal likes and dislikes
4. Objective Outlook; development of clarity, sharpness, and efficiency.
In Bhagavad Gita, it is said thus by Bhagawan Sri Krishna –
कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥ २-४७
Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,
Ma Karmaphalaheturbhurma Te Sangostvakarmani
The meaning of the verse is—
you have the right to work only, but never to its fruits.
Let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction.
It only means we have to be untouched by the fruits as we get engrossed or involved completely in the work itself. Selfless action – that is the motive of Karma Yoga.
Raja Yoga is the path of psychic control or the path of controlling the mind (or taming the mind) through will power. As the name suggests it is the king’s path. It is a difficult path yet an effective path to reach the highest state of ‘moksha’. Patanjali’s ‘Yoga Sutras’, Sage Vasistas’s ‘Yoga Vasista’, and Sage Swatmaram’s works are considered as one of the finest and authoritative works on ‘Raja Yoga’. In common parlance, they can also be considered as authentic books on ‘Yoga’ as well. Rāja Yoga (“royal yoga”, “royal union”, also known as Classical Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga) is concerned principally with the cultivation of the mind to further one’s acquaintance with reality and finally achieve liberation.
Raja yoga was first described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and is part of the Samkhya tradition. Patanjali Yoga Sutras throw ample light on the concept of yoga and dispels all doubts as to the concept.
Patanjali defines the word “yoga” in his second sutra, which is the definitional sutra for his entire work: योग: चित्त-वृत्ति निरोध: – (yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ) – Yoga Sutras.
This terse definition hinges on the meaning of three Sanskrit terms. “Yoga is the inhibition (nirodhaḥ) of the modifications (vṛtti) of the mind (citta)”.
Patanjali’s writing also became the basis for a system referred to as “Ashtanga Yoga” (“Eight-Limbed Yoga”). This eight-limbed concept is a core characteristic of practically every Raja yoga variation taught today.
The Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga are:
1. Yama (The five “abstentions”): Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (Truth, non-lying), Asteya (non-covetousness), Brahmacharya (non-sensuality, celibacy), and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness).
2. Niyama (The five “observances”): Shaucha (purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya ( the study of the Vedic scriptures to know about God and the soul), and Ishvara-Pranidhana (surrender to God).
3. Asana: Literally means “seat”, and in Patanjali’s Sutras refers to the seated position used for meditation.
4. Pranayama: Prāna, means “life force” or “life energy” and “āyāma” is the “aspect”. Also interpreted as control of the life force.
5. Pratyahara (“Abstraction”): Withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects.
6. Dharana (“Concentration”): Fixing the attention on a single object.
7. Dhyana (“Meditation”): Intense contemplation of the nature of the object of meditation.
8. Samadhi (“Liberation”): merging consciousness with the object of meditation.
These 8 limbs in all constitute the Ashtanga Yoga or the Raja Yoga or Yoga in a imple sense. We have learnt about the various streams of Yoga. I will be discussing about each and every aspect of Raja Yoga in detail in the ensuing articles i.e. about the 8 limbs of (Raja) Yoga.