Paths of Yoga
According to the Vedas there are three primary traditional paths of Yoga. First is Jnana Yoga or the Yoga of Knowledge, which is the Yoga of Veda as the way of inner wisdom. It is the path of Self-knowledge, Self-realization and the unity of our inner most Self with all, the Universal Being, gained through mental purity, inquiry and meditation.
Jnana (wisdom or Knowledge) is considered the most difficult of the four main paths of Yoga, requiring great strength of will and intellect. In Jnana yoga, the mind is used to inquire into its own nature and to transcend the mind’s identification with its thoughts and ego. The goal of Jnana Yoga is the Moksha (Liberation) or Enlightenment.
The second path of Yoga is Bhakti Yoga or the Yoga of Devotion and Divine Love. Bhakti Yoga is the love of the Self (the Divine) in the form of the Universal Being and all of his/her formations and manifestations. It proceeds through surrender to the Divine Presence within the heart. The path consists of concentrating one’s mind, emotions, and senses on the Divine.
The Sanskrit word bhakti comes from the root bhaj, which means “to adore or worship God.” Bhakti yoga has been called “love for love’s sake” and “union through love and devotion.” Bhakti yoga, like any other form of yoga, is a path to self-realization, of having an experience of oneness with everything and ultimately Union with the Supreme.
Third is Karma Yoga or the Yoga of right action, service and ritual, which is action in harmony with the Universal Being. It consists of aligning our outer lives with the inner Reality and we access this through Knowledge and Devotion.
Karma yoga is the yoga of action or work; specifically, karma yoga is the path of dedicated work: renouncing the results of our actions as a spiritual offering rather than hoarding the results for ourselves.
As we mentioned earlier, karma is both action and the result of action. What we experience today is the result of our karma—both good and bad—created by our previous actions. This chain of cause and effect that we ourselves have created can be snapped by karma yoga: fighting fire with fire, we use the sword of karma yoga to stop the chain reaction of cause and effect. By disengaging the ego from the work process, by offering the results up to a higher power—whether a personal God or to the Self within—we stop the whole snowballing process.
Whether we realize it or not, all of us perform actions all the time since even sitting and thinking is action. Since action is inevitable, an integral part of being alive, we need to reorient it into a path to God-realization. As we read in the Bhagavad Gita, one of Hinduism’s most sacred scriptures:
Whatever your action,
Food or worship;
Whatever the gift
That you give to another;
Whatever you vow
To the work of the spirit. . .
Lay these also
As offerings before Me.
These three paths are interrelated, with Self-Knowledge expressing itself as Divine Love and working through selfless service for all.
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Out of these three primary paths, many other Yoga paths arise. Most known are Raja Yoga or the Yoga of meditation and Samadhi, and Hatha Yoga or the Yoga of psychophysical techniques. There are many other types of Yoga, such as Mantra Yoga, Nada Yoga and Laya Yoga that deal with cosmic sound, and Prana Yoga and Kundalini Yoga that deal with internal energies.
Kundalini Yoga is also known as Laya yoga. It is a school of yoga that is influenced by Shaktism and Tantra schools of Hinduism. It derives its name through a focus on awakening kundalini energy through regular practice of meditation, pranayama, chanting mantra and yoga asana.
The Vedas are genuine books of Knowledge and they have given us many ways of Yoga for Spiritual development and to rise to the heights of the Almighty.
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