The 4 Paths of Yoga

Jnana Yoga, The Yoga of Knowledge or Wisdom

This is the most difficult path, requiring tremendous strength of will and intellect. Taking the philosophy of Vedanta the Jnana Yogi uses his mind to inquire into its own nature. We perceive the space inside and outside a glass as different, just as we see ourselves as separate from God. Jnana Yoga leads the devotee to experience his unity with God directly by breaking the glass, dissolving the veils of ignorance. Before practicing Jnana Yoga, the aspirant needs to have integrated the lessons of the other yogic paths – for without selflessness and love of God, strength of body and mind, the search for self-realization can become mere idle speculation.

The Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga

Compiled by the Sage Patanjali Maharishi in the Yoga Sutras, the Eight Limbs are a progressive series of steps or disciplines which purify the body and mind, ultimately leading the yogi to enlightenment. These 8 limbs are:

1. Yamas – The Yamas or restraints (Don’ts) are divided into five moral injuctions, aimed at destroying the lower nature. They should all be practiced and developped by the letter but also more importantly in the spirit. They should all be practiced in word, thought and deed.

* Ahimsa or non-violence

* Satyam or truthfulness

* Brahmacharya or moderation in all things (control of all senses). Also refers to celibacy

* Asteya or non-stealing

* Aparigraha or non-covetousness

2. Niyamas – The Niyamas or observances (Do’s) are also divided into five and complete the ethical precepts started with the Yama.. These qualities are:

* Saucha or purity – this internal and external cleanliness.

* Santosha or contentment

* Tapas or austerity

* Swadhyaya or study of the sacred texts

* Ishwara Pranidhana which is constantly living with an awareness of the divine Presence (surrender to God’s Will)

3. Asanas – Postures

4. Pranayama – regulation or control of the breath. Asanas and Pranayama form the sub-division of Raja Yoga known as Hatha-Yoga

5. Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses in order to still the mind.

6. Dharana – concentration. The last 3 steps constitute the internal practice of Raja Yoga. When Dharana is achieved, it leads to the next step:

7. Dhyana – meditation is that state of pure thought and absorption in the object of meditation. There is still duality in Dhyana. When mastered Dhyana leads to the last step:

8. Samadhi – the superconscious state. In Samadhi non-duality or oneness is experienced. This is the deepest and highest state of consciousness where body and mind have been transcended and the Yogi is one with the Self or God.

Bhakti Yoga, The Path of Devotion or Divine Love

This path appeals particularly to those of an emotional nature. The Bhakti Yogi is motivated chiefly by the power of love and sees God as the embodiment of love. Through prayer, worship and ritual he surrenders himself to God, channeling and transmuting his emotions into unconditional love or devotion. Chanting or singing the praises of God form a substantial part of Bhakti Yoga.

Karma Yoga

“Karma Yoga is the selfless devotion of all inner as well as the outer activities as a Sacrifice to the Lord of all works, offered to the eternal as Master of all the soul’s energies and austerities.”

~ Bhagavad Gita

Right Attitude

It’s not what you do that counts, it’s the attitude while doing it that determines if a job is a karma yoga job, i.e. a liberating job, or a binding job. Work is worship. Swami Sivananda advises us to “give your hands to work, and keep your mind fixed at the lotus feet of the Lord.”

Right Motive

Same as attitude. It is not what you do that counts but your real motive behind it. Your motive must be pure. Swami Sivananda says: “Man generally plans to get the fruits of his works before he starts any kind of work. The mind is so framed that it cannot think of any kind of work without remuneration or reward. A selfish man cannot do any service. He will weigh the work and the money in a balance. Selfless Service is unknown to him.”

Do Your Duty

Often “duty” is referred to as “righteousness”. You will incur demerit if you shun your duty. Your duty is towards God, or Self, or the Inner Teacher who teaches you through all the specific circumstances of your life as they appear.

Do Your Best

Whatever you have to do, do your best. If you know of a better way to serve, you must use it. Do not hold back because of fear of effort or because of fear of criticism. Do not work in a sloppy manner just because no one is watching or because you feel the work is not for you. Give your best. Try to do such actions that can bring maximum good and minimum evil. Do Karma Yoga increasingly.

Give up Results

God is the doer. You are not the doer. You are only the instrument. You do not know God’s intentions or God’s plan. The way to realize this truth is to constantly work for work’s sake and let go of the results, good or bad. It is the desire for action that binds the individual. It is the detachment from action that will dissolve the karmic seeds. Detachment from results also means detachment from the type of job itself. Don’t be attached to your job. Be ready to give up your job if necessary.

Serve God or the Self in All

Do to others what you would like to be done to yourself. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Adapt, adjust, accommodate. Bear insult, bear injury. Unity in Diversity. We are parts of the same body. Practice humility in action. Beware of power, fame, name, praise, censure.

Follow the Discipline of the Job

Each job is a teacher of some sort. You can learn different skills by doing different jobs. Each job has different requirements in terms of time, degree of concentration, skills or experience, emotional input, physical energy, will. Try to do whatever job you are doing, well.

Reference: http://www.sivananda.org/