Running head: THE FOUR PATHS OF YOGA
Life is full of choices and opportunities for spiritual development. The four paths of yoga Provide wisdom, serenity, direction, and strength. Each path has its own unique goal yet They all work together for a greater purpose. The four paths of yoga have practices that Can be related to other religious traditions such as devotion, prayer, giving, and physical Actions such as fasting that require discipline and commitment to a Higher Power.
The Four Paths of Yoga
Life is full of choices, journeys, change, growth, and pain. Action is required to move along any path in life. The four paths of Yoga provide one with different ways to gain wisdom, practice devotion, take action, and gain physical and mental control. All of these paths can be a gateway for change and growth for people. BKS Iyenger, author of Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjal writes, “The ultimate aim of Yoga is to reach ‘Kaivalya’ (emancipation or ultimate freedom). This is the experience of one's innermost being or soul" (Taylor, 2006). The paths of yoga include different styles, teachings, and traditions that bring their own changes yet they all complement one another. The four main paths are Karma, Bhakti, Jnana, and Raja. Each is suited to a different temperament or approach to life. All the paths lead ultimately to the same destination - to union with Brahman or God - and the lessons of each of them need to be integrated to attain true wisdom. Karma Yoga is the yoga of action and is one of the most practiced in the Hindu religion. It joins both the physical and mental aspects of Hindu philosophy to produce a single concept. “The essence of karma relies heavily on action, it theorizes that past actions reckon consequences and affects one's position and progression in life” (Rice, 2007). People often times take action in order to receive and this path teaches one to let go of attachments. It purifies the heart by teaching you to act selflessly, without thought of gain or reward. By detaching yourself from the fruits of your actions and offering them up to God, you learn to free yourself from ego. Practicing Karma Yoga is a way to dedicate your thoughts, actions, and feelings to God in order to be a vessel. Bhakti Yoga is pure spiritual devotion and is the most natural path for those who are dominantly seeking emotional fulfillment and well being. It is the system in which love and devotion are emphasized. Bhakti Yoga is motivated by love and sees God as the ultimate 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 forms a substantial part of Bhakti Yoga” (T.Krishnamacharya, 1998). Jnana means wisdom or discernment and Jnana yoga is the path of wisdom. Jnana Yoga is considered the most difficult path, because it requires a radical shift in perception. The goal is to seek the knowledge hidden in all of us through questioning, meditation, and contemplation. It involves deep exploration of the nature of our being by systematically exploring and setting aside false identities. One way this is achieved is through Neti-neti Meditation which means “not this, not this”. Whenever a thought or feeling that is not the goal of the meditation occurs to the mind, the meditator simply says, "Not this, not this," and dismisses the thought, image, concept, sound, or sense distraction. This path is the ultimate route to self realization. Raja Yoga focuses on self control. Raja means royal and is the highest form of yoga. It focuses on controlling both the mind and body in order to attain enlightenment. Raja has a scientific, step-by-step approach to yoga. Systematically the mind is analyzed. Techniques are applied to bring it under control and to achieve higher states of consciousness. The mental side of Raja is meditation. “Absolute mental control as taught...
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