51 Days Yoga Consciousness Series 2nd May-21st June 2021

Namaste All My Yoga Yaatris! May Yog Bless You!

Knowledge of Yoga is infinite, boundless and timeless. “Learning Yoga is an everlasting journey that leads you within and Within is where you find the world of immortal bliss”. –Mitraasha

The idea behind running this 51 Days Yoga Consciousness series is to proffer my modest learnings and share the divine pearls of Yoga science with people at large. Let’s have a conjoint intent to learn, implement and extend the wisdom of Yoga with a positive co-action and harmonious reverberation amongst each other.

Four Paths of Yoga

Yoga is the journey to discover our true self and become free from the illusion that the material world has created around us, which can be also termed as self-realization. 

Yoga is the journey from sheer ignorance to utter enlightenment. So, the final objective is self-realization via elimination of the delusional ego. This journey can be tread upon through different ways. 

Deeply stemmed in yoga philosophy,Yoga brings out itself as four leading paths, namely Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga.

These four paths are like various confluence of one main river. They all have the same source of origination as well as the resting destination, making them all in essence the same. These four paths of yoga are not inevitably disparate from each other. 

These paths of yoga can be taken upon individually or in integration of one with another. Comparing them with regards to which is better would be a futile thing to do. Finally they all take you to the same destination.

However, what distinguishes them from each other is that there is a particular feature of the mind involved in each path of practice.  Active aspect of mind involved in Karma Yoga: whereas in Bhakti Yoga, the emotional aspect; mystical aspect  in Raja Yoga ; and in Jnana Yoga, the intellectual aspect.

Let us have a look at each path of yoga in detail below:

Karma Yoga

Karma Yoga is the path of altruistic unselfish service, which applies in both physical and mental aspects, annihilates ego, and works on spiritual levels. Kriya Yoga and Karma Yoga are the Yogas of action. Kriya means “spiritual action”, and Kriya Yoga entails the implementation  of silencing the mind with the help of scripture, breathing techniques, mantras and meditation. In Karma Yoga, importance is laid on selfless action. Karma Yoga is a path of fulfilling your duty devoid of ego or attachment. The application of Karma Yoga demands performing an action without any expectation of any return, thus renouncing the fruits of the action.

Karma Yoga goes beyond the worries of gains or losses, success or failure, egoism or selfishness. What highlights here is imparting selfless service to all beings without biases as Yoga believes that every person is part of the divine universal spirit. Karma Yoga enhances the idea that all beings on this earth should be treated as a divine being with utmost respect. The Karma Yogi tread through daily life with an aim to raise virtue and minimise lawlessness in the world. When you do your duty without ego and attachment, your ego dissolves and you reach self-realization. Karma Yoga depends on the attitude more than the action and can be performed anywhere, anytime where there is a will to serve others. It may sound simple,but Karma Yoga is a rather difficult path.

The Bhagavad Gita is one of the primary scriptures of Indian philosophy that talks largely about the theory of karma. The Bhagavad Gita depicts the battle of Kurukshetra between Arjuna-the warrior and his family. Krishna advises Arjuna to act based on his dharma and not get carried away by family’s emotional bonds. Hence fight because that is the right action as Arjuna’s duty being a warrior is to fight for the good of larger society. He should adhere to his duties and rise above the attachment and ego. When talking about one’s duty, we must understand that our prime most duty is toward our own  self and self spiritual progress.

Jnana Yoga

Jnana Yoga is the philosophical approach to yoga, it is an intellectual path or the path of knowledge and wisdom about the Self. Jnana yoga is the most unswerving of the four paths, using intellectual inquiry for spiritual progress. Probing the mind is what Jnana Yoga is all about, and because all wisdom is hidden within self, Jnana Yoga’s objective is to explore deeply into ourselves through questioning, meditation and examination, until we attain that true knowledge. A Jnana yogi utilises the intellect to scrutinise its own self through appropriate inquiry (vicāra) and continuous self-contemplation (vivekā). Jnana Yoga inculcates a huge transformation of one’s perspective. Everything you know, think, believe or feel is questioned, temporarily. When everything you know is found to be untrue, all that is left with you is yourself and the universe, which eventually adds up to the same thing, and only then the journey towards truth begins.

The aim is to attain that knowledge which is further above the sheer collection of information. It is the eternal and ultimate knowledge of the divine devoid of all that is worldly and delusional. On this path, you achieve knowledge, contemplate it and realize it into awareness. With  your awareness rising up, your ego falls down and gradually you get closer toward self-realization.

Jnana Yoga is implemented by doing the following:

Shravana – listening to the teachings of the guru or study of the scriptures such as Vedas

Manana – reflection on the teachings

Nididhyāsana – meditation on the nature of truth

Even though Jnana Yoga is a very structured path, not everyone may be fit to walk on it. To be able to tread on the path of Jnana Yoga, one must have specific characteristics and a Jnana yogi must adhere to the steps as mentioned in the ancient scriptures.

The requisite attributes for implying Jnana Yoga are:

Curiosity: Jnana Yoga may not be fruitful if you are not keen and curious, albeit trust things immediately without questioning, contemplating and enquiring well about. 

Intellect: You must be capable of scrutinising with a clear head, unhesitatingly and without being attached.

Patience: Patience is an essential and obligatory quality deemed of Jnana yogi as correct cognizance demands time, repetition which can be done only with patience.

Further ahead, while accessing information, to distinguish the possible true information from the illusionary one, one must intellectually analyze and discern if that would be useful or not to lead on to the Self truth. And hence only those information that falls into at least one of the categories mentioned below should be accepted as worthy of being analyzed ahead:

Direct perception: You can accept that what you perceive directly with your own five senses can be true.

Cause and effect: When you see an effect, you understand there must be a cause for it and vice versa. That is a clue that the information can be true.

Conclusion: When you detect a chain of true facts then you may agree that the postulation can be true.

Proven facts: You also regard the already proven facts to be true.

So, if you are introspectively predisposed and curious to expand the awareness of your own self, Jnana Yoga is a very effective path as it can illuminate you in a short span.

Bhakti Yoga 

Bhakti Yoga is the path of devotion – devotion to sattva (purity), the one of pure love, which teaches ways for the interference of yearnings by chanting, prayer and repetition of mantras. Practitioners can select their medium to extend their devotion and instill a better relationship with the Divine. On this path you devote yourself to a life of purity. By surrendering yourself to a life of purity, you purify yourself and attain self-realization.

This path entails surrendering oneself to God in order to experience the higher form of truth. Emotional energy is diverted in rerouting anger, hatred, jealousy and such feelings in a positive direction as well as into devotion, increasing humility, self-surrender and the intention of becoming an instrument in the hands of the Divine. Above all bhakti yoga emphasizes sincere, heartfelt devotion to the divine. It involves veneration, allegiance and indissoluble thinking of the ultimate divine presence. Wavering minds, conflicting thoughts and the material world all fades away as love and thoughts of the divine takes over. The heart is Bhakti Yoga’s centre and is pursued as the primary path to realise the oneness with the divine

As mentioned earlier, the practice of Bhakti Yoga often includes:

Mantra chanting: Mantras are positive uplifting phrases or words that impact your subconscious. They can also be the name or the glory of divine personalities.

Satsang: Satsang is spending your time in spiritual company and learning about self-realization.

Japa meditation: The practice of Japa means repeating the mantras as a form of meditation.

Raja Yoga

In Sanskrit, the literal meaning of Raja is “control”. Raja Yoga, also referred to as the Royal Path, is the scientific, step-by-step process of yoga, the one of mind control to attain liberation. In the practice of Rāja Yoga, the mind is methodically scrutinized and different methods are applied to bring it under control. This process helps to transform the physical and mental energy into spiritual energy. By controlling yourself, you control your ego and become self-realized.

Meditation, concentration, and breath control are of utmost reverence in Raja Yoga. The practice of Rāja Yoga inculcates Hatha Yoga (yoga postures, cleansing techniques and breathing exercises) and meditation and other techniques which help one to balance body, mind and senses. Hatha Yoga is often regarded as a stepping-stone to Raja Yoga, because after mastering over the body, taking control of the mind becomes smooth.  

Sage Maharishi Patanjali gave a guiding introduction to Raja Yoga in his compilation Yoga Sutras of Patanjali which also includes Ashtanga Yoga (eight limbs) that directs to complete mind control.

He suggested that once a practitioner masters and follows all of the eight steps thrivingly, he can reach the state of enlightenment with ease.

The eight steps of Raja Yoga are:

1. Yama : codes of conduct for purification of intent

2. Niyama : commitments for purification of habits

3. Asana : physical postures for purification of the physical body

4. Pranayama : expansion of life force for purification of the energy body

5. Pratyahara : withdrawal of the senses for calming down the senses

6. Dharana : concentration to control the mind

7. Dhyana : meditation to understand the Self

8. Samadhi : a state of intense concentration achieved through meditation, regarded as the final stage, at which union with the divine is reached (before or at death)

The objective of these eight practices is to aid the purification of mind, physical body, energy body, achieve mastery over senses, and attain freedom from the worldly illusions.

The path of Raja Yoga is considered the most difficult of the four paths of yoga, as it demands persistence and congruous control.

Bhakti, Jnana, Raja and Karma Yoga:  Based on your character,situations, capability and preference one path may prove to be easier for you than the other one, although all the four paths of yoga are same, not distinct from each other and aim for the same final goal.

Thought of the day: “The practice of Yoga leads to communion with the Lord. Whatever may be the starting point, the end reached is the same”.- Swami Sivananda

Link to day 04 Shad Darshans- Six Indian Philosophies https://kreately.in/51-days-yoga-consciousness-series-2nd-may-21st-june-2021-mitraasha-day-04/

Link to day 06 Introduction to Hatha Yogahttps://kreately.in/51-days-yoga-consciousness-series-2nd-may-21st-june-2021-mitraasha-day-06/

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